Festival Review 2019


East Anglian Fabulation storytellers worked with Elmswell Library to hold 4 free family storytelling sessions at the library on Saturdays during May and June. Families from the village and beyond enjoyed our magical tales! On the eve of the festival, Storytellers took over the bar at the Fox Pub in Elmswell and told tales to locals and festival goers alike to herald the start of the Festival.


Friday evening brought us a varied programme, starting with welcome tales from East Anglian tellers Andy Jennings, Su Squire, and Paul Jackson. In the “New Voices” section Chris Richardson told his version of the Wayland Smith legend. He walked us skilfully and engagingly through the trials and tribulations of Wayland. Hannah Brailsford with her “Love Bites” set proved that not all stories do not have happy endings and that love is a tricky business.

Later in the evening, Liz Weir told a selection of Irish tales, all delivered in a relaxed and engaging manner. Then Hugh Lupton, with “The Hanging of a Mouse”, took us into the world of The Mabinogion, that great Welsh epic set of tales, and transported the audience to Wales in the time of King John. The venue was filled with magic and wonder as we hung on every word uttered.

The evening’s stories were interspersed with songs from the ever wonderful Holly D Johnston and the haunting sounds of flute and kora from Paul Jackson and Jonathon Lambert.

Shane Ibbs led our final ‘fireside tales’ around our ‘fake fire’ in the camping hub, where festival goers and tellers alike told their tales in an informal and relaxed setting.


East Anglian Fabulation members already mentioned, together with Barrie de Lara, Shane Ibbs, Carl Merry, Suzanne Arnold, Sarah Walker, Holly D Johnston and Gerry Donlon told their tales in various sessions throughout the day. Krystle Graver ran a useful and insightful sign language workshop. Hugh Lupton held the audience in the palm of his hand with his Russian stories; Su Squire and Barrie de Lara told children’s stories and children told their own stories with Hannah Brailsford and Emily Hanna Grazebrook. Jan Williams led a storywalk around Elmswell. We held two story rounds for newcomers to storytelling to try their hand, and heard some wonderful stories there. We hope these people will be encouraged to continue their storytelling journey!

We were treated to stories from other tellers from around the country who had kindly agreed to share some tales with us. Belinda McKenna told a beautiful version of the King who Had Horse’s Ears, Emily Hanna Grazebrook told Tam Lin and Janet Dowling told a set of tales involving hats which she had put together to raise money for a young girl in Sidmouth. Tony Finn and Martin Manasse told wonderful tales that delighted the audience.

After lunch our patron Taffy Thomas MBE told bird stories from his new book “The Magpies Nest”. The challenge to answer Taffy’s riddles was thrown open to the listeners as they would identify the bird in the story he was about to tell. Tales of many birds were told before a birthday cake appeared and Taffy’s 70th birthday was celebrated by all present.

Some of our newest storytellers, Jonathon Lambert, Nicky Day, Lisa McNulty, Josh Harris and Sarah Beavins from the Fabulation told their lovely tales too!

In the late afternoon it was the turn of another guest to enthral and entertain us. Sef Townsend is a well-travelled and highly respected teller of tales and his family tales session was a delight. Telling in his own inimitable style and with an internal energy which was palpable Sef was an instant hit. Fashioning balls from cloth and throwing them to the audience to be used later in the story he engaged us all with ease

Holly D Johnston interviewed Hugh Lupton, Sef Townsend and Taffy Thomas during the day, using innovative questions inspired from tales such as ‘The Little Mermaid’ that produced intriguing and revealing answers!

Joe Lees provided excellent musical interludes during the day.


Suzanne Arnold treated us to a tale of reminding us that things are not as they seem, there were tales of tricksters and fools, which had the audience laughing out loud. Then the mood changed as Hugh Lupton told some Greek myths. Some of these tales make for uncomfortable listening as the machinations and passions of the gods are strong stuff indeed.

Liz Weir told stories that she had been gifted by tellers who are no longer with us. The tales and the asides/anecdotes kept us glued to our seats and made a pleasant and gentle end to an evening which all who were there will remember for a long time.

Outside to finish the evening, fireside tales were led by Glenys Newton, the laughter and revelry echoed over the campsite!


The final day dawned with Sef Townsend’s workshop which had the participants singing, chanting a strutting their stuff all over the hall. Quite what anyone watching might have made of it we cannot say, but those who took part agreed that it was both fun and very useful.

The Fabulation’s Veronica Chambers and Su Squire enthralled us with their stories. There was a special Father’s Day storyround with Shane Ibbs and Paul Jackson and two children’s sessions told by Janina Vigurs, Sarah Walker, Suzanne Arnold and Hannah Brailsford which held the children spellbound! We had a poetry session, and John Row popped by to tell some of his tales. Ells Bells led a ukulele singalong which all enjoyed.

Holly D Johnston interviewed our final guest, Liz Weir MBE. Liz’s answers were as fascinating as the answers we heard the day before!

The Festival ended with Liz Weir “Shortening the Road” for us with more tales and Sef telling tales from “Opposite Ends of The World”. Both these sessions were excellent examples of storytelling at its best. Then it was “The End of the Road” with tellers from the four counties represented in the East Anglian Fabulation – Carl Merry, Jonathan Lambert, Rachael O’Leary and Gerry Donlon.

Thanks were given to Veronica Chambers and the hardworking team who put the festival together before we all made our way home to all corners of the country. We travelled with a sense of a time well spent, friendship in our hearts and heads full of what we had heard and experienced.


To all who attended – the festival would be nothing without you. We hope you come back next year!

To our caterers - James Chesledine who produced superb vegan food all weekend, and to Val Burch who ran our bar and provided tea, sandwiches, delicious cakes and burgers.

To Amy Wragg for her wonderful festival decorations. And to Kelly Art, who decorated faces!


If you attended the festival, we’d love to hear your comments, about what went well and not so well. We may use your comments on our webpage!

Please email us on: info@eastanglianstorytellingfestival.co.uk