Our Tellers in 2017 were: 

Taffy Thomas MBE - Patron of The East Anglian Storytelling Festival www.taffythomas.co.uk

With the breadth of his work and his constant drive it is not surprising that Taffy Thomas was made First Laureate for Storytelling, received an MBE, has been a long-time patron of the Society for Storytelling, and become an English Folk Dance and Song Society gold badge holder. Recently he has been excited to be asked to be a patron of West Country disability Arts group ‘Open Storytellers’ and also of the ‘Shooting Roots’ project. In 2015 he also became Patron of the East Anglian Storytelling Festival. He has performed in Norway, USA, Japan, Australia, Egypt, Israel and in 2001 performed at the Albert Hall for the BBC Proms. His collections of folktales are published by The History Press, Bloomsbury and Educational Publishing Services (EPS). Taffy will be performing with his famous tale coat.

Shonaleigh Cumbers - www.thelastdrutsyla.co.uk/about-shonaleigh  
Shonaleigh is a storyteller who was brought up in the drut’syla tradition by her bubbe, (grandmother). “You hear people talking about the storytelling revival, but in Jewish culture it never died. From the age of four I lived and breathed the tales of my childhood, unaware that there was anything unusual. I thought this was quite normal and that all storytellers had this background … It was quite routine for me to fall asleep at night listening to songs and stories in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Dutch and Turkish – a wonderful colourful mix.” 
Shonaleigh Shonaleigh is a dedicated and committed storyteller who has actively worked to expand and share her tradition.  She has a repertoire of over three thousand stories, which can be adapted as appropriate for the theme and audience with whom she is working. She’s performed in venues from church halls to London’s Albert Hall, from forests to the Barbican, and at festivals in the U.K. on the Continent, USA and New Zealand. She also does a great deal of work in schools and among community groups, helping people, particularly teenagers and the immigrant community, find their voice.   She was the UK’s Deputy National Storytelling Laureate from 2010-12, has completed commissions for the British Library, the British Museum and Hay-on-Wye Literature Festival, and is a regular contributor to BBC arts programs.   Her 2012 appointment to Artistic Director of Phrase Arts, where she helped promote storytelling within communities, has led to her work with the European Court of Human Rights.   She was recently Teller In Residence at the International Storytelling Center in Tennessee.  

Hugh Lupton - www.hughlupton.com
Hugh Lupton’s interest in traditional music, in street theatre, in live poetry, and in myth, resulted in him becoming a professional storyteller in 1981.   For twelve years he toured Britain with the ‘Company of Storytellers’. Their work was instrumental in stimulating a nation-wide revival of interest in storytelling.   Since the mid-nineties he has worked as a solo performer and collaborator. In 2006 he and Daniel Morden were awarded the Classical Association Prize for ‘the most significant contribution to the public understanding of the classics’.   His work with musician Chris Wood has resulted in commissions from Radio 3 and the ‘Song of the Year’ at the BBC folk awards.   He tells stories from many cultures, but his particular passion is for the hidden layers of the British landscape and the stories and ballads that give voice to them.   His first novel ‘The Ballad of John Clare’ was published in 2010, he’s recently finished a second about the Mabinogion (due to be published in 2018).

John Row - www.johnrow.com

For longer than he cares to remember John Row has told stories on four continents at schools and festivals. He became the first Storyteller in Residence at Wayland Prison in 1999 and gained publicity for the ‘Storybook Dads’ scheme which has since grown into a national charity and been adopted by countries all over the globe. He developed storytelling as a regular feature of Cambridge Folk Festival and runs the Storytelling Lounge in the Kidz Field at Glastonbury Festival as well as being featured regularly at Folk East, Cropred and Chippenham Folk Festival.



Paul Jackson - www.pauljacksonstory.com
With an extensive collection of stories that include Wonder Tales, World Folk Tales, and Creation stories Paul appears at many and varied venues throughout the year, from Book- and Story- festivals, to museums and Art trails, from a pop~up cafe in London to Glastonbury festival. He has visited over 2000 schools, run storytelling workshops for twenty years and is currently working in collaboration with Tobias Kaye on Healing Your Story and Tom Fortes Mayer from The Freemind Project on Stories that Change our Lives. Paul uses a number of world instruments, is also an established book illustrator, sculptor and a trustee of The Society For Storytelling.
Peter Optical - www.circusoptical.co.uk 
Peter's first public performance was when, in 1953 aged six, he was a penguin in a nativity play. Since the early seventies Peter has had a long and varied professional career in theatre and associated arts  including Writer/Director, Storyteller, Actor, Mime artist, musician, tumbler, juggler, Fire-Eater, Stilt and Wire-walker. Peter has performed in one guise or another at British festivals too numerous to mention, plus a mini tour of Israel. The more energetic performance days are now over and although an animated storyteller he says "It's reassuring to know there is normally a chair on which to catch my breath"    

Janina Vigurs - www.janinavigurs.com

Janina has worked with primary aged children for over 10 years in Environmental Education, helping to pioneer the Forest School movement across the East of England. She began by telling The Magic Porridge Pot round the fire at a Forest School session to 15 grubby, eager 4 year olds in 2006 They adored it and so did she! Professional training with Emerson College and Ben Haggarty of the Crick Crack Club quickly followed and continues still with Marion Leeper of Cambridge Storytellers and Tom Hirons of Hedgespoken. She tells tales in primary schools, nurseries, at private parties and at festivals across the UK including Cambridge Literary Festival, Bath Children's Literature Festival and The Imagine Children's Festival at the Southbank Centre. 

Baden Prince - www.applesandsnakes.org
Baden Prince (Junior) is a London-based writer, poet, performer and storyteller. Over the past ten years, he has established a solid reputation with performances at major venues all over the UK and abroad, the USA and the Netherlands in particular. From 2003 - 2010 he was the curator and host of "Speakeasy," one of London's most popular poetry and spoken word events, enjoyed and respected by audinces and performers alike.   As a performer, Baden entrances audiences with his warm, engaging manner, his mellifluous voice and his irreverent, humorous style. 

Justine is Artistic Director of The East Anglian Storytelling Festival and organiser of 2015 and 2016's Festivals, which she instigated in order to put her passion for making storytelling relevant and exciting for new audiences into action. She has been a professional performer for over 20 years – from a background in community and street theatre she moved to storytelling eight years ago and has been loving it! Her multi-faceted storytelling practice So… what’s the story? ranges from the Storyplaytime and Adventure Tots sessions she creates for under 5s, to adults-only pub story nights and the rock ‘n’ roll and storytelling duo Darklove, to her Business Narrative consultancy work. She tells regularly at pubs, festivals, schools, libraries and parties and runs the Tapas and Tales Storytelling Night at the King’s Head, Woodbridge.


Award winning storyteller Glenys Newton has spent time volunteering in the camps in Calais, Dunkirk and on the Isle of Lesvos in Greece, where she collected the true travellers’ tales in her performance “No Place Like Home" a reflection of the extraordinary times we are living in, with millions of people fleeing their homes and seeking sanctuary in Europe. Come for an evening of stories from the refugees and conversation about what is happening in our world at the moment. Glenys says 'I am just trying to be the person that I would wish my son to meet should he find himself needing help outside of his country, without family and without a home.'

Gerry Donlon aka Bards Aloud - www.facebook.com/bardsaloud

Gerry Donlon is an Ipswich based Irish storyteller and poet. He has been involved in the storytelling and poetry scene for some years, he is the founder of Storytelling with Bards Aloud, a very popular storytelling group in Ipswich, Suffolk, co-founder of The East Anglian Storytelling Festival, and is also founder of Poetree Walks with Bards in the Woods, Suffolk. He has performed at The East Anglian Storytelling Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival, Folk East, The Faraway Tree Festival, Cosmic Puffin, Harlequin Fayre, Library’s, countless open mic’s, and in 2016 he performed tales from a hammock at Holywells Park! He has an array of original and “hybrid” tales, described as “Stories comic and stories quirky”.


Marion Leeper - www.marionleeperstoryteller.co.uk

This year’s Bard of Cambridge, storyteller and writer Marion Leeper tells stories for all ages: for adults, she tells local legends, family history, epic and myth.  She has toured her show the Kitchen Cat in England and the US, and has until recently chaired the club Cambridge Storytellers.  She has taken her sparkly lightproof tent, home of her early years show, Stories in the Dark, to Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival, as well as venues throughout East Anglia, and she’s recently published a book on storytelling and early years education.  Her book on storytelling and early years education is published by PPS Books.  At this year's festival she will be looking through the keyhole at some unusual myths and legends.

Suzanne Arnold - www.facebook.com/suzannethestoryweaver

Suzanne started her journey into the Arts through running a community arts project in Deptford, SE London in the early 80’s. She has worked as a performer, with people and puppets; an artist and workshop leader, and a story-maker and teller, tickling the imagination of thousands! Suzanne the Storyweaver can be heard and seen across the region at festivals - Latitude, Cambridge Folk, Harlequin, Maui Waui and FolkEast; she tells in schools, children centres, older peoples homes, libraries, and facilitates workshops. She also hosts the monthly “Tales and Ales” story night for adults at The Locks Inn, Geldeston, Norfolk.  

Carl Merry - www.carltales.com

A past director of the Society for Storytelling and organizer of previous festivals, Carl has taken his wide range of stories to schools, country parks, theatres, museums, and village halls all over East Anglia. He has told at such varied venues as The Royal Academy, the Colchester Festival, Rochester Dickens Festival, The Essex Book Festival, Hull Freedom Festival, Barking Folk Festival and at theatres, country parks, community groups and various medieval re-enactment events around the country.

Cath Edwards - storytellingforall.co.uk

Cath Edwards is a warm and witty professional storyteller who delights audiences at festivals, in storytelling clubs and at many other venues across the country. Working mainly with traditional material, she creates a series of compelling images that will stay with you long after the story is ended. She tells stories to all ages from adults to families and the very young in a wide range of settings, including libraries, schools, museums and family events. As well as mainstream storytelling, she has particular expertise with those with a range of special needs and with early years. Cath is co-host of two storytelling clubs for adults, in Lichfield and Stafford, she co-directs a small annual storytelling festival in Birmingham and she is an experienced and successful workshop leader and trainer.

Jan Williams - www.janwilltell.co.uk 

Jan Williams is a storyteller with strong Welsh roots coming as she does from the lovely seaside village of Borth near Aberystwyth ,  but for the last 35 years she has lived in Brightlingsea where her career as a story teller has Flourished. She began by becoming storyteller of the year at SIdmouth Folk Festival then she founded the Essex Storytellers with Carl Merry and Andy Jennings and together they worked on several East Anglian  history stories including the Battle of Maldon , the Mersea Mound,  and the witches of Maldon. Jan’s s depth of Historical   Knowledge have made these projects very alive and colourful. She enjoys writing including the delightful “An Amazing Storytelling Cat”. She contributed “Essex Folk Tales’ to the History Press ‘ series and is presenting working hard on a children’s version of the stories which include her humorous approach to dragons, ghosts ond smugglers.

Su moved to East Anglia ten years ago after spending her early storytelling years in the West Country where she also worked as a community theatre facilitator, street performer, solo theatre performer and member of a children's theatre company. This year Su will be bringing two different storytelling personas to the festival... Suki SilverTongue, who straddles the worlds of storytelling and poetry, serving up lusciously lyrical and sublimely subversive renditions of classic tales for adult ears and  Tilly the Talespinner who will also be making an appearance and will no doubt be catching a few tales to spin for children and families with her marvellous, magical story-catcher.

Mark Scott-Ison  - www.facebook.com/MarkScottIson

Mark has been telling stories for about fifteen years, in the fields of Somerset, Norfolk and Suffolk to tiny toddlers, old codgers and all ages in  between. All his stories are funny and are made up in his head. Have you ever thought about monsters under your bed? What if one day your shadow ran off and was replaced by another one? If bees make honey do wasps make marmite? These and similar questions about the pointless things in life Mark will be exploring - seek him out!

Andy Jennings - www.essexstorytellers.co.uk 

Whether as a storyteller or a medieval re-enactor, or at times both, Andy brings enthusiasm and entertainment to his audiences.  An experienced performer Andy has toured with the Albion Shakespeare Company, been involved with Theatre-in Education workshops and living history groups. Before moving to Suffolk, Andy was a key part of Essex Storytellers’ performances contributing to the writing and shaping of major projects.  Andy bounds with the love of the well told tale and his background is that of the professional actor. His colourful performances have enlivened many historical re-enactments and the storytelling tent at Glastonbury.

Liam Carroll - www.fairyfolkandfable.co.uk

Liam spent a decade travelling through the rustic regions of Europe with horses and carts before getting lost in Norfolk. He is now generally to be found telling tales in museums, schools, libraries and parks. He draws on an eclectic repertoire of world myths, folk tales and fables.

Sarah Walker  - www.facebook.com/SarahSpinsStories

Sarah Walker – SarahSpinsStories - has lived in nine countries and collected tales in all nine and elsewhere. She tells stories from around the world for adults and children as well as original tales of her own. Sarah also tells with Barrie de Lara, and in the Big Stripey Story Tent at festivals and celebrations. In 2014, while being successfully treated for cancer, she completed the challenge of telling 26 tales for the first time: this year her challenge is telling a new tale every week.  Her book of original tales is Ghosts International: Troll and Other Stories, published by Oxford University Press Bookworms Library. She runs Norfolk’s storytelling gathering Tales from the Undercroft in Norwich.

Simon Heywood - www.simonheywood.com

As well as being a superb storyteller, Simon Heywood is a folklorist and lecturer in storytelling and creative writing at Derby University. Simon has worked to international acclaim as a storyteller, musician, composer, and workshop leader. Simon has a long back catalogue of performances and workshops, including a fascinating project giving voice to the conscientious objectors of the First World War. He has a particular interest in the rejuvenation of half-forgotten history and folklore tales.

 Shane Ibbs  - storytellershane.co.uk

Shane is relatively new to the Oral Storytelling scene. But not new to stories. He has been a collector of folk stories and short stories for several years and has told stories to his children for many years. Shane has worked with children for many years and has a passion for telling stories to children and family groups. Shane also formed a new bi-monthly storytelling event in Chelmsford in 2016. The club is currently geared towards stories and spoken word for adults.

Veronica Chambers

Hailing all the way from the wilds of Wicklow, she heard stories from the locals and then one day chanced to meet John Row. As the night went on, he told her a tale and she told him one and he said you should be a storyteller. So she tried and went to many events and festivals doing it, then remembered the tales. Of her youth and continued telling traditional Irish stories of times gone.