January E-Mail – Upcoming Gigs – Free Show: “The Queen of the Court of Claywood Flats” – Reflections on 2020

Posted: January 10th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

For those of you not on my mailing list, here’s the email I sent out this month. Details of how you could sign up are at the bottom.

Fellow Story Lovers,

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Happy New Year. I appreciate it’s a bit late for that now – you’ve almost certainly already got the decorations down, assuming you had any. Some of the more organised among you will be making plans for the Summer. Best of luck to you. But Happy New Year all the same and I hope 2021 unfolds rich in blessings. For those of you who like to skim headlines, in this email you’ll find:

A link to a recording of The Queen of the Court of Claywood Flats, available from Radio Crick Crack for a limited time: (https://crickcrackclub.com/radio-crick-crack/)

An upcoming online gig, 20th January, with Birmingham Storytellers:(https://www.tradartsteam.co.uk/calendar.html?a=viewevent&id=1434)

Advance notice of a spooky upcoming online Experiment with Adverse Camber – Seven Uncanny Candles (save the date 12th February).

Details of regular fixtures at Beeston Tales and The Storytellers Bookclub.

A Reflective Bit on 2020. (Something of a downer so feel free to skip.)

I’m not much for making profound statements. I prefer the specificity of stories – this happened, to this one person, once upon a time – over the generality of aphorisms or attempts at universal truth. Having said that, I do want to share some wisdom that has been a consolation to me over the past year. As I have had to assure a few people lately, it’s not compulsory to have had a tough time in 2020, but I will confess that I’ve found last year tough, lonely, full of disrupted plans, bereavement and the constant awareness that things have been a lot worse for lots of other people.

Earlier this year, I was introduced to the concept of “ambiguous grief” by Gina, a wonderful woman who works in a charity that supports the families of missing people. The pain those families feel is akin to the pain of bereavement, but with the added complexity of not knowing. Not knowing if their loved ones are coming back. Not knowing what has happened to them. Hope, pain, confusion and fear interlace.

‘Ambiguous grief’ describes our response to any loss we can not understand or qualify, without closure or clear expectation of what will happen next. That could be the pain of a loved one with dementia, a loss of faith or just an inability to imagine where our life is headed. Ambiguous grief flies in the face of the idea that grief is a process that we can “go through”, showing just how inadequate that notion really is.

There is, Gina told me, only one thing to do if you’re living with ambiguous grief – and I suspect many of us whose lives have become chaotic, whose support networks are disrupted and whose plans are in tatters may be experiencing some level of ambiguous grief – and that is to find connection. To be in relationship with other human beings, where talking about and exploring the feelings we’re going through is not taboo.

I don’t want to paint an overly romantic picture of storytelling as a panacea for the soul. But I have found solace in old stories, in listening and telling, and in the wider community of story-loving listeners and creatives. They have made things easier for me.

And now, for those of you who have made it through all this, here’s a link to something radically happy –http://hitherby-dragons.wikidot.com/easy

Radio Crick Crack – The Queen of the Court of Claywood Flats

Bringing soul food to the nation during isolation, Radio Crick Crack opens the archive of the Crick Crack Club with recordings of their performers through years. The Queen of the Court of Claywood Flats is a show I put together in Sheffield more than a decade ago, inspired by the demolition of Claywood Flats, the 2007 flood, with glimpses of myth, story and mystery.

You can listen for free, although any money you donate will go to storytellers struggling to sustain an income during the pandemic. It’s at the top of the page!

With thanks to Graham Langley and Birmingham Storytellers as this particular recording was made in the Kitchen Garden Cafe at one of their evenings.

A Recipe for Hope – Birmingham Storytellers – 20th January 2021

And I will be returning to the Birmingham Storytellers on 20th January to join them for an evening of online tales. Whether you’re anywhere near Birmingham or not, hop along on Zoom to hear me and their resident storytellers fill the night with hope:


Seven Uncanny Candles – 12th February 2021

I’m working with Adverse Camber and Sarah Liisa Wilkinson on a fabulous, one off, online experimental ritual event – Seven Uncanny Candles.

There’s a folk game in Japan where one hundred candles are lit, one hundred stories of the supernatural are told, and after each tale a candle is extinguished so that the room slowly descends into darkness. (It’s called Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai if you want to read more.) Inspired by this custom, we’re going to be telling stories of the weird and supernatural, and invite you all to join us. For the full effect, you’ll need seven candles, a dark room and a Zoom account, but you’ll be able to listen with just Zoom.

The event hasn’t been officially announced yet, but I wanted to give you the opportunity to get the date in your diary. Full information will be coming out shortly. I’m really delighted to be trying this out and I hope you’ll join me for it.

Regular Features – Beeston Tales & Wild About Story

Beeston Tales is this Wednesday, 13th January, on Zoom, with dynamo Katrice Horsley telling tales and troubadour Owen Shiers singing songs. Come along!


And Wild About Story’s “The Storyteller’s Bookclub” is back in 2021, with our first event on 1st February. I’ll be in conversation with Dominic Kelly about Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard. This 1970s travel novel interweaves Matthiessen’s experiences of grief, his exploration of his Buddhist faith in the landscape that gave it birth, his official goal to look at some Himalayan goats and his unofficial yearning to glimpse the elusive snow leopard.

https://www.wildaboutstory.co.uk/storyteller-s-book club

What else am I up to?

Some of you may be aware of the work I do with researchers, teaching storytelling skills for public engagement. Here’s a blog post about a project I ran for the Political Ecology Network in 2020, written by Judith Krauss.

Apart from that, I’ve been pretty busy with things lately. I’m involved with Equity’s Storytellers Network and we’re exploring Equity’s statement on Cultural Appropriation to make sure it reflects the particular nuances that storytellers have to navigate. Plus it’s January, which is traditionally the time when I ritualistically swear that I won’t leave my tax return so late next year.

May our paths cross in 2021

And until then, all blessings of the New Year to you!


The “Human-ish Podcast” talks about storytelling

Posted: November 11th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

The “Human-ish” Podcast, creation of Dinaay Sharma, is an exploration of the fundamentals of the human experience, whether that be an interview about the nature of the mind or the importance of movement or the role of storytelling.

You can guess which episode I was part of, right?

This is a long, involved discussion, about 90 minutes in total, and it was nice to have the opportunity to dig deep into the my thoughts on the role storytelling in our lives as well as share some of my experiences.

I do wish I’d had something slightly more graceful to say about colonialism and cultural appropriation though. Ahh well! If the Human-ish Podcast has taught me anything, it’s that there’s always room to learn and grow. That and the value of sitting on the floor.

SKELETOR! (and other baddies.)

Posted: November 7th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

Here’s something exciting! I’m working on a new show at the moment, and it will be having its first outing live, on Zoom, as part of the Strange Times Online Storytelling Club. We’re not even going to charge for a ticket, just ask for donations.

When Tim Ralphs was a child in the 80s he grew up glued to the TV screen, absorbing endless episodes of cartoons. The Heroes were Heroic and Always Victorious! The Villains were Villainous and Always Defeated!

The rest of his life hasn’t followed the same blueprint.

Which means the time is ripe to re-write the scripts. Join Tim for an All Evil Tour of the greatest antagonists of Myth and Legend. We’ll be looking for murky character depth, ingenious schemes and classy dastardliness in a line up that runs from the Cradle of Civilisation to England’s own Legendary Badd’uns.

And we won’t be alone. Our guide will be none other than the most heinous of cartoon villains, the baddie of which all other baddies are pale imitations: Skeletor! Archnemesis of that bland, burly do-gooder He-Man, Skeletor will be our companion and our measuring stick as we assess what the real role of the villain is in our stories and our psyche.

Adult themes and Cartoon Violence.

For those of you looking to make a donation, the best way is via this link: paypal.me/abbiesimmonds 

For those of you eager to know how to listen in, the best options are either via Strange Times Online on facebook, where the link will be circulated shortly before the show, or by joining my mailing list using the link below.

The Buried Moon

Posted: November 7th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

Earlier this year I was a part of Adverse Camber’s amazing GAZING season of online stories for lockdown. Here’s me telling “The Buried Moon.”


Taking the Devil to Zurich

Posted: October 9th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

In May of 2019, I had the pleasure of being part of the GESCHICHTENOASE – International Storytelling Festival in Switzerland. It was a beautiful festival, “an urban storytelling oasis”, taking place primarily in a flower filled glasshouse in The Old Botanical Garden.

Film-maker Thomas Radlwimmer was on hand to record things and he’s created this video featuring a story adapted from my show “Rebranding Beelzebub.” 

I do hope you enjoy it!

Mailing List

Posted: October 9th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | 1 Comment »

Something for the Turning of the Year

Posted: December 29th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

After Bedevere’s second attempt to throw Excalibur into the lake, he returned to his King:

‘Lord, please. It’s impossible for me.’
‘Seems impossible, sweet friend.
Remember that Christmas morning the hawthorn
flowered, the day we found Lancelot.
Seemed impossible. But it happened, as if
by giving ourselves again and again
to the unknown we opened to grace, embraced
whatever makes this world new,
Bedevere, remember, the hawk of may,
and the head that speaks, the leaping hare
and the horse that flies from the spray, the spear
bleeding light and the blaze on the hill,
they called me king of adventures, remember
the stag in the hall and the queen of the hive,
the deerhound’s nose, the silver horn,
the salmon in the well, the thorn in winter
we saw flowering. Seemed impossible
but it all happened, the land held
open and whole and green and free
and it happened through us, as if
it were meant to happen.’

From “Arthur”, by Jamie Crawford


From ITV’s “10 things you may not know about the Glastonbury Holy Thorn”

Sharon Blackie on “Falling out of Myth” and the Mythic Imagination.

Posted: December 16th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

Sharon Blackie at TEDx talking about the Mythic Imagination. I love how her examples of “Post-heroic” stories are all old, old tales.

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.