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!

Clowning for Storytellers – A Masterclass with Fred Versonnen

Posted: June 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Coming up on the 14th July, Beeston Tales is bringing you the next in its program of masterclasses for storytellers. Internationally acclaimed performer Fred Versonnen is stopping off with us as he travels from Belgium to The Festival at the Edge.

Clowning is a beautiful way of making connections. Connections with your audience, connections with parts of yourself you don’t always talk to. Fred has a lively and colourful background as a street performer, jester, stilt walker, fire crasher, clown, juggler and storyteller. He currently teaches at Circus School and spent many years working in Children’s Hospitals. In this workshop he’ll introduce storytellers to some useful clowning techniques and games. Learn to be fully present. Learn to embrace judgement and vulnerability. And who knows, maybe you’ll learn how to make someone laugh!


This workshop is taking place upstairs at The White Lion Bar and Kitchen. Turn up at 10:30 for an 11.00 start. Wear loose clothing. Expected end time is 16:30. This workshop will cost £35 and includes lunch provided by The White Lion. Please let us know of any dietary requirements when you book. Book by sending a cheque to Mike, by emailing us to confirm details or via the paypal link below that says Book Now.

Perhaps you’re not convinced of the link between clowning and storytelling? Read this personal account by Simon Sylvester who attended one of Fred’s workshops several years ago in Brigsteer.

“Last month, at Dreamfired, I saw storyteller Fred Versonnen perform the amazing Elephant Story. The next morning, I attended his clowning workshop in Arnside. This had almost nothing to do with the stereotypical idea of clowning—no silly noses, no silly shoes—and was essentially a 101 on delivery, performance and body language.

Fred warned us at the start of the session that it might take us to some uncomfortable places. I didn’t believe him, but he was right. It’s taken me this entire month to process some of the things that happened in that class. I’m not sure I’ll ever totally get to grips with it, but at the same time, I no longer think I need to. I just wanted to record a few thoughts on what clowning means to me.

I’m not going to talk about the specific activities Fred led us through. They were plentiful, varied, invigorating, intense and brilliantly useful, but they will mean different things to each person who attended, and I don’t feel the need to dissect the actual workshop. I want to talk about what I learned.

I learned that I’m frightened of embarrassment. Most of us are, probably. During the workshop, we performed tasks specifically designed to undermine dignity and strip away the topmost layers of self-respect. I found myself trying to rationalise the embarrassment by imposing a narrative upon it, but every time, Fred forced me to confront it.

‘For a clown, embarrassment is a gift,’ he said.

In this way, I learned that clowns are truly fearless.

I also learned to wait.

In a world consumed with noise and signals, the clown is silent. She waits, absorbing everything, and then she waits some more, until the wait itself becomes excruciating—until the pause itself becomes the embarrassment—and then she responds. In that pause, the clown is naked. Every part of her is laid open for the world to see. The clown waits long enough for the audience to connect, to project their own feelings onto the situation, to drown in empathy, to cringe in anticipation. Every part of them is laid wide open. This is the tragedy of the clown, and the triumph. It has nothing to do with face paint or comedy trousers. Laurel and Hardy are clowns, and Pennywise is not.

I couldn’t live that way, but I’m trying to bring some of it into in my own readings. At the Flashtag story slam, I made myself pause, and wait, then wait some more. I took a stupid hat onstage for my final story, and I forced myself to wear it. I tried to share anticipation of what was coming next with the audience. It was, without a doubt, the happiest I’ve ever been with my performance—the best I’ve ever read my stories. For everything I learned, I’m not sure I’ll ever know how to apply it properly. But I think I understand, now, that not knowing is itself part of clowning. It is Zen—pure action, without thought. I think too much.

At the start of this post, I said that the workshop had nothing to do with silly noses. That isn’t entirely true. At the very start of the session, as people were still arriving, we gathered in the kitchen to wait. Fred began to ransack the drawers, looking for props to use in the workshop. He found an orange ping pong ball. In a single, fluid motion, he spun to face me, bringing the ball to his nose, and he grinned. Just as quickly, he replaced the ball and closed the drawer. But in that second, or half a second, he’d become a clown. His face changed, his body changed—with the sheer, magnificent, wondrous joy of finding a ping pong ball in a kitchen drawer.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to articulate what happened in that workshop. I don’t need to articulate it, of course, but I want to; and that is why I will never be a true clown. A clown wouldn’t need to analyse it, because they wouldn’t be scared of it. A clown would simply shrug, smile, and turn to embrace the vastness of this mad, sad, glorious thing that we call life.”

£35. The White Lion Bar, Beeston. 10:30 until 16:30. 14 July 2016. What more do you need to know? Confirm your place below:

Bringing Myth to Life with The University of Nottingham Classics Department

Posted: May 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

Oh my goodness, 2016 has been incredibly busy. I’m just finishing my third project with University researchers. I gave gnomes the gift of speech at Hampton Court Palace. I toured India with the British Council. And I’m in the middle of developing a new show that will premier at the Beyond the Border International Storytelling Festival.

And that’s just the big stuff.

One of my favourite recent projects has been working with The University of Nottingham’s Classics Department. They’ve run a series of screenings of Tragedies adapted for TV which were enormously popular. (Channel 4’s 1983 Orestia blew me away!) And for people who wanted to take this further, they ran workshops to explore different ways of working with myth.

Look at the concentration!

Look at the concentration!

That’s where I came in. I love working with myth and I think it presents some unique challenges to storytellers. Greek myths are such a complicated, interconnected web of stories and we can no longer presume that our listeners have the same degree of familiarity with the material that Homer relied on. So a few weeks ago, 16 eager storytellers and I spent a whole day delving deep into the magic of myth and working to bring some ancient stories to life once more.

We had some fun too.

We had some fun too.

It was a great day. I work people pretty hard in my workshops and the group really committed to getting the most out of the day. Well done everyone and a big thank you to Lynn Fotheringham for making it all happen.

Reflections on Autumn, LeftLion reviews and Day of the Dead

Posted: December 24th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Hi there! A quick update on some of the things that have been happening this past Autumn.

My new storytelling club, Beeston Tales, is thriving. Matt Turpin came along to check out a recent show and has written a wonderful review for LeftLion.

“simple tales… ..are told luxuriantly, the beat and cadence of the teller’s lines giving prose poetry. There is a hypnotic feel to the tales: you’re back round that prehistoric campfire again, rapt.”

Read the full review here.

Mike Payton and I were involved in the British Museum’s “Day of the Dead” exhibition. It was a fantastic day in a remarkable venue.

693A3635 (1)

Click in for a larger image. Big thanks to Benedict Johnson for the pictures.


Lastly, I realise how long it’s been since I’ve managed to get out my podcast. That’s a big shame, and I suspect that The Room Behind the Bookcase will feature in a New Year’s resolution for 2016!

Solstice Blessings and all the best as we close 2015 and start the new year.


Posted: June 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »

Basically, Abi has said everything better than I could over here, so go check it out!

Audience Comments from Birmingham Storyelling Cafe

Posted: May 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

The fine folks at Birmingham Storytelling Cafe had me along to tell stories from my show How to Spin Enchantment. Here’s some of the audience feedback, I’m particularly impressed by the poetry:

9/10 a very good night,
laughter, wit and the occasional fright,
We’ll come see you again,
every now and then,
unless there’s a defined schedule or something.

The night was splendid
It was a shame it ended
But I guess it must

Whispered stories

What a feat of endurance! Brilliant 25 stories in one!

What a joyful gallop through a gaggle of lovely Italian stories.

Someone pay this man more money! Not only is he a brilliant storyteller, but he needs money for SHOES! Bare feet? How? My feet are frozen!!!


What a brilliant storyteller Tim is. Most enjoyable evening once again. Love your stories.

Fantastical stories within stories. A most enjoyable young man.

First time here. Great stories tonight. Thank you for a great night.

My first experience of storytelling. I enjoyed the twist and adventures in each story. Quite humorous and very charismatic.

Tales of wit and great imagery—a joyful performance!

Absolutely brilliant.

Brilliantly told, a masterful performance. Very entertaining.

Wonderful story, shame your hair wasn’t RED! (Tim says: This is a reference to the posters, which showed me as having the most magnificent shade of auburn hair.)

Absolutely fabulous! Great stories!

Wonderful evening, our best evening yet and we’ve been to a few…

A very enjoyable evening. The stories were enchanting and entertaining. Thank you for sharing.

Reviews and comments for recent gigs

Posted: April 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

My performance of Can the Mountains Love the Sea? got a review by A Small Mind.

“An excellent night.” * * * *

Read the full review here.

I also got these kind words from some Viking reinactors who came along:

“What a great experience this was! My friend J~ and I were completely enthralled by your enchantment and sheer professionalism. This was storytelling at its best and we were truly privileged to have witnessed it.

Not one single word was wasted. The pacing was spot-on. The characterisation was vivid and varied. You were totally absorbed ‘in the moment’ of the story, as was your audience. You made mythology live and breath…”

– the wannabe Vikings!

~ ~ ~

And some great audience comments from my performance of Jonathan and David at Night of the Storyteller. (All comments used with permission.)

“A few centuries ago listeners might have found the intimacy between David and Jonathon unsettling, but not have baulked at the violent massacre of the Amalekites. Now our sensitivities are reversed, but it is a credit to Tim Ralphs’ telling that he does not flinch at nor soft-pedal the difficult parts of this story. The show that results is touching and tender, rich and many-layered. A paean to love, friendship, and promise-keeping.”

Sarah Rundle, Storyteller

“I thought your performance at The Miller was beautiful! I loved the multiple narratives, juxtaposition and how many layers there were. Deftly, discretely & generously done (because you never demanded we think any particular thing). Congratulations!”

Giles Abbott, Storyteller

“Thank you for last night’s performance which I found profoundly moving. There are scenes which, although understated in your telling, remain vividly etched in my consciousness – the deeply human interaction between Saul and the Witch of Endor, for instance, to name just one.

Your subtle and deeply respectful crafting of links between Bible story and Life story created a rich tapestry which brought the spinning of story, and the fabric of life to life, a subtle veil through which you facilitated the potential to get a glimpse of the ineffable.

The formal musical framing device you used was masterful.

You are truly breaking new ground in the form.”

Leon Conrad, Voice Specialist