Storytelling and the Body ~ Michael Harvey ~ Workshop, 12 Sept 2019

Posted: July 15th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »

We’re being visited, in September, by the amazing storyteller Michael Harvey. You can read more about his Wednesday night show, Uncaged at the usual Beeston Tales page.

Michael will be staying on with us for an extra day, and spending Thursday running his highly acclaimed training on Storytelling and the Body. Michael has trained extensively with Labo and Abbi Patrix and is a qualified Franklin Technique educator. He draws on all of this in his tuition.


This workshop will introduce you to a number of clear, practical and doable techniques to help you have a better experience of being in your body which will in turn help you become more present, playful, clear, confident and authentic in your storytelling.

Once Michael has you starting to feel freer and more alive in your body, you have more freedom to make interesting decisions about how you tell. We will be getting down to the nitty-gritty of storytelling including looking at information/descriptive/action/dialogue and comment; using gaze; audience contact as well as other important storytelling tools in tandem with the body work.

A fuller flavour of what’s on offer can be found from Michael’s website, here.

Who is it aimed at?
This course is aimed at people who have some experience of storytelling and are looking to improve. It is not aimed at complete beginners. (Speak to me about Beeston Tales own “Introduction to Storytelling” courses if you’re interested there.) The work is based on the kind of movements we do everyday and when we are telling stories – no backflips or other challenging moves.

What do I need to know?
The course runs from 11:00am until 4.30pm at BEESTON VICTORY CLUB, Middle Street, Beeston, NG9 2AW. Wear clothing that you’re comfortable to move around in.

PLEASE BE AWARE! This course was previously advertised as taking place at The White Lion on Middle Street, with lunch included. That is no longer the case. APOLOGIES FOR ANY CONFUSION.

I’m persuaded! How do I book?

Each place on this course costs just £32.50. Places are limited so book soon.

Just use the paypal link below to reserve a place. Don’t use paypal? That’s no problem. Email me to confirm you’re coming and we’ll sort something out.

Hand Pulled History

Posted: February 27th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

One of the most interesting projects of last year was a commission from The Walkley Historians to devise a show based around pub life in Walkley, Sheffield, during the Victorian period. My first thought was to bring on board the wondrous Roo Bramley to provide some music and song. Our grand endeavor culminated in three sell out shows last November in some of the few pubs that are still open, more than a century later.

Massive thanks to Frontier Media for capturing the event, to Bill Bevan for his organisation, to the various landlords who offered us space and hospitality, to the many listeners who crowded inside (and outside) the pubs to sign and celebrate with us, and especially to the Walkley Historians for their detailed and painstaking research.

And if you want to catch the show live, it should feature at the 2019 Walkley Festival.

Ana Lines ~ Reflecting Fridas plus workshop and Mexican Feast ~ 14 November

Posted: October 4th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

Something pretty special is going to be happening on the 14th November at Beeston Tales. It’s the return of one of our most popular tellers, the amazing Ana Lines, with her show Reflecting Fridas.

“Ana Lines does more than tell stories, she animates them through her performances. Her Frida Kahlo biography, intertwined with inter-generational tales, was spun so enchantingly that I didn’t want to be released from the spell.”


But we don’t just have the incredibly charismatic Ana bringing you her show. If you want, you can make this a truly memorable night out. Join us for a festival of sensory delight with a Mexican Feast at The White Lion. Get your appetite for stories whet in advance of the main event with food from the kitchen and wine from the cellar.

And for those of you really looking for the deluxe storytelling experience, why not join Ana for a short workshop session earlier in the evening, where she’ll be explaining the meaning of the Death Table in Mexico, leading breathy exercises that help unlock real life stories, and helping us step even more deeply into her enchanted dialogue with Frida Kahlo.

Reflecting Fridas show

Our £5 discount advance ticket for Reflecting Fridas. The life and work of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo are the inspiration for this show created and performed by Beeston Tales’ favourite Brazilian storyteller—Ana Maria Lines. Frida’s soul echos in many of us. Frida’s diversities, love, injuries, suffering were the subject for her work An unique life, an exceptional woman. Upstairs at the White Lion, Middle Street, Beeston. Doors at 7.00 for a 7.30 start.

Tickets no longer available in advance. They may be some on the door. Arrive early to avoid disappointment!

Mexican Feast

For £12 not only do you get access to Reflecting Fridas (see above), you also get to join Ana and the rest of Beeston Tales for a Mexican Buffet from the White Lion’s kitchen. Sergio Rocha will be on hand with wine recommendations. Food should be served around 6:45. THIS TICKET IS ONLY AVAILABLE IN ADVANCE, get it before Monday 12th November of risk missing out. (This tickets is also available at the venue.)

This ticket is no longer on sale through the website. If you want to see if we can squeeze you in, email Mike Payton, [email protected]

Mexican Table- introduction to real life storytelling with craft and song

For the true story connoisseur, join Ana for a short workshop session earlier in the evening, where she’ll be explaining the meaning of the Death Table in Mexico, leading breathy exercises that help unlock real life stories, and helping us step even more deeply into her enchanted dialogue with Frida Kahlo. For £25, this ticket also includes the Mexican Feast and the show. THIS TICKET IS ONLY AVAILABLE IN ADVANCE, get it before Monday 12th November or risk missing out. Gather upstairs at The White Lion for 5:15.

This ticket is no longer on sale through the website. If you want to see if we can squeeze you in, email Mike Payton, [email protected]

Pirate legends will climb wherever they want

Posted: June 27th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

Last Saturday, I was part of Leeds Royal Armouries’ “Legends” programme. They take a character worthy of a whole weekend of events, open up the museum and go to town.

For June, they were looking at “Blackbeard”, with events ranging from cannon demonstrations over the dock to pirate courts abiding by the official regulations.

Here’s me with my world premier of “Treasure Island”.


And my favourite thing about this picture is that you can clearly see the words “Please do not climb” on the side of the stage. ARRR! Do ye think ye can tell a pirate where he can or can not clamber, lubber?

Some of you may be rushing to comment that Blackbeard isn’t in “Treasure Island”. Oh sweet, facetious darlings. Legends are legends. And anyway, Blackbeard was a lamb compared to Captain Flint.

Introduction to Storytelling Workshop – 14 April 2018

Posted: February 28th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , | 2 Comments »


Back by popular demand, Beeston Tales will be offering an Introduction to Storytelling course on 14th April, at our usual home, The White Lion. It will run from 10.30 am to around 4pm, with a break for lunch.

Maybe you want to tell better stories to your children or grandchildren – or maybe you want to improve your confidence at public speaking in general. Perhaps you’d like, at some point, to tell a story to a group of friends, or even at a public storytelling night (don’t worry, we won’t force you to do this!)

On this course, we’ll look at a variety of techniques to help you get started. The course will be fun, interactive and challenging, and will cover:

what is storytelling?

how do I choose a tale?

how do I remember a story?

how do I start to bring a story to life?

We will be putting on a further training day – ‘Taking the next step’ later in the Spring, and we very much hope that many participants will feel inspired to attend that course as well.

The course will be run by Mike Payton and Tim Ralphs. Mike has been storytelling professionally for seven years. He is also a trained English teacher with 20 years experience, and has run many storytelling courses for teachers, parents and children of all ages. Tim is a storyteller of international renown, who has run storytelling courses for people of all degrees of experience. He is currently working with PHD students at Sheffield University to improve their presentational skills.

The course costs £35/£30 unwaged. This includes lunch (likely to be home made soup and bread, a hot drink and a cake) provided by Sergio at The White Lion. You can book onto the course by sending a cheque made out to Mike Payton at 45 Hope St, Beeston NG91DR. Or you can pay using the following paypal links:

For the £35 rate, (waged) click below:

For the £30 rate, (unwaged) click below:

From White Lion to LeftLion

Posted: February 6th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

LeftLion ran a recent article on the top literary organisations in Nottingham and we were very excited to see Beeston Tales make the list. Here’s the relevant section in full:

“Think you can spin a yarn? Fancy yourself adept at keeping listeners gripped until the very end? Down at The White Lion in Beeston stands some of the finest storytelling you’ll find out there with Beeston Tales. Events are run regularly by Tim Ralphs and Mike Payton, but open to a plethora of guest speakers. On the ball for over three years, don’t head down expecting your average meandering ramble lined with plot holes and inconsistencies. Often drawing from audience participation and their overall gift of the gab, expect nothing of the usual from this craftspeople of the turning tale.”

– James Kramer, January 2018

You can read the full list here.

Tim and Mike didn't even injure themselves getting it up.

Tim and Mike didn’t even injure themselves getting it up.

Beeston Tales is the second Wednesday of every month. More details are here. We now have a banner adorning the side of the venue—how exciting is that?

3Troubadours workshop on 13th April

Posted: March 14th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | 2 Comments »

Hello all,

In April, we have the amazing 3Troubadours visiting us at Beeston Tales. They’ll be performing on the Wednesday night at our regular club night, but we’re lucky enough that they are staying around on the Thursday to run a one day Performance Storytelling Laboratory for us.


Performance storytelling Labo with 3Troubadours

3Troubadours is a trio of performance storytellers consisting of Markus Luukkonen (Finland), Torgrim Mellum Stene (Norway) and Tom van Outryve (Belgium). Their collaboration and friendship started in 2013 when they all met as participants of LABO, a European laboratory for research and development in the art of performance storytelling, facilitated by French master Abbi Patrix.

On 13th April they’ll be running a workshop specifically geared to experienced storytellers, a one day adventure in which they will share their collective discoveries in the spirit of LABO.

We’ll be looking at elements like:
– intensity
– style
– using the stage/staging the story
– rhythmicality.

All this at The White Lion, Middle Street, Beeston. The workshop runs from 11:00 until 16:30, with lunch included. (Let us know any dietary requirements.) It comes at the bargainous price of £35 for the day.

Special offer! Buy a ticket in advance for the workshop, get free entry to “Mobile Dreams”, the 3Troubadours storytelling performance on 12th April.

Details of that here.

We expect this one to fill up fast so get booking!

Any queries, or if you don’t use paypal, email me about it at [email protected]

Book using the paypal link below:

The Story Forge – passing the baton

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Welcome to 2017. I am groggy with the jetlag of landing back in the UK. It was an interesting New Year’s Eve, midnight rushing West to meet us as we flew East towards the sunrise.

It’s a time of change and one of these changes is that I’m handing over the running and administration of Sheffield’s The Story Forge. I’ve been hosting the club since the middle of 2009 and the time has come for the torch to be passed on. Freshly molten words will still cool in the quiet waters of the Don. Stories will still get forged. I have great, great hope for 2017 and the future of the club. Not least because Hugh Lupton is bringing Beowulf in January.

Most of the details for the club will be the same. The email address. The location. And so on. I with the new team the best of luck!


The new flyer for The Story Forge carries the DNA of Christine Cooper’s flyer of old! Click to enlarge.

After seven and a half years, there’s a lot I’m proud of. One of those things has been bringing world class storytelling to the little upstairs room at The Fat Cat. So to sign off The Story Forge, here’s a list, as best as I can remember, of every show we’ve hosted. How many do you remember? What have I missed?

Simon Heywood – Tales of Darkest England
Tim Ralphs – The Kaleidoscope
Rachel Rose Reid – The Little Tailor
Sophie Snell – Seven Deadly Sins
Peter Findlay – A Silent World (How Anansi stole us stories)
David Hague’s – Old Jack
Kat Quatermass – Tales of Love and Loss
Dominic Kelly – The Gift
Christine Cooper – The Battle of The Trees
Ben Haggerty – The Blacksmith at The Bridge of Bones
Shonaleigh – The Tower of Bagel
Helen Stewart and Honor Giles – Love, Death and Divine Intervention
Tim Ralphs – On Our St George’s Day
Simon Heywood – Robin Hood
Nell Phoenix – Fairy Tales for Fearless Adults
Rachel Rose Reid – I’m Hans Christian Andersen
Ursula Holden Gills – There are fairies in the gutter
Richard Trouncer – Pub Gods
Raymond Greenoaken – The Music of What Happens
Jo Blake Cave – The Smiling Fox
Sarah Rundle – Gawain and the Green Knight
Clare Murphy – The King of Lies
Simon Heywood – Vortigern
Guto Dafis – Jackie Kent and The Devil’s Purse
Moni and Ivor – The Dragon Lover
Giles Abbott – Caught on the Horns
Ruthie Boycott Garnett – Here’s to the Hare
Emily Parrish-Hennessey – Loki
Cath Little – Castle Arrianhrod
Cat Gerrard – Body without Soul
Daniel Morden – Tales from the Mabinogien
Raymond Greenoaken – Alistair Begg
Nell Phoenix – The Kiss of Forgetfulness
Ana Lines – The Barbecued Husbands
Alys Torrance – Cracking the Tale Bones (Inuit stories)
Tim Ralphs – Can the Mountains Love the Sea?
Cath Edwards – Pirates!
Cath Little – The Apple Tree Woman
Amanda Smith – Choices and Regrets
Mike Payton – Bullfighting Widows and Haunted Cows
Sarah Lise Wilkinson – A Girl with No Hands
Red Phoenix – My Passport says Storyteller
Tim Ralphs – Bed of Arrows

Remembrance of Lost Species

Posted: December 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

Last week, I was involved in a special night of remembrance for extinct species, along with the wonderful Nancy Kerr and Sarah Smout. It was a part (albeit slightly late) of the now international event, initiated by ONCA.

It is a gift in my work to occasionally get to do things that feel incredibly important – that step outside the normal remit of performance and become something timely and meaningful. Our night was full of song, story and ritual elements, all against the backdrops created by the event organiser and craft guru Abi Nielsen.

Sarah Smout on cello, Nancy Kerr on fiddle, Tim Ralphs reading a long list of extinct species.

Sarah Smout on cello, Nancy Kerr on fiddle, Tim Ralphs reading a long list of extinct species.

It was a powerful evening, and I thought I’d include here the text of the communion I wrote and read before we broke and shared bread.

Welcome back
Hello and welcome back. I hope you’re all feeling refreshed and settled and ready for more. We’re going to start with a short ritual, a breaking and sharing of bread, and I will say a few words to acknowledge why we are here tonight. I want to apologise in advance to the gluten intolerant here with us—and invite you to participate in whatever way feels appropriate.

We choose this symbol of breaking bread and partaking in a communion together because of the ancient ritual associations that permeate it. Beyond the Jewish and Christian connotations, the idea of sharing bread runs through our culture and our language. In Aramaic, the word for “friend” is “balinjeera”, one with whom we share bread. In English, “companion”, from the latin words for togetherness and bread. But I want us to recognise that here today this act has its own meaning, it is a new and radical communion.

In the Ascent of Man, Bronowski argued that the history of human civilisation was the history of our relationship with wheat. For the hundreds of thousands of years that humanity has been in existence, we have been in a dance with this planet. Living on it and with it, guided and shaped by the land, the weather, the movements and lives of other species. But with the domestication of wheat there came a shift in the balance of that dance. Where once we had been followers, now we were the leader. Now we would shape the earth, toil and sweat in the dust to make the ground bring forth the crops we planted.

And I don’t condemn human beings in our desire to impose our own vision upon the land—this is, as I said, the basis of civilisation. But the time has come to recognise that in this dance, our steps have been clumsy, that we have twirled this planet wildly, cruelly. Dangerously.

There is nothing new in extinction.

Let me say that again—there is nothing new in extinction. The lifetime of all species on this planet is ultimately finite, a macrocosmic reflection of the mortality of each individual life. Species have risen and fallen before, sometimes in isolated incidents, sometimes in seemingly great, mass die-offs.

We are now in what archaeologists, palaeontologists recognise as the sixth period of mass extinction that this planet has faced. All this has happened before and will happen again. The only difference this time is that we, human beings, have lead and pushed and guided the course of our planet, our environment, into this time of death.
And there is a question, a burning question around what we should do next. Around how we should change. How we can fix this. I say, leave that until tomorrow. For now, let us join together as a human community. Let us recognise those species that have departed with a profound empathy, shared partners in the great dance of life. Let us acknowledge our animal bodies, still very much dependent on the bounty of the Earth to grow and thrive.

Breaking of bread
I invite you to take a few moments of silence. To reflect on whatever powers you hold to be important, whether that is the God of your understanding, the magnificence of the natural world, the glory of our shared humanity. I offer up this loaf of bread. It is the bounty of the Earth, our home. It is born from the light of the sun, watered by the gentle caress of rain. It is the labour of human hands.

As we eat it, may we be nourished. May we remember our place, our connectedness. May our hearts be open.

May it become, for us, the bread of life.

And so it is.

And we'll stand beside the shore.

And we’ll stand beside the shore.

The right story for the right time – The Bed of Arrows

Posted: June 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

On 6th February this year, I was in India for the Kathakar International Storytelling Festival. I was standing underneath a Peepal tree, an audience of 400 people were buzzing in an open air amphitheatre that struggled to hold them all. I told the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

I hadn’t planned on telling it, but Giles Abbot had just told the story of The Loathly Lady and had thus done the hard work of introducing the Arthurian world and most of the characters. Looking back, I feel like Gawain was the perfect story to tell. For all sorts of reasons, but one seems most relevant right now.

There’s a moment in the story where two men kiss. It’s part of an elaborate, courtly game where they’re swapping prizes back and forth. I’ve told this story a lot in the UK and it’s always hard to get the right tone at that moment. But in Delhi that night there was palpable tension and joyous relief. Laughter, yes, but it didn’t feel homophobic. Instead, it felt like we had shared something, had stepped into a taboo place and found that it was not as dangerous as we’d thought.

I didn’t know at the time but while I was packing for the flight to Delhi the Indian Supreme Court had announced that it was going to investigate decriminalising the laws which make homosexuality illegal. The penal code, a product of the British Raj in India, has been the subject of much back and forth over recent years. That was the background against which Gawain and Bertilak pressed their lips together.

In a few weeks time, I’ll be telling The Bed of Arrows at The Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival. It’s a great story, one that I expect I’ll be writing about here a lot in the next few months. It’s a collection of stories from The Mahabharata, an imagined dialogue between Bhisma and Shikhandi after the war is over. At its core, it’s a story about gender identity and transition. About the way the world changes and old institutions – glorious, powerful, magnificent but brutal institutions – collapse and shift.

From wikimedia commons

Bhisma on the bed of arrows

It’s also an Indian story. Some might call it a sacred story.

I’m not Indian. I’m not a Hindu. I’m a white British man. I am a direct descendant of a culture that profited from colonial brutality across the world. At the same time, the message in The Bed of Arrows feels enormously relevant and resonant to the culture I’m living in today, to the times I’m facing. I hope that, just like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was exactly the right story to tell in Delhi, The Bed of Arrows will be exactly the right story to tell at Saint Donats. Right now, that means doing a lot of work in making sure I tell it as well as I can but also being open to the contentious issues that telling this story raises.

If you’re interested in queer Indian myth, I would heartily recommend Shikhandi and other tales they don’t tell you by Devdutt Patanaik. I was given two of his books as a gift by Nisha Tyagi of the British Council. I devoured them as I traveled around India—I can’t remember the last time I picked up a collection of stories, started at the beginning and read them all through in order. Devdutt gently explores the themes in each myth, reflects on what they mean and has inspired me enormously.

If you’re at Beyond the Border, do come and say “Hi.” It’s always good to meet a reader. See you there!