Tag Archives: Storytelling

Away, away to Fairytale City… the straight way’s short but the long way’s pretty.


A  year ago I reintroduced myself to this man,  John Row; master storyteller and child of the East Anglian Fayres of years past at a Cambridge Storytellers event.


I informed him that I had boldly (and probably rather drunkardly) stalked him through festivals across the years throughout my 20s, sitting like a  child at his feet while he spun yarns fantastical and wonderous.

“Lovely” he said, with markedly less recognition towards me than I had to him.

“….and I was on a workshop of yours four years ago”

“OK, brilliant.”

“..and I’m a fledgling teller myself now”

“Ahhhhh….Wonderful.  We’re looking for new blood at Cambridge Folk Festival if you’re interested, drop me an email”

“… wha?… Really? Um… Yes, wow, …ok.  Really? … Thanks”

So I did, ..then I didn’t follow it up, then I fell fantastically pregnant, then fantastically ill with morning/afternoon/night sickness, then life took over and the battle to earn rent whilst trying really, really hard to keep all the plates spinning to maintain the facade of a normal-functioning woman soon swamped everything.  For a reeeeeally looooong tiiiiiime.

I kissed goodbye to the dream of performing at one of THE most prestigious festivals on the Folk calendar.

Because I’d been a self-absorbed idiot.

..and pregnant.

Then an email.

“Hi Janina, It’s John.  It’s Cambridge next weekend, your name’s in the programme, you are still coming aren’t you?”

“… wha?… Really? Um… Yes, wow, …ok.  Really? … Thanks”

Truth be told, I’d have gnawed through a mountain to get there.

So there I got, teeth still intact.


All relevant passes acquired, and  distributed about my person, I’d never been so squeelingly excited and terrified.


I arrived in a world where the the bubble-blowing festival nymphs were barefooted and the trees be-jumpered.  Gorgeous.


And there, nestled in the solitude of the Flower Garden sat my sanctuary.  Like some beauteous, gentle Dark Crystal Land Strider

Our story-spinning space.

I knew I’d be safe here.


And then they came, the other Tellers, emerging through hedges and from corners unseen… The three experienced hands in the guise of John plus the world’s most smiley teller Mike Dodsworth


The hilariously-earthly and connected Suzanne Arnold

Plus myself and two of the coolest, most un-outwardly nervous new tellers I have ever met….


Grounded, ecstatically energetic with a menagerie of animal tales, that’s Holly Piper that is.


Backed up by her rubber-voiced, amigo Callum McGowan.  This guy can embody and switch between characters so damn swiftly it was nothing but a joy to watch him.   A huge inspiration!

We all held our audiences with varying shades of emotion, well… I say audienceS…  We performed twice a day over three days.  Us newbies presumed, as it was a huge festival, that we’d be able to recycle material; tell the same stories twice, not have to prepare 10 different stories each.

Not so.

I spotted the 15yr old lad in a bowler hat first, a strong look for one so young.  He turned up at the first telling, then 3hrs later at the second.  Then the next afternoon… Then I noticed other smaller faces becoming more familiar.  We couldn’t rehash and serve up stale tales to them, they deserved fresh meat.  So we dug deep into our hearts and delivered.

So how did I find performing to so many people over such a long period of time at 6 month’s pregnant? I can’t say it wasn’t a scary ride, but no-one got eaten, we all survived and the fledglings amongst us, flew a little higher on the way home.



like swallowing glass


Just after my last post below,  the boy below,  was raised up off his feet and sent to a place beyond.

Nobody wanted it.

No one was prepared for it.

No one should experience the death of a child.


Michael was my Godson. His Mother, my childhood friend.

Grief is a dark and heavy load indeed…. Michael was 15 years when he passed away.

I was blessed to know him and thankful to be able to say goodbye properly.

My stories have distracted and hopefully, in some small way, soothed the jagged hearts of his smaller sister and brother over past 15 months.   I have never had a personal illustration of how powerful storytelling can be, I got into this because it was fun and a bit of an oddly interesting thing to do.   Story’s ability to transport the listener and teller to somewhere other than here (and yet seems strangely comforting) is a truly incredible thing.

It’s for that reason that I’ve got back on my storyhorse and am now breaking from a trot to a canter.

Thanks Michael Valentine, you’re still making things happen.