When remembering our pasts, it always strikes me that our lives appear to us as layered rather than chronological: themes rising up, patterns emerging and dissolving, a palimpsest of stories that change to reflect our current thinking every time we revisit them.
When I was between eight and ten, I filled endless notebooks with stories and a full length novel of adventurous and determined brownies (funnily enough not the fairy folk version but the girl guiding version!). In teenage years, drama and dance took over my life.
At nineteen I bought two books, one by Nancy Mellon called “Storytelling and the Imagination” and the other by Barbara Black Koltuv PhD called, “The Book of Lilith”. They were very different books, but both had story at their hearts.
It soon became clear, as I studied for an English/Drama degree, and went on to teach Drama in High Schools, that stories, writing and storytelling were an integral part of the plan life had for me.
Writing / Performing
So in 2000 I decided it was time to jump ship from teaching and get on with my own writing and storytelling, whatever that was going to look like. There was another book that appeared on my path about this time: David Thompson’s “The People of the Sea”. It set me adrift. It’s about seal legends and the people who tell them. (If it appeals at all, find it, buy it, beg a copy, read it. It’s beautiful and unique). I was beginning to realise that my love of story was as much about the reasons why we tell stories and how we tell them as the stories themselves.
For three years I ran monthly storytelling events at The Duke’s Theatre, Lancaster. As well as creating a platform on which to explore and tell stories myself, I selfishly brought the best storytelling performers to Lancaster, filled the house and gave myself the best seat.
That’s how it all started: nineteen heady years of performing, writing, teaching, facilitating, producing and creating. I’ve worked in a huge array of settings from theatres, stately homes, museums, galleries, schools and universities to festivals, parks, community centres, hotels and bookshops.
In 2012 there came a watershed three years. We went to live on the Isle of Arran in Scotland. A stunning island. A completely different lifestyle.
This time on Arran presaged a completely new direction in my work. I became involved with The Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh and met some wonderful people who believe passionately in the cultural necessity of telling stories, among many other things.
I began to weave together found, gathered and original narratives in order to explore and point to the places where reality and imagination meet, trying to lay bare the relationships between people, place and story, and how we’re constantly moving between them. This work, along with the people who told me the stories, resulted in a shared community performance on the island:
When I returned to the North West of England in 2015 this lead to further projects in collaboration with some fabulous people: visual artists, musicians and film makers:
In and amongst all of this, various publications came about.
I’m also in the middle of an MScR in Scottish Ethnology at Edinburgh University, researching in order to gain a wider understanding of what we know about the role the telling of stories plays in our lives and considering how my work adds to that understanding.
I’m now living in the North West of England, with regular forays back to Scotland.