Once upon a time ...


Once upon a time, there was a storyteller. And that storyteller told tall tales, traditional tales, children’s tales and scary tales. Tales about the Lakes, and tales about other places, too. And that storyteller’s name was Taffy. Taffy Thomas, storyteller.

Autumn mist over Derwentwater

The 2010 National Storytelling week was launched at the British Museum with the inauguration of the nation’s first Laureate for Storytelling, the Lake District’s own Taffy Thomas. Nominated by a panel of notables, including the poet, Brian Patten and Michael Rosen, the former Children’s Laureate, Taffy will spend the next two years promoting the ancient art of oral storytelling.

 Storyteller Extraordinaire in the Lake District

Taffy Thomas is a former teacher who started telling stories as therapy for a minor stroke. He’s now the artistic director of Tales in Trust, the Northern Centre for Storytelling, based in Grasmere. He tours the UK, telling tales in primary schools, clubs, town halls, conferences, and a few special dates in his storytelling garden in Grasmere. There’s a web link below for dates.

The Laureateship isn’t just an honorary title; he receives payment in kind for the service he provides: inspiration. One kilogram of dried beans, a compass, a packet of love hearts, a bottle, a candle, a lucky charm bracelet and a whistle. Will Lyra Silvertongue be climbing beanstalks, wearing a bracelet and whistling up Aladdin? Who knows.


Meanwhile, the Lake District is looking forward to hosting Words by the Water from 5th – 14th March. This literary festival takes place at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, by the shores of Derwentwater.

If you live around here, you always know if it’s on, because you start to see the same density of famous faces here as you do in parts of London. Elbow-to-elbow with BBC journalists, queuing with MPs, or sitting in a boat with a face that launched a hundred thousand book jackets.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that it all sounds a bit boffin-y, but the truth is that the festival is geared up to anyone with a enquiring mind. As well as more obvious spots such as Fay Weldon’s writing story, or Ian Mortimer’s approach to writing popular history, you can hear Martin Bell on the MP’s expenses scandal, or Roy Hattersley on the power of the super-rich. If that all seems a bit heavy, Gervase Phinn will be talking about a Yorkshire boyhood and Stuart Maconie about his relationship with Cumbria.

Aspiring writers can find lots of penmanship advice, including gems from Penelope Lively and Cumbria’s own Sarah Hall. The festival expands into psychology and philosophy, too, with talks on human behaviour, the existence of God, and the pursuit of happiness.

Just the right sort of thing to contemplate whilst taking the views from the theatre towards Catbells and the stunning beauty of Borrowdale beyond.


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