Monday, September 28, 2009

And on the Seventh Day, they told stories in churches

As part of the Festival Weekend, the very virtuous Anne E Stewart telling stories at the Parish Church of St James Stavely Storytelling Service. All readings, hymns and stories refelcted the importance of stories in out lives.

The Saturday Night Concert

Check out these amazing Tellers, from Mancurian Jamaican background, Jan Blake

Peter Chand of Indian/English Background

They did a session Trading Stories, incredibly powerful and wonderful tellers. Stories were great as they ranged from rollicking, to hilarious, to full of pathos and understanding of the human condition. Totally wonderful and impressive.

Also pictured young fiddle player, Sara Stuart, Taffy Thomas and Anne E Stewart

The view from the B and B Chestnut Villa

Wordsworth, Gingerbread and Taffy Thomas

Here in the Lakes District at the invitation of Taffy Thomas and the Northern centre for Storytelling for their annual get together. It’s been fantastic. Taffy is the artistic director of Tales in Trust at the centre and involved with the preservation of stories as well as the telling. He was awarded an MBE in 2000 New Years Honour List for his services to Storytelling and Charity.

Many of his teachers have been collectors of tales, such as Scot’s Traveller Duncan Williamson and Ruth Tongue (who inspired Katherine Briggs with her collection of English Folktales). A wealth of Information and connections and a great role model for a possible centre in Australia.
Taffy had me telling in local schools, at a pub story share, in his famous storytelling Garden and at the village hall alongside, legendary performers Jan Blake and Peter Chand.
To read more about Taffy and his work, go to

Appropriately, it seems his centre and garden are right across the road from Grasmere’s famous Gingerbread shop, It was once the parish school and William Wordworth and his wife Mary taught here because of their belief that universal education was the way for children to escape poverty and ignorance.
The countryside is spectacular and it is understandable how poems like below were penned

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

It is interesting when you here how much he was assisted by the women in his life, for example the above poem was written from the notes in her journal ket by his sister Dorothy, compare
When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Staying on in Matlock near Cromford : local legends

Travelling around with storytellers is great because they all have so many stories behind the stories. For instance in Chesterfield where the bus brought me to from London we wandered around for a while to have a look at this old market town. One of Chesterfield’s notable tourist destinations is St Mary and All Saints Parish church. The Spire to the Church has a very distinct characteristic, it is bent and twisted and distinctly crooked. Some of the explanations : SHOD DEVIL: The story asserts that a magician persuaded a local blacksmith to shoe the Devil. The man was so nervous that he drove a nail into the Devil's foot. The Devil flew off howling and, as he was passing the church, felt a twinge of real agony. He lashed out savagely with his foot which caught the Spire and twisted it, leaving also a footprint on one of the buttresses. VIRGIN: A story of Chaucerian flavour. The spire was so amazed to hear of a virgin being married in the church that it developed its intricate twist in an attempt to see such a wonder with its own eyes. In a slightly amended version the Spire owes its twist to its admiration of a virtuous maiden of such beauty entering the church that the spire bowed in admiration, and could not resume its normal position. INCENSED DEVIL: Some attribute the deflection to His Satanic Majesty. The legend goes that Lucifer, after a long day's journey, alighted for a moment on the apex of the Spire. It so happened that midnight mass was being celebrated and that the abundant incense from below so irritated his unholy nostrils that he gave a violent sneeze. He managed to keep his hold with his claws and tail around the Spire; next morning, however, the damage was there for all to see. Of course something more like the truth goes, when the spire was added to the tower about the year 1362 unseasoned (green) timber was used and there was an absence of skilled craftsmen due to the (Black Death) and they neglected the cross-bracing of the structure.

Rachel Murray and her daughter Eva kindly asked me to stay on for a few days. Helen and Rachel, both tellers have been showing me the local district

Rachel and Helen took me for a walk on Stanton Moor, site of a stone circle dating back to prehistoric times, 0ver 3,500 years ago. It is known as the nine ladies and the king. Legend has it these women were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath Burial mounds, field boundaries, ring cairns, more stone circles and the subtle traces of houses crowd the woodlands and lurk beneath heather. Who were the Nine Ladies and their King? As with stone circles, the Nine Ladies name comes from folklore. The standing stones of the circle are the women and the King Stone is the fiddler. We don’t know when the name was first used, except that it was probably some time after the arrival of Christianity. Dancing on Sundays during church services was punishable by excommunication from at least the 1500s, if not earlier. During the medieval period the Church linked many stone circles to devil worship as a way to wean people away from paganism. Follow the footsteps of our ancestors with a short 2 mile walk and explore the Life and death in prehistoryImagine Stanton Moor with timber roundhouses scattered among fields. This is what you would have seen here between 5,000 and 2,000 years ago. Archaeologists have mapped numerous sites that show where people lived, farmed, buried their dead and performed their ceremonies. These ancient farmers built roundhouses on circular, level platforms. They divided their fields with walls, hedges or fences. When they prepared the ground for farming, they removed stones from the fields and created cairns (heaps of stone) or dumped the stones against the boundaries they had made. Many sites survive on the moors because the moorland has been relatively undisturbed by later agriculture, unlike much of the surrounding area. More recent farmers have farmed more productive land.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Storytelling at The Boat Inn; Cromford

Left London early Monday morn, to head to my first storytelling gig, at the Storytelling Cafe held in the Boat Inn at Cromford, Derbyshire. (The East Midlands of England)

The Storytelling Cafe was set up by Graham Langley years ago, Aussies know him from attendance at our Canberra Storytelling Festival in 1999 and you can read about him on my website ( under the Swag of Yarns Interviews.
Graham was away but he left me in the very capable hands of local storytellers Rachel and Helen. I was guest teller and Helen MC’d and told a story as well another local Mike. They go to a lot of trouble to set the scene with back drop, candles and tablecloths and in upcoming performances luscious coffee and cake. They have great promotional material, very professional looking including posters and leaflets they distribute widely. There is a very vibrant storytelling scene in the UK with lots of enthusiastic tellers and it was great to meet some of them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gods and Monsters: An extravaganza of Performance Storytelling

Been here a couple of days and took myself off to see some of UK’s premier Storytellers, Sally Pomme Clayton with her Children’s show, Tales told in tents, named for her book of the same title. (You can read more about her at and Ben Haggerty with his adult show, an adaption of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”.
Great to be immersed in watching a couple of storytelling shows so soon in my trip
The Tristan Bates is a small intimate theatre and Sally had set the scene with draped sari to replicate her tent. She led into the stories by talking about her visit to Central Asia and showing us some of the artefacts she had collected. She engaged the audience with her questions about childhood games of make believe tents and stories from her book, very entertaining.
Ben Haggerty and Sianed Jones show “Frankenstein” was amazing. Taken from Mary Shelley’s version, Ben telling and Sianed supporting him with music and song told the story of the “Frankenstein’s creator and the evolution of the monster . Lighting and stage direction enhanced it all.
For over an hour and a half Ben held us clued with ‘an intense steam punk interpretation’ of Mary Shelley’s Work, questioning man and technology, Quite lilting tones gave way to monstrous diatribes. Songs were dream like enhancing characters thoughts and feelings.
Storytelling, enhanced by theatrical presentation, certainly a way to bring it into the adult world
What show could I develop like this, Amazzzing!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The River Thames, the edifices and Greenwich Mean Time

I have to keep pinching myself, to think where I am. Doing the tourist sites you come across languages from across the world, mostly French, Spanish, German and of course the broad twang of the Americans. The English sound so, English, “You know what I mean Gov” With Dominic doing a gap year in the Navy day I decided to head to Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum. This meant a slow cruise down the Thames with a very comedic river guide. His very funny and dry commentary had me wondering how many of the foreign language speakers would get his joke. But jokes aside he was very informative and on asking where he had collected his anecdotes he said his grandfather had worked on the river and told him all the tales. My dad often told us we were related to Captain Kidd the pirate (his father was John Kidd Stewart) and that would be handy now with a pub named in his honour on the river bank. English loved building grand edifices to themselves, huge monumental works like the houses of Parliament, big ben and Trafalgar square and it’s monument to Nelson must be one of the largest phallic nods to war I’ve ever seen. It’s towering. Greenwich is a wonderful ancient cobblestoned town and the old Naval College, National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory are truly impressive. Dom reckons his basic training has been tough, but even tougher for the younger boys sent to the military college

Friday, September 18, 2009

In the wee small hours

Finally arrived and I must say after a 14 hour leg to Abu Dhabi and another 7 hours to Heathrow London, the longest leg seemed climbing the five flights of stairs to my room in the cheap and cheerful Jubilee Hotel in Ecceles Square in Victoria, Central London.
Of course I’m still on Ozzie time and after collapsing on my bed when I arrived, I woke up and flicked on the television in the wee hours of Friday, to see what time it was in London.
It was 2 am, and I was glued for the next hour or so to a documentary hosted by Peter C ( A Scotsman who starred in my favourite movie of all times, Local Hero) talking about Scottish Identity and artists.
Some of the names I need to explore when I connect to the internet. Oison./Oisson?, he started to define a Celtic, Scottish sensibility, way before Burns or Walter Scott. A contemporary artist called John Byrne worth investigating and others whose names I didn’t catch.
One of the things that struck me was the romantic notion of Scotland that was created around the time Balmoral Castle was rebuilt for Queen Victoria. This ideal attracted wealthy English tourists to travel to the Highlands but of course nothing was said of the highland clearances and the poverty and hard times endured by the local Scots.


Irish warrior-poet of the Fenian cycle of hero tales. The name Ossian became known throughout Europe in 1762 – 63 when the Scottish poet James Macpherson (1736 – 96) published the epics Fingal and Temora, which he represented as translations of works by the 3rd-century Gaelic poet Ossian. The poems were widely acclaimed and influential in the Romantic movement, but their authorship was later doubted, notably by Samuel Johnson (1775), and they were eventually determined to have been written largely by Macpherson.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Storytelling at the Eureka Centre

Here I am telling stories at the Eureka centre, having postioned myself to have "Scotland" in the background. 1 more sleep to go

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Setting up my blog

5 more sleeps and I'm off to Bonnie Scotland for the International Storytelling Festival.

Anne E Stewart