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May 1st: Magical May Day

May Day, traditionally one of the most magical days of the year, sees us gathering to tell stories, enjoy some music and a storytelling dance too!

Time to cast a clout?
May bushes and logo On the day when in England you danced the sun up at dawn, having gathered your May bush - hawthorn - and placed it at doorways round the village after spending much of the night roaming the countryside, when you made great processions, perhaps crowning a May Queen, and when in many places some such customs still survive, most famously perhaps in the Padstow Obby Oss procession and the Oxford madrigals from Magdelene Tower, we gather to celebrate and tell stories. And there’ll be music, of course.

And this time, to add to the mix, there’ll be a dance from India too, in a slightly extended performance slot by Deepa Anand, bringing her skill in the dance form Bharatanatyam, where stories are told not in words but in graceful stylised movements. The oral stories will come from our faithful band of excellent local storytellers; if you’d like to join and add a new voice, please contact us.

Lovely meeting place, refreshments, raffle, and great good company, what's not to like?

PS You may be up at dawn to bring the May in if you so wish; your MC for the evening will be Richard York, finishing a long day which is due to start by playing for the Morris to dance the sun up on Brackley Market Square at 5.30am!
And as to casting clouts… “May” in the saying refers to the bush, not the month, so you’ll have to watch those blossoms before deciding.

Tickets online by clicking here, £6 in general, £4 to performers, (please contact us to confirm) and on the door.

Coming up in 2024, already confirmed...

June 5th: Story Club Teller Exchange - Lichfield's Cath Edwards headlines our evening with "The Secret Path, Tales from the Wild Forest"

Cath Edwards Entrancing tales that lead you deep into the forest’s secret and secluded places. Distilling themes of forbidden love, courage in desperate times and the significance of being different, these stories weave a rich green magic. There’s a woman who hides a deadly enigma, a newborn with the potential to transform the land, a man who is far more than the little he seems, and more. ..

In a new idea for the Feast of Fools, we're swapping storytellers! Cath Edwards runs the Lichfield Storytellers club, established the same year as we were, and will perform here for the main spot of the evening. In exchange, Richard & Liz York will be at Lichfield on June 11th with "The Black Horse", as performed recently at Tales Tattled and Told in Bletchley. So we get to hear each other, as well as swapping!

July 3: Phil Okwedy - "The Gods Are All Here"

Phil Okewdy Phil Okwedy, born in Cardiff to a Welsh mother and Nigerian father, draws deeply on his dual heritage and multiple cultures, and performs regularly across Wales and England. "The Gods are All Here" was built after finding love letters from his father to his mother, when Phil was clearing her house. Extracts from these form the backdrop to this performance mixing personal experience of growing up as a child of dual heritage in 1960's and 70's Wales with myths, folktales and song from the African diaspora. He considers if his parents were, in fact, the gods which, as children often will, he had believed them to be.

Audience who have seen it have described the performance as:

"Superb storytelling, combining personal, traditional and reimagined stories in a unique way. Very moving and gripping throughout, you always want to know 'what happens next'.”
"spectacularly crafted"
"Highlight of this year’s Beyond the Border Festival!”

And our committee researchers who saw it in Oxford last year were just as keen. So now we've managed to bring Phil all the way here to perform it for you!
Ticket details to follow soon, watch this space...

Sept 4: Dr Simon Heywood - "Out of the Silence"

By popular demand, Simon tells again his powerful and rigorously researched story of the Conscientious Objectors, many of them Quakers, in World War I.

Northampton Quaker Meeting House

is on its own driveway set back from Wellington Street, Northampton, NN1 3AS.
With its own beautiful garden next to it, it's a calm oasis in a patch of Northampton which time and the borough planners haven't been kind to, between the mainly pedestrianised Abington Street, and The Mounts.

If you don't know how to find it, please click on the image, which will take you to more information. Meeting HouseDirections

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Previously, 2024

Happy Birthday Us!

So how else to open but with some Bollywood music played on a Victorian harp invented by a Frenchman?! (Thanks, Liz York, for rising to the challenge!)

Really good storytelling often combines great entertainment with thought-provoking material. Peter Chand presented us with both in bucketfuls, by bringing a selection of Indian cousins of ancestors of tales later famously published by the brothers Grimm in 1812. (I hope you’ve disentangled that last sentence!) While the German Grimms apparently collected much material from French nursery maids, Peter, a British Indian man of Wolverhampton, collected many of his tales from his family members in the Punjab.
He shone sparkling light on how many Indian stories must have travelled until they reached Germany, in performance which gave them vibrant life. I almost wanted a chart on the wall so we could tick off themes appearing in both Grimms’ stories and many others collected across the Western world. Cinderella and Rapunzel were only two among many characters appearing in earlier guises.
I'm sure I wasn't alone in so often thinking, “Ah, that explains [such and such a theme] and it makes so much more sense told this way!”

Because Peter’s telling is so engaging and lively, swinging between the dark moments and infectious laughter with a few words or even just a change of facial expression or gesture, this performance worked at all levels. Whether you were steeped in international folk story collections and tellings, or hearing oral storytelling for the first time, you’d still have a great evening – and the reactions of the audience certainly looked that way.

It was a birthday, there was cake! Very many thanks as always go to Janet Malpas.
Many covetous looks were cast at Steve Hobbs’ generous donation for the raffle of a superb edition of the tales lavishly illustrated by Arthur Rackham; thanks to him, and to Graham for the organisation and running.
Congratulations to everyone, performers, all-important good listeners, and workers who are part of Storytelling at the Feast of Fools – nine years young, and looking forward to many more.

Great Grand Annual Lying Contest!

Image FoF Lies logo This has become a definite ritual event, and one to look forward to.
We began with a lovely audience, and some "normal" stories:
Richard Y - A medieval Italian tale of the perils of fibbing (Boccaccio/York) ;
David P - the latest stand-alone episode in his series of Crow Mountain stories, in which the witch earns her title (Poulter);
Pete B – of the story of the man who had no story, from Ireland (Trad / Boyce);
Stephen – of Nasruddin and Northampton, (Trad /+ quite a lot of Hobbs);
Terrie – Norse myth of Thor’s Wedding to Thrym (Old Norse).

It's not fair to single people out, but it was great to welcome Terrie again to our floor!

After the usual Feast of Cakes - thank you as ever to Janet for these, and thanks too to Linda Davitt who kindly helps with serving refreshments, and the usual raffle (many thanks to Graham and Steve H), which maintained its purely chance tradition of presenting a first-time member of the audience with a prize, we came to.... (pause for drum roll)....


Pete Boyce – on being personally digitally connected, and running out of data;
Dave Blake– on his ancestor with unerringly unfortunate timing in the 17th century business world;
Richard York – on presenting history, and a newly re-discovered Ancient Greek tune;
Frankie Purcell aka Stephen Hobbs – on the nature of Household Hobs, and upon being the Hob of Books;
Lynette Hill – on a sleepy maternal confusion involving BigFoot and babies;
Graham Malpas – on a memorable meeting with George Best and a football;
Terrie Howey-Moore – on Janet’s deep-laid plans to take over the world of baking.

The whole affair was beautifully managed by Tamsyn Payne, our special guest referee, and original proprietor of the NN Cafe, our first venue, who kindly nurtured the FoF when it was newly finding its feet.

The all-important matter of timing, and alarms sounded without fear or favour, was excellently handled by Linda and John Walton - John being poised to sound the Thunder which betokened the End Of Lie Time 5 minute mark, who only got the chance of a single thundering this year. Linda's 30sec warning bell came into useful application more often.

The Audience, the all-important judges of the success or failure of each lie, did their work with enthusiasm and panache!

And the congragulations this year go to (pause for another drum roll............), Pete Boyce, the 2024 Monarch of Mendacity.
And thank you very much to everyone who contributed, be it as performer, specific responsibilities for the evening, or, most important, being there as audience.

February 7: Sarah Rundle - "The Forest of Chance Encounters"

Or: She Gave Me Pizza With Murder In Her Heart

Image of Sarah Rundle performing Take one lovely venue, add highly tasty cakes, a happy and friendly audience, and an outstanding storyteller, and with luck you may be rewarded with just such an evening as we enjoyed at the Quaker Meeting House, with Sarah Rundle.

Sarah more than lived up to our high expectations.
It needs a brave and accomplished storyteller to take four tales from Italo Calvino’s collection of Italian folk stories, to combine them into such a vast, vastly entertaining labyrinthine web lasting the best part of two hours, then deliver them with such unflagging pace and enormous energy, while somehow guiding us through all the details and weaving them into a very satisfactory whole, holding the audience’s rapt attention throughout.

Sarah’s descriptions are intensely visual, but never self indulgent. Characters may be subtle or larger than life, either way their emotion is often viscerally present, but she makes the characters and the audience do the work of feeling it rather than telling us what to feel.
Like a skilled juggler, she doesn’t just keep all four stories flying along, she finds time to throw in word dancing playfulness, sub-texts, flicks from poetic description to rip-roaring humour in the twist of a phrase, often while working at multiple levels, and all without ever dropping anything.
Meanwhile, through the whole thing we’re aware of intellectual rigour, thorough background research, adding real integrity but never getting in the way of the story.
If you’ve read some of the source stories in Calvino, you’ll appreciate how much work must have gone into making them come so gloriously alive.

NB Plot spoiler alert for people who've not yet seen this performance - the pizza was indeed murderous!

Praise for the performer – praise too for the audience…
Those who have attended Storytelling at the Feast of Fools will know that our visiting guest performers habitually praise our community of listeners. Sarah’s comment was that it takes a brave storytelling club to book such a long and complicated show and many shy away from it, but that you listened intently and responded superbly, and that you’re a lovely lot.
We can only agree!

January 3: Our traditional New Year's Special FREE night

Logo image adjusted for New Year Janus two-headed look! Thanks to all the people who came and made our traditional January Freebie such an enjoyable session - we had a very healthy sized crowd and a bumper crop of stories and music, thanks to you.
[Note, once something's happened more than three times it's generally assumed to be traditional. Hence my use of the term here.]

After a quick blast of music on pipe and tabor and Richard's opening tale, based on Dan Keding's story of the Two Armies, Dave Blake brought a gripping tale of childhood Subbuteo and the perils of fastening your pitch to the family's new dining table.
David Poulter continued his "Crow Mountain" series with an episode which both stood perfectly on its own, and added to the story arc;
Mark Steinhardt also told a stand-alone section from a longer tale, an atmospheric episode of two children of English missionaries in Japan;
Donald Anderson closed the first half with a lovely set of pieces played on guitar.

The interval was a celebration of Janet Malpas' baking of cakes, and there was much to celebrate about them!
Likewise, of the raffle, and once again we're grateful to Stephen Hobbs for the generous donations of books he regularly brings to this, as well as the mystery prizes lovingly wrapped by Graham Malpas.

Lynette Hill opened Part Two with the gift of "Ernest and the Queen of the Wolves",
From wolves to cats, with a series of quick-fire stories from Steve Dimmer about those most fascinating of beasts;
Pete Boyce brought us a lesser known autobiographical tale from Arthur Ransome's own voyages around the Baltic Sea;
Stephen Hobbs re-worked an Ashanti story involving surreal vegetables, a dog, and much laughter.

In fact, intense listening, much laughter, and great pleasure, all combine to sum up the evening well. We're looking forward to what our 2024 programme brings!

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Previously at the Feast of Fools, 2023

December 6th - Taffy Thomas MBE Midwinter Folk Tales: Traditional Stories for the Long Dark Nights.

Image of Taffy Thomas in Tale Coat Taffy Thomas absolutely lived up to his great reputation, demonstrating his mastery of reading an audience, and making everyone feel part of a thoroughly enjoyable community to share.
And while she tries not to be part of the act, his wife Chrissy is an essential part of all this too, as he's the first to point out. It was a privilege to have them with us.

After an overture from a trio of Liz & Richard York with their friend the excellent Bob Martin, Taffy gave us a packed programme of stories for Winter and Christmas laced together with snippets of extra information, all delivered with impeccable timing and apparent simplicity, born of years of great experience, sheer hard work, and much art, along with unquenchable energy and enthusiasm for his material and above all for communicating with the audience.
Our audience also proved that the Feast of Fools choir can sing rousingly well, joining in the carols and wassail in all the right places. WE're grateful to Bob for joining us in the music to make it all so much better.

Janet once again produced a superb array of home-baked cakes. I can report that while Mr & Mrs Thomas didn't get time to eat any during the evening, some were brought some home afterwards for them, and they went down a treat!

What a hugely satisfying way to end our year, on such a high! We've had some seriously classy storytelling from both visiting professionals and those in our own community, with some wonderful evenings, and are looking forward to next year already.

None of this would be possible without the tremendous work of the Feast of Fools team, Janet, Graham and Deepa, to whom very many thanks; and all our work would be pointless without such a great community of people who come and create such audiences, so thank YOU reading this! Taffy pointed out yet again that storytelling is nothing without an audience.

Nov 1st - Feast of Fools Local Teller's Special with Lynette Hill: "The incredibly True Story of the First Thanksgiving"

Image of Lynette Hill (Image courtesy of Simon Beckett with permission from Future Wolverton)
A gratifyingly sized audience enjoyed a very gratifying evening.
The first half saw possibly the world’s shortest ghost story from Richard, two short Inuit kayak-related stories from Pete Boyce, David Poulter with the second of his Crow Stories; Stephen Hobbs told a wickedly entertaining tale of a little girl’s lifelong fascination with fairies.
After much consumption of cakes, as ever beautifully home-made by Janet, the headline second half opened with early 17thC music, “Row Well ye Mariners”, on period style hurdy-gurdy, (Richard York) and tiny renaissance guitar, (Liz York), after which Lynette introduced her story from the same era.
“The Incredibly True Story of the First Thanksgiving” held us listening intently for the next 45 minutes or so. It was, as one of our storytelling visitors rightly commented, apparently effortless, disguising an impressive amount of research, and was very far from dry history.

Lynette told of Tisquantum, the native American known in popular stories of Thanksgiving as “Squanto”, the man who walked out of the woods speaking English to help the English Mayflower settlers in Massachusetts – but as so often with popular stories, not there given his true history, which Lynette brought to real life. And as happens so often with history, there were strong resonances with current life and times: here pandemic, fierce tensions and conflict between colonists and those whose lands they occupy, and much more, stalking through lives both then and now.
It’s a performance which deserves to be heard again, and more widely.
Throughout, the story was interspersed with short pieces of music, some from a collection the settlers took with them and others already popular when they sailed, variously sung by Liz and played by her and Richard on a number of historical style instruments.

The great warmth and enthusiasm of the applause at the end of Lynette’s story spoke for itself, and was thoroughly deserved.

Thanks, as ever, to all our performers on the night, especially to Lynette; thanks to Steve H for the generous supply of excellent raffle prize books of quality; thanks to the great team who keep the Feast of Fools thriving, likewise.
Thanks to all those who came and participated – storytelling is famously only as good as the audience, and there is concerned discussion in storytelling circles about the difficulty of keeping numbers and finances going in these tough times, so we consider ourselves fortunate to have you, reading this, supporting us.

Oct 4th, Local Tellers' Night at the Feast of Fools

We had just the right number in the Schoolroom at the Meeting House, busily enjoying cakes, company, stories and a song - a proper ceilidh atmosphere.
And a great ceilidh it was, with everyone on great form. And we had quite a crop of newly created stories among the harvest of traditional ones.

After a traditional French Dance tune to open, we had a story based on one given to me, (Richard), by our December guest, Taffy Thomas.
David Poulter brought his new story of White Feather the crow, his changing relationship with his peers and then with a wise woman; Lynette told another newly created story, of three wise women putting the wards each year on the lively carvings and pictures in the very real church at Passenham, to keep things in balance.

Cakes, and raffle were excellent as ever, then Stephen Hobbs told of the desperate criminal Locks Goldy and a certain three bears, complete with authoritative information about just what it is bears really do do in the woods near Milton Keynes when they're not eating porridge.
Dave Blake proved the value of disseminating great education by combining his research into the heraldic devices of the Blake family with an illuminating history of Perkin Warbeck, the 15thC pretender to the throne who most of us hadn't realised was related to a chicken farmer. There may just have been a pun or half-a-dozen or so along the way...

Liz York sang Jez Lowe's narrative song "The Bergen", about a Norwegian sailing vessel lost off the the NE English coast, and imagining a woman not knowing what's happened to her love.
and finally Mark Steinhardt told a story of a traveller meeting the very unexpected in the Norwegian "Seven Fathers of the House" - though he wisely didn't tell us the title until the end. And in case those who weren't present get to hear this another time, I'll not do more plot spoiling!

Sept 6th, Sef Townsend "The Glory and the Pity of it"

Image of Sef Townsend A great audience willingly conspired with Sef Townsend to create a lovely atmosphere for the opening evening of our new season.

Thank you to everyone who came - and thank you very much indeed to Sef for such an evening. The comment was rightly made that watching him at work is rather like watching a magician, and there is indeed something of the magician about his approach... maybe that very striking jacket and trousers with cummerbund helped this impression too!

Sef carried us back around 800 years and 1000 miles south, through a wonderful set of songs and stories from the three cultures sharing medieval Spain, a time which deserves to be more widely known, and from which the shared science, culture, and technology of the Jewish, Moslem and Christian worlds later made an essential contribution to the European Renaissance. He also switched between the languages of all three cultures as well in translating songs and sources - Sef integrates songs of place and time into his stories, to great effect, as well as adding historical information to set the context.
From a selfish point of view it was fun having his authentic square frame drum adding its voice to the "Cantigas de Santa Maria" from the collection by the 13th C Spanish King Alfonso el Sabio, which I played on the pipes to start each half.

Janet's wondrous cakes demonstrated once again that good storytelling and good cakes go superbly well together - maybe we should change our strapline to "Home of good baking and good stories"!
Thanks too to Graham and Steve for organising and providing for the raffle prizes, likewise to Deepa for managing all the money.

Most of all, thanks to Sef, and thanks to our audience, who were praised most fulsomely, and with just cause!

July 5th - Alim Kamara, "Storie Storie"

Image of Alim with Djembe Visualise if you will an emoji explosion of stars and huge smileys! And as predicted, those who were part of our season's great finale on July 5th, with Alim Kamara taking the audience by joyful storm, will now be the ones with huge great smiles still on their faces when they look back on that evening.

Quaker Meeting House, Wed July 5th, 7.30: There are, as usual, people both in the meeting room and the refreshments room, when the sound of a djembe - not just any djembe but a properly well played djembe - echoes through the house, and everyone gathers to listen. The player pauses, illuminates the room with a smile, tells us firmly that we cannot just sit still while the drumming is played, and in seconds we're happily clapping and bouncing, keeping the rhythm Alim's riffing round, and already the mood is set for the evening.

And I'll happily admit that you got even more than I bargained for when booking Alim! When we first met him I was captivated by his infectious joy in storytelling, and knew he'd be ideal for a high point in the Feast of Fools' calendar; we encountered him at a family friendly storytelling festival event. What I didn't see then, and what we met last night, was a much richer, deeper mix combining Alim's irrepressible glee in storytelling and shared laughter, (I promise you I saw people wiping their eyes through that laughter), and the profound, often moving wisdom of a man who's had some very tough blows in life and found ways to grow through them carrying his own identity, his own truth and joy. He ended his performance with a story which made some eyes being moist all over again, this time not with laughter, leading into the most lovely singing and Mbira playing; throughout, a complete belief in the value and truth in storytelling - as Alim called it, the first therapy.
It's impossible, if you weren't there to do justice in conveying the generous exchange of energy and joy Alim brought to us, likewise the sheer physical and vocal virtuosity of his performance.
At the end of it he earned a standing ovation, and we're hard pressed to remember the last time we saw one of those.
We truly shared just that sense of community through live storytelling I am prone to bang on about, and I was delighted to hear Alim praising as one of the strengths of storytelling. And yes, it was truly therapeutic!

So - thanks to everyone who came, you were great, and I hope you now feel enriched by it.
Thanks as ever to Janet and Graham - between baking and organising, running both refreshments and raffle, (and last night adding taxi service and dinner for Alim), we'd just not function the same without you! Thanks to Steve H. for his usual generous donations of books for the raffle.
Thanks to the superb commmunity of you that are Storytelling at the Feast of Fools!

June 7th 2023: "Mainly Pete" - Pete Boyce as our featured storyteller, with Feast of Fools Regulars

Storytelling at the Feast of Fools does "celildh" well, in the proper sense of the word, a friendly gathering of people in a homely setting being entertained by a variety of participants, and this was a great ceilidh!
Once again we had the right size of audience to nicely occupy the meeting house's Schoolroom, the better to enjoy Janet's cakes and flapjacks.

After an English melodeon tune, "The Sloe", came Richard's story from Romania of a cunning little man outwitting a monster of a creature.
David Poulter told one of those many enjoyably satisfying "kind sister/bad sister each meet the witch" stories which come from so many cultures, as a result of which those of us present will happily now have difficulty imagining witches as progressing by any means other than a series of springy pole vaults with the besom!
Chris Matthewman brought one of his own fables, beautifully crafting poetic words, a tale of a fox with an unlikely addiction and a benefactor - Chris always seems to combine warm humanity and humour in whatevery he brings, and this was no exception.
Stephen Hobbs told a true and touching tale of a school performane of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, with the young Stephen finding real electricity both in the performance and the the poetry of the play, and in his Titania.
Came the break where we didn't need to be fetched back from the refreshments then the justly famed FoF raffle, (thanks to Graham and also Stephen for more books).

Pete's partner Irene opened the second half with a song from Hampshire, learned at Whitby Folk Festival, of England, to lead us fittingly into what followed.
Pete gave us a great set of stories reaching from prehistoric times, when Neanderthal man still lived alongide Cro-Magnon man, just possibly giving rise to belief in Boggarts, through to an unusual 19th C navvy on the railway. Excursions along the way included a very personal visit to the Rollright Stones - if you've been there, you'd certainly recognise the magical atmosphere Pete's words conjjured up, and a trip to Gotham in Nottinghamshire, famously represented as a village of fools, to Keats' "Belle Dame" poem, and the whole trip ended with a ringing endorsement of the Elixir of Life.
Our time passed so agreeably I can only think Pete had been using some of the Elixir to help his tongue find the right words.

It's always a pleasure to thank people for such a nice evening - to all our performers, Pete Boyce especially, to the team of Janet and Graham Malpas and Deepa Anand for keeping the FoF working so well, and to the audience - that always feels too passive a word... to the active listening company who make the whole thing worthwhile.

May 3rd - Maytime Open Tellers' Night, hosted by MC Pete Boyce

Image of May bushes in blossom Local storytellers night under the excellent curacy of Pete.

Since Richard as regular MC had escaped to France, this report comes from Stephen Hobbs.
Many thanks to Pete for a great job, as well as to Steve for the words:

"With Richard and Liz York away and seemingly taking numbers of our regular audience with them, we decided a relocation to the café area seemed appropriate.

Our sub-host (Peter Boyce) declined to follow Richard’s usual musical introduction (he can’t play any instruments) but asked us instead to consider the word “coltsfoot”? He then kicked off the evening with a retelling of Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” which wonderfully demonstrated that well-known stories can be re-told if you are prepared to twist the kaleidoscope a tad and put in the hard work.
Dave Blake next gave the lie to a familiar moan that retirees were economically inactive, with a story about a string of initiatives backed up by physical evidence. It appeared that these schemes were authored by a succession of different “Dave Blakes”. There was much punditry – welcome back to storytelling Mr Blake. Dave’s ability to bamboozle the audience suggests that his future may lie in politics.
Lynette Hill followed with her Midas story with its “be careful what you wish for” morality. For once the Greek gods appeared to be rational beings, with the mortals their exasperating customers.
It was then time for the popular Break, and a Raffle which almost promised a prize for everyone.
Janet Crouch kicked off the second half with “The Red-Hot Shilling” a Staffordshire tale brilliantly enhanced with dialect words and phrases. David Poulter reimagined a traditional tale with the court case of one Jack Spriggins with the prosecution alleging that the removal of property (to wit a golden goose and an enchanted harp) was unlawful and the destruction of the beanstalk an act of premeditated murder. Mark Steinhardt’s “The Red Hills” was an ambitious collision of myth and history with dark colonial undertones. Stephen Hobbs’ “Shameful Secret” explored the Minoan world through the love interest of Pasiphae (Mrs Minos) and a Bull. Greek Expectations?

After an entertaining evening Peter thanked everyone, including Deepa Anand (ticket sales) and Graham & Janet Malpas (refreshments and Raffle). As a finale Peter reminded us that “coltsfoot” was in fact “feets of foals” a blatant transgression on Dave Blake’s pun territory. Well done Peter for stylishly hosting a challenging evening. We look forward to June’s Feast of Fools (geddit now?) and Richard’s return to Blighty with the remainder of our audience.

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April 5th: Sarah Liisa Wilkinson - "Strange Girls and Beautiful Monsters"

Image of Silver Goat Skull

Another night to be celebrated with huge enthusiasm, and a real treat for our eighth birthday!
We opened a welcome first time visitor, Bob Plews, a key figure in folk and traditional music in Northampton for many years, who played us in with a neat combination of "Shepherds Hey" into "Finlandia" on an Appalachian dulcimer, an instrument related to the Finnish Kantele. It was very good to see and hear him, and of course his choice of music led appropriately into...
...the main event, the show by Sarah Liisa Wilkinson, our Anglo-Finnish guest for the evening. Words like "tour de force" spring to mind. From the first instant to the last she had the audience in the palm of her hand, in a high speed roller coaster of storytelling mastery.

The stories were in the first place hugely entertaining, by turns dramatic, gripping, frighteningly dark, hilarious... I don't use the word rollicking very often but at times they definitely rollicked! And for many performers that might be enough, but Sarah Liisa has clearly thought long and deep about her material, and somehow brings off the seemingly impossible task of at once adding whole layers to traditional stories, so the psychology is there to be found, whole new angles to think about in themes some of us have encountered many times before, new aspects of character which might make us think, "Oh yes, of course, it was there all the time but I'd never seen that"), while at the same time distilling all this down into an economical, fast paced multi-layered delivery which is never self-indulgent and always hits just the right word where others might use 50 and still not hit it. The applause was long and loud, and that says it too.
So with luck, Sarah Liisa's second visit will not be her last to us!

Lynette kindly stepped into the role of caterer for the evening -all thanks to Lynette.
Deepa both worked the door in her role as treasurer, and assisted Lynette in the kitchen; Stephen Hobbs worked the raffle with panache and excellent prizes. Many thanks to them both.
And more thanks to Bob for both starting us off in such style and happily leading us into the cheerful ritual of singing Happy Birthday to us, because it was our 8th birthday, and the room resounded well with the fine singing!

March 1st, 2023, Great Annual Lying Contest

One of the high points of the FoF year is the Lying Competition, and this was one of the best!
With a great crowd of people, and excellent cakes baked by Janet, we were then treated to a feast of stories and lies.

We opened with Simon & Garfunkel's "Boxer" with its "Lie lie lie" chorus supported by the choir of the FoF, (and thanks go to Liz for the harping), then stories from Richard Y, Janet Crouch, Stephen Hobbs and Pete Boyce, before the serious Lying began.

We were delighted to welcome Tamsyn Payne as referee, she who hosted the NN Cafe and helped us so much in our earliest existence there back in 2015.
Graham on timekeeping, Liz Y on the dreaded Thunder Maker and we veritably soared - each tale involving height, or size, or status, be it Janet's cleaner of the heavenly bodies, my flying helium-inflated armchair, Stephen's alter ego Frankie's souvenirs of royalty, Mark Steinhardt's wife Liz's crocodile cavortings with stars of the silver screen, Pete's man of incredible strength in Berwick on Tweed, the stratospheric prices paid by Chris Matthewman's customers for vacuum cleaners and the number of subsequent jobs he gained and lost, Lynette Hill's uncle's superhero tussle with the biggest catfish, or David Poulter's supercharged high level zipwire ride, and the audience enjoyed each and all.
Then the hard task of judging a winner by audience applause, which Tamsyn first whittled down to two, then announced Chris as this year's winner, with Lynette running him a close second.

Many thanks to everyone, it was a grand night out!

February 1st 2023: Shonaleigh Cumbers, "Pandora's Box"


Our second meeting in our new home was a truly superb success, a conjunction of consummate storytelling and a wonderfully receptive crowd!

Graham's comment sums it up, I reckon - "...great audience in both numbers and appreciation of the art, incredible storytelling and just a great vibe. I didn't want it to end. "

We were delighted to welcome more people than we've seen since we had to close physical meetings for the Lockdown, and what a great audience you were - thank you all those who were able to join us!
Shonaleigh's F'book post afterwards described it as, "a fab gig... great joy", and she commented at the time how responsive and lovely our audience was. Believe me, it does make a huge difference to a performer!

So, all thanks to our audience, likewise to Janet who set to and baked cakes which rightly earned enormous praise, to Graham for organising the essential raffle, to Liz York for her lovely harping at the beginning of the evening ... and most of all, thanks to Shonaleigh who held the room in the palm of her hand from start to finish, in a masterclass of How Good Storytelling Can Be. She gave us much laughter, moments of great empathy, Hope, (if you were there you'll know why the capital letter here...) and a real sense of storytelling community, through the medium of stories brought together from different cycles of the very many she learned from her Bubba, her storytelling tradition bearer and teacher, her grandmother.

It was an extra pleasure to greet some new audience members too - we hope you'll keep coming and enjoy our meetings in future.

NEW YEAR, NEW HOME!! January 4th 2023

Traditional Free New Year Meeting, our first time in the Quaker Meeting House, Northampton NN1 3AS

And what a rewarding way to start the new year in our new home it was, with both new friends and old joining the regular nucleus of our company. It seems we were right to move back in to town!

There was much admiration of the Quaker Meeting house for its architecture and its atmosphere, as well as its position; it's surprising too how many people of the town didn't know it was there.
After gathering in both the Schoolroom, for refreshments and chat, as well as some who stayed in the main room, we began with "Welcome to the Town Again", a traditional tune played by Richard, who then told a version of "The Samurai and the Storyteller", a well known tale about the power of storytelling.
Deepa gave us one of her large repertoire of traditional stories from India, this time including nectar of immortality and the explanation of why snakes change their skins... and the nectar, of course, is one of those big themes of stories which made their way round the world and keeps reappearing elsewhere.
Steve Dimmer made a welcome return to give us both "Sister Josephine", proving that the Jake Thackray song works perfectly well spoken, then a very satisfying tale of Storytelling and Truth.
Mark Steinhardt told a very believable story he'd first devised with a previous FoF Lying Contest in mind, of a bragging man and his come-uppance.

After a break to sample more refreshments and meet more people, Rey Lear, on his first visit to us, played a very classy set of guitar variations on "Greensleeves". While he runs a choir on Wednesday nights, we look forward to next time he has a night off!
David Poulter brought a tale of a man facing a dragon and his own fears, and the unexpected rewards his actions brought
Janet Crouch, who'd driven all the way from Staffordshire to see us in our new home, told an evocative Jersey story of a fisherman and the mermaid he rescued then tried to forget;
Lynette Hill brought her new story of how an old lady who didn't get to see her family as often as she'd like found a cunning way to bring them to her
Stephen Hobbs gave a story combining his student days with a eulogy for the great guitarist Wilko Johnson who died in November.

And altogether, a lot of people expressed themselves thoroughly pleased with the whole evening, and with the venue, and everything. So whatever else 2023 throws at us, we've had a great start!

Here's to success continuing and growing!

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Previously, 2022

December 7th 2022: Baden Prince (Jnr)

"Wadadli Nights * - Baden Prince Tells the Truth"

Baden Prince This was a truly great evening with Baden, master storyteller. What a way to go out, from our time in this very nice village hall! Baden Prince gave us laughter therapy, and the wonderfully engaging story evening we were confident he would bring!

Great thanks to the biggest crowd we've had since we moved to Quinton for providing the atmosphere he told me afterwards he loved - yet another guest praising the lovely FoF audience... you really are as special as I keep saying!!

Enormous thanks to Baden for his seemingly spontaneous, but carefully crafted bringing of words and pictures in our heads, just the thing to take us from the coldest night for ages to much warmer places. One of our audience commented that there wasn't a moment when their attention wandered, so engaging was the telling.

Very many thanks to Janet and Graham for all the catering, and, aided by Steve's generous bringing of books, and Antonio Graziano for an extra donation, the raffle.

And it wouldn't be fair to close this chapter without our sincere thanks to Quinton's Village Hall committee and Trustees, who've been so very helpful and welcoming during our time there.

November 2022

A local tellers' night, and while the numbers were our smallest since we re-opened, the atmosphere was tremendous. There will be more written here... !!

Oct 5th, Maria Credali: "A Day at the Seaside"

What a lovely evening that was!
After Richard's opening tune, "Donkey Riding" - what else, given the main theme of the evening?! - we had a short guest appearance from Sarah Lloyd Winder who told an evocatively dark story from Japan, with a few more twists than the average ghostly story to usher in the longer darker nights of the season. Many thanks to Sarah, who carefully chose her story to contrast with what was to follow.

Maria Credali and Sarah Lloyd WinderMaria then brought us her "A Day at the Seaside" - and what a beautifully told day it was, bringing childhood memories which had us happily immersed in remembering such things as that sensation you get when you meet the other person's hand burrowing in under the sandcastle, to the sounds, smells, and delights of the seaside, and above all her delight at being there with such a loving dad; alongside this Maria had built in a series of traditional stories, taking off from these various experiences.
And all told with perceptive emotional intelligence, in such a deceptively simple style that it didn't really feel so much a performance, as a thoroughly enjoyable informal conversation.

Some of the audience had come specially from Lichfield to hear her - if you were there, you'll appreciate why!

Thanks also go to Lynette Hill & Ruth Spink, who kindly worked the refreshments for us while Janet and Graham were on their travels, to Steve Hobbs who once again so generously provided books and arranged the raffle; likewise to Liz York who oversaw the tickets on the door.

Sept 7th, Mark Steinhardt and Resident Tellers

It was a delight to welcome a friendly company back to Quinton's Village Hall after our August break, and the stories were a great reward too.

After a couple of Northumbrian Smallpipes tunes, we had:
Richard, (writing this), "The King who would reach the Moon". I hope it goes without saying that in telling a story of a country's ruler, I had no idea of the sad news which was to come from Balmoral the next day.
David Poulter: a very pleasing and unusual variant of the tale of bride who helped move the stone.
Stephen Hobbs: a tale of his initial Librarian years in Liverpool, reminding us in the process how good libraries are so very much more than repositories of books.

Mark Steinhardt Mark Steinhardt provided the main event, his highly enjoyable "Summer Tale", which he created and first performed for the 2022 "Bedfringe" festival.

Mark brought us a vivid, well researched evocation of 18th Century London street life, linking the stories mainly of three trade apprentices and the people in their lives, inspired by and developed from Leon Garfield's "Apprentices" series, with scenes and characters who stayed strong in the mind afterwards, along with both the little details which added depth and authenticity, and the broader sweep of the narrative.

If you've read Garfield's books, you'll appreciate how well Mark portrayed the people who inhabit that shady, often harsh London street world, and also that while he showed us some of the darker sides, he also spared us some of the deepest shadows.

Thanks as ever to Janet and Graham Malpas and to Steve Hobbs for refreshments and raffle.

July 6th, 2022

This was the last meeting of our Summer season. Sadly your 'umble scribe had to be elsewhere, and doesn't have a written report to present, but good stories were told, and much enjoyment was had! Thanks to all who attended and all who performed.

June 1st: Open Tellers' Night"

June 1st: Open Tellers' Night"

The sun shone on Quinton and cheerful people not only gathered in the village hall but enjoying the lovely garden out at the back. We were almost tempted to meet outside there - one of these times!
It was great to welcome both familiar friends and new. Storytelling at the Feast of Fools is really starting to feel as if we're growing again, which is very good feeling.

We began with a very loyal tune from the era of England's second longest reigning monarch, Queen Victoria, "Cheer Boys Cheer" on my concertina of her time, before I opened the stories with "The Dark Doctor", from the Isle of Skye, helped by my clarsach. (Gaelic wire strung harp).
Phil Chippendale took us on family journeys to Greece, to beaches which had hardly changed since the triremes were there.
Deepa having sadly had to stay at home with a badly pulled back, Graham Malpas kindly jumped in at barely any notice, with a story of a pilgrim returning from Jerusalem with a relic he found there all the way to Northampton. (I'll be watching next time I walk near All Saints' to see if the effect's still working, Graham!)
Lynette closed the first half with her wise story of the Love Token, one of my favourites among her stories.

More happy spilling out into both garden and quiet village street during the break, then Steve Dimmer gave us the story of a prince granted wishes, neatly breaking the mould of "three wish" stories; David Poulter told of the world's first police chase by powered vehicle, a quirky and true tale which happened in Northampton.
Liz York gave us the dramatic story in song form, the ballad of Young Tambling, whose lady rescued him from the Elven Queen's clutches despite all her truly nasty tricks.
Stephen Hobbs retold a story found in "Buckinghamshire Folk Tales" (If you've not yet got your copy of Terrie Howey's book, they're on sale now!) of Jack the very memorable Steeplejack who left more than a repaired weathercock to mark his visit.

All round, a thoroughly enjoyable evening!
Thank you to all who came and formed that most important ingredient, a community of good listeners. Thank you to Janet and Graham who faithfully provided cakes and drinks, and to Graham for running the raffle, and Steve Hobbs for again enriching it with some wantable books!
And of course, thank you to you the performers, who make it all happen and keep people wanting to come back for more.

May 4th - "Now Is the Month of Maying..."

Stories from our superb community of Feast of Fools storytellers and friends.

There really is something very special about a great evening of live storytelling, and that was one such, with seriously good storytelling, our excellent and lovely audience, including two ladies from the village who reckoned they’d definitely be back, they'd had such a good evening, and a new storytelling voice to the FoF.

After an opener of Thomas Morley’s “Now is the month of Maying”, (treble recorder and renaissance guitar duet – thanks to Liz York!), Richard told a new version of an old Chinese story, with the aid of an accordion.
Lynette told a tale of retribution from beyond the grave resulting in reform this side of it, complete with a seriously spooky coach
Steve Dimmer, on his first visit to us, told of the pickpockets who married and had a son of whom they had great hopes … we very much hope it’ll be the first of many more stories from him.
Stephen Hobbs told us of the Devil’s visit to Quinton, neatly laced with topical references and a lot of laughter.

Pete Boyce opened the second half with an edge-of-seat true story of a railway man and his young son;
Deepa told us the first half of a tale of a priest’s son who became a robber, as foretold… we’re all looking forward to Part Two next time!

Mark Steinhardt made the most of a double length slot to give us first another very nicely paced tale of relationships relating to the grave - but to say more would spoil it for anyone else hearing it for the first time - then an anecdote from Alan Garner, master storyteller and novelist, about Alan’s time at school.

As well as many thanks to all our performers, we;re all grateful to Janet, Graham and Deepa for so much that makes the evening run so well.

April 6th 2022: Marion Leeper, Jess Law, "Women and Power"

Women and Power: stories from Orlando Furioso
Told by Marion Leeper: with songs by Jessica Law

Marion Leeper and Jess Law
 Truly a triumphant return for our long-interrupted programme of visiting guest performer nights, by Marion Leeper and Jess Law!
Stephen Hobbs has kindly supplied the authoritative write-up:

Leeper & Law have tackled Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso head on. At 38,736 lines long Orlando Furioso is one of the great epic poems of European literature. It's also a witty parody of the chivalric legends of Renaissance Europe. It's actually Monty Python for the Middle Ages! Marion Leeper (storytelling) and Jess Law (songs and music) focus on the love story of the great female knight Bradamante (Team Christian) and the great male knight Ruggiero (Team Saracen) and treated us to a rollicking romp through the splendours and absurdities of Ariosto's monstrous imagination.

There are necromancers, hippogriffs, hermits, enchanted lances, and women with breasts like apples. One of the powerful women even had a belt of foreskins (ouch)! And the hermits? Well, they are either loquacious or lascivious and in complete denial of any Hermit Code of Conduct. After two years of Lockdown and Zoom this was exactly what Storytelling at the Feast of Fools needed for the first professional live guest night of the post-pandemic era. We had razor sharp telling (ouch) from Marion Leeper, and original songs and music from Jess Law who appeared to channel a manic Kate Bush whilst accompanying herself on a mandelele (a ukulele with a steel resonator).There were banners, bright lights and catchy songs. Furioso meets Frozen? It was storytelling, but perhaps not as we know it. More please!

Very many thanks to Manon and Jess. And very many thanks likewise to the Storytelling at the Feast of Fools team who kept everything going so smoothly in the unavoidable absence of half the committee. Janet and Graham Malpas sorted the hall, refreshments and raffle, Dave Blake provided the heavy security presence on the door normally supplied by Deepa, Lynette Hill MC'd most ably. When the guest performers describe you afterwards as the "brilliant Feast of Fools team" you know you're doing something right!

Thanks as well to that most vital element, you the audience who bought tickets and came! There was a reassuring flurry of buying near the end, and enough to make a lively and receptive atmosphere.

March 2nd 2022, In Quinton Village Hall, Stories and Great Annual Lying Contest

Another great evening actually In The Hall! Full report very soon....

Feast of Fools logo adusted with long nose

Feb 2nd – Back into the land of Zoom again, for National Storytelling Week.

Another episode of Storytelling online. Again the Feast of Fools triumphed, the atmosphere overcoming the limitations of the digital screen. Once more we’re grateful to Lynette Hill for enabling this event to happen

After a tune from 19th C Northern England
Richard York - The Two Armies, derived from a tale by Dan Keding
Deepa, despite Covid being an unwelcome visitor in her house, gave us The Red Lantern;
Mike Rawlinson - his highly entertaining version of Death and the Three Robbers
Pete Boyce - a tale of many layers concerning a Burglar and aPoliceman, and very much more.

The interval, as always, kept the atmosphere going, with some great chat and backchat between the various screens.

Maria Credali - a lovely variant of the “Carrying the Stone” story.
Janet Crouch - and to tell of her story's details would be real plot spoiler to any who haven't heard it. So I won't!
Pip MacDonald - her own poem, of the Woman who runs with Digital Wolves, concerning the world online.
Steve Hobbs - a beautifully crafted story of his young self and young wife starting their life together working in liverpool's libraries.
Lynette, as well as keeping the show on the screen all evening brought us her tale of a house with an unusually interactive ghost.

Thank you to all our performers.

January 2022

We'd hoped for a real room meeting, but Zoom it was again, and many thanks to Lynette for enabling this.
So after a the tune of the Somerset Wassail came the stories.
Richard York - the tale of Ivan the Innkeeper, and St Nicolas, the drover of "small stock".
Lynette Hill - "Ernest and the Queen of the Wolves", one of her own great stories with layers beneath layers. (Or maybe that should be lairs, for wolves?)
Pip MacDonald - "La Folie d'Escargot", a story based on her family's gardening habits.
Stephen Hobbs - "Pimms and Playing Cards", with its superb portrait of his "Granny Oswestry".

The interval contained many short stories and much badinage, but that's not recorded here!

Cath Edwards brought- the carter who took his horse on the ice
Maria Credali - a tale of a wolf, knowing his career was at an end, making an unexpected move,
Pete Boyce - a retelling of a tale from Tolstoy of a man's desire for yet more land,
Terrie Howey - a grand climax by spinning a yarn while crocheting a yarn, telling a story both starting and ending with the mitten she'd created just in the course of the evening's session.

Previously at the Feast of Fools, 2021...

May 5th 2021: Dovie Thomason

Dovie Thomason

Thanks to the many people - nearly 60 screens full - who came to hear and see Dovie Thomason. They came from many parts of the world, and so many of them great storytellers themselves, some tribute in itself!
Thanks once again to Terrie for her supremely excellent techie work keeping the whole show on the screen.
Thanks above all to Dovie for making the whole evening the astonishing worldwide community that it was, for transcending the digital barrier, and telling stories to us each and all very directly.

As I mentioned while introducing her, there are some storytellers whose sincerity shines through, and Dovie is one such. To attempt anything like justice to the evening might involve hundreds of words which would still fall short, so here are just a few.
Her stories, her whole presentation too, were exactly what we need now, stories of healing, of community, of facing fears and more, and of care and love; they often combined seemingly simple entertainment with deep psychology; and all delivered with That voice - the voice which enabled quite young children to go to sleep while being told a story frightening for adults.

The feedback both in the Chat box on Zoom, and in comments afterwards, all point to deep satisfaction with her coming.
if you were there, you'll know what I'm talking about, and thanks to everyone, again, for being part of it all.

April 7th - HAPPY BIRTHDAY Storytelling at the Feast of Fools!

Thank you most kindly to all those who came and made our 6th birthday online a truly celebratory evening!
As ever, huge thanks to Terrie for tech hosting, and extra thanks to her for quickly evicting a number of people who crashed the evening.

Despite those moments, the atmosphere was as good as it gets online! A tremendous array of FoF garb, hats, extra characters, and the rest, including both edible and impressive artwork cake!
We had a great list of performers, starting with a Specially Composed Poem by Steve H & Pete B who had obviously been visited by a Superior Muse.

Stories came (in order), from Richard York, from Lorna Burchell, from Christine Genders, from Lynette Hill, and Dave Blake - to whom extra credit goes for holding it together while our screens were briefly invaded.
Then the special FoF cake, kindly baked by Liz York, and the wonderful sight of a screenful of people blowing candles out remotely!
More stories, from Pete Boyce, Deepa Anand, Stephen Hobbs and Cath Edwards.

A superb bill of telling, a superb mix of lovely real people from both our regular audience and around the world, and we're launched into our seventh year. And in storytelling and folklore, seven is a magical number.

March 2021: FOF Grand Annual Lying Contest Goes INTERNATIONAL!

For an event which normally relies so heavily on the atmosphere in the room, this was an enormous triumph! After a first half in which we welcomed some excellent stories from Stephen, Deepa, and new voices to us, but not to storytelling, Chris Richardson & Cath Edwards, we had the fast and furious, and closely run, contest of liars. Competitors spoke from both sides of the Atlantic, something we can't do in Real Life.

Liars' names were pulled at random from the Official FoF Mug by Janet and Graham Malpas, and after a great start by Darren Hoskins, we heard from Pete Boyce, Phil Chippendale, Dave Blake, Richard York, Janet Crouch, Lynette Hill, Jim Kissane, Cath Edwards and Steve Frankie Hobbs. (Roughly in that order)
Terrie and Rooh not only masterminded the technology, as usual - thanks as ever - but kept time most strictly and impartially, and likewise refereed. They had a tough job, there were many contenders in the top cluster, but the winner was... (pause for drum roll)... Janet Crouch, who now takes the Virtual FoF Mendacity Crown, and may wear it Virtually for all occasions for the coming year.

* FoF SPECIAL ONLINE EVENT: Feb 3rd 2021: DANIEL MORDEN - Tales of Love and Longing

Daniel at the Hay Festival

For those lucky enough to attend, Wed. 3rd Feb was a night of deeply satisfying vivid storytelling, with richness of language and a whole gamut of emotions, all through Daniel Morden's prodigious talent. The general opinion, as seen in the comments afterwards, was glowing. Our audience came both from our regular community and we also welcomed people from round the world, including S Africa parts of Europe, and the USA. Every available ticket was sold! Thanks to everyone who came and supported us, and thanks to Daniel for such a truly unforgettable evening.

Thanks as ever to Terrie Howey for masterminding all the tech things.

National Storytelling Week 2021

Daniel's visit was one highlight of National Storytelling Week. Our other was a torrent of 20-something stories unleashed on the airwaves by our tellers here.
Huge thanks to (alphabetically), Deepa Anand, and her daughter Harshini, Lynette Hill, Pete Boyce, Stephen Hobbs and Terrie Howey, who joined me in recording this superb blast of taletelling, some of which were broadcast on BBC Radio Northampton, and even more on Radio NLive. Thanks to Paul Giffney of Nlive and Gill Brown of the BBC for making this happen and hosting us.

Podcast to catch the stories and more!

Terrie Howey, as well as completing work on her PhD in applied storytelling studies, is now producing a series of podcasts which already include some of these stories, and interviews with both Steve and Richard. The rest of the stories will be appearing soon, as I write.
See here and
here for "Knowing The Story" podcasts.

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Previously... 2020


The year we started with superb events, then went online...

July 1st was to have been given to the wondrous Baden Prince, but we agreed we'd prefer to wait until we can see the real thing, with the real atmosphere of a live audience. So, another evening of stories by FoF regulars and guests, including star appearances by Lisa Schneidau, and Baden himself for the last spot of the evening. Very many thanks as always to everyone. The rather excellent results are up on our YouTube channel.

Sandy Clarke

Sandy Clarke

We were very sorry to learn the sad news that our friend Sandy Clarke, storyteller, singer of wonderfully silly songs with her ukele and most of all, a lovely warm person, passed away on July 3rd. She had been ill for some time, and her family, along with a Marie Curie Nurse, were with her.
Sandy was a very dear friend to many of us in the Feast of Fools, and was a central part of Tales Tattled and Told, meeting in Bletchley.
We will miss her very much.

LockDown Feast of Fools

December 2020

We have had very enjoyable evenings on our regular First Wednesday timing, from April through to December. We've learned to recreate something of our "real" atmosphere of the Feast of Fools about these Zoom events. We've had great stories from many of our regular tellers, and stories from welcome guests, including friends who'd normally be stretched to turn up for an evening in Northampton, and our audience currently includes friends from across the Atlantic.
We're adding recordings of most of these stories online, on our own YouTube channel, here

March 4th 2020: Open Tellers' Night and Annual Grand Lying Contest

Club Logo plus Pinocchio style long nose It's no secret that we started the Annual Lying Contest almost as a bit of a joke, to see how it went, so it's great to see it growing and taking on a life of its own.
And this time it brought three excellent new voices to our audience: Valerie Honeyfield with a short story of her own in the first half, and Chris Matthewman and Mike Halls in the Lying Contest itself. We hope to hear more from all three of them.

Thanks to: Stephen Hobbs, Valerie, Pete Boyce, and Terrie Howey, who all gave us stories before the interval, some of them concerned with lies, others with truths.
Likewise, thanks to the superbly entertaining Purveyors of Untruth: Jo Glover, Graham Malpas, Pete B, Chris M, Mike H, Stephen H, and Dave Blake, who joined me in lying at our audience, also to Rony Griffiths and Rooh Moore for keeping the time so impeccably, and to Oscar Griffiths for being such an excellent judge. The lies get better each year, but the honours must go to Chris Matthewman, who was a fine winner.

Thanks as ever to Graham and Jane t for all their work on both catering and raffle.

Feb 5th: Kate Corkery, "The Sweetshop on the Shore"

Kate Corkery with mischevious smile Kate Corkery brought her magic to Delapre, every bit as gloriously as promised. Thanks to all who came and packed the Dining Room. It’s a glorious thing to have such a community of listeners all feeling to be part of something greater, and this night created just that atmosphere.

It’s great to be told by one of our longer standing regular members that we’re getting better and better at finding storytellers! Kate Corkery’s “The Sweetshop on the Shore” was wonderfully transporting. As well as beautifully telling, and singing, the tale, she becomes every person in it without ever being too theatrical; and nothing was wasted - it was a lesson in how to make every word, every gesture, all count. The scenery was wonderful too, almost tangible, audible, round us.

It was very good to welcome a whole swathe of new listeners too, including a number from Northampton’s Irish Community, some of whom knew the very places Kate was talking about. We look forward to welcoming you all again!
Many thanks as ever to the team who work so hard with me to make all this happen, Graham, Janet, and Deepa.

Open Tellers' Night, 8th Jan 2020

Truly great start to the 2020's at the Feast of Fools this evening - what a smashing variety of stories, and so very well told, what a lovely audience, and all so very welcome to start our new year!

We opened the decade with a traditional Wassail, (played on concertina. I don't offer to do singing at the FoF!). After welcomes and parish notices of all the great stuff going on these days, we moved into the stories.
I brought a brief story of a god and a baby. Thanks to, (in order of appearance), Graham Malpas with a tail, sorry, tale, of a mule and a raffle and surely the best pitch for a raffle I've ever heard!; Janet Crouch, visiting us for the first time and please come again, with another tail/tale, of an ecclesiastical cat; Dave Blake bringing King Herla, still riding, in an echo of Wild Edric; Pete Boyce and an ancient Hob; Stephen Hobbs, less ancient, bringing Nasruddin to Northampton; Lynette Hill had time for two short tales, one of Nasruddin and one of a hawk and a sparrow, (more tails); Deepa Anand with a princely Burmese snake, (hard to know where tail starts on a snake...) ; and Mark Steinhardt, a rare visitor but another welcome one, with an episode from Tristan and Isolde.

Likewise thanks to Janet and Graham for all the refreshments and raffle.
Finally, thanks to all who bought raffle tickets, with all the proceeds going to the Hope Centre. We raised £60.10. Graham's not sure where the 10p came from, but it all helps!

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Previously at the Feast of Fools, 2019...

Dec 4th, 2019: Amy Douglas and Lucy Wells - “Wild Edric”

This was a real treat of an evening.

First, my own thanks to the superb friends who jointly run the Feast of Fools. After some ill health I didn’t know if I’d be there, and everything was picked up and worked beautifully – Janet and Graham not only worked their usual wonders with catering and raffle but also entertained and dined Amy and Lucy, and would have provided B&B if needed, Dave Blake stepped in to sell the newly printed FoF sAmy and Lucy with Richard

hirts and sweaters, Stephen Hobbs willingly took on the MC role, and Deepa was unflustered by even more admin than usual landing on her; Rony as ever worked the online tickets and supplied the information even though a leaking boiler stopped her being there on the night!

“Wild Edric” was brilliant on so many levels, and all woven seamlessly together, art disguising itself as effortless, and all firmly rooted in the Shropshire landscape.
Amy and Lucy with Richard

(Amy and Lucy photobombed by the new Feast of Fools sweatshirt and some mugs. Buy yours now !!)

It was an extremely entertaining, romantic story mixing real history and the world of magic, and the ultimately tragic consequences of their mixing. It was a brilliant double act by two women who clearly enjoy working together, with deep respect and passion for the material, sharing the narrative, singing in unison, in harmony, and in Lucy’s case, making atmospheric accordion music part of the story, counterpointing or reinforcing the words - plus an occasional sly joke for those who recognised the tunes! It was the product of vast research and knowledge of folklore and history, again, lightly worn by the performers. And of course, it went far deeper than just being an entertaining story.

The songs were intrinsic, most of them traditional, with two great voices blending well – and Shropshire has some thoroughly good songs.
And it would be quite unfair to end without congratulating them on great use of hats and other props in a gleeful re-working Edith Piaf’s most famous song into, of all places, medieval British history!

Thanks as well to our enthusiastic audience, who as always helped create such a warm atmosphere.

November 6th 2019: Open Tellers' Night

Sadly your usual reporter was only able to attend the first half. So very many thanks to Terrie for MC-ing so ably, as ever, and to Lynette Hill for the words here:

Hosted by Terrie Howey, Storytelling at the Feast of Fools open tellers’ night on 6 November began with the sweet strains of the sitar, played by Rooh Moore.
Have you ever wondered how Death deals with life? Lynette Hill gave us a few clues in her telling of Godmother Death. Peter Boyce shared a story of witchcraft and desire in his telling of the White Hart. Marcus Pipworth, a visitor from Forest Row, East Sussex told us the story of the King’s Dream; what happens when you don’t keep your promises and when you do.
Liz York reminded us of the season with her lovely acoustic song about November. Sandy Clarke put down her ukulele to share the personal memoir of how her back garden cherry tree could transform into a sailing ship, a space ship and even a Tardus! Stephen Hobbs left it to the audience to decide how two blind mothers-in-law should share (or not) the last available eye.
Richard York told the story of the boy who went in search of fear. David Poulter shared how the Dik-Dik, the smallest antelope on the African savannah, became King of all the animals. Terrie Howey finished the evening with the story of how a man who needed a story finally found one!
With thanks to Deepa Anand for handling the tickets and to Janet Malpas and Graham for providing the refreshments. It’s not storytelling without the cakes!

Oct 2nd 2019: Ben Haggarty

The Fate we Bring Ourselves
This was a powerful evening of storytelling by one of the most powerful of storytellers, showing just why it is many of you, the FoF community, asked us to invite him.
Ben Telling
Ben’s title was very much his theme – choices we make and consequences which follow, seen through the eyes of the Ancient Greeks. This was, as promised, a visceral performance, which never flinched from showing moments of extreme darkness, with blood and guts, and plenty of sex, and all balanced with surprising flashes of humour.

Ben, in a video on his own website, says that the storyteller has great responsibility – the power to plant images in the listener’s mind, and the duty not to leave poisonous ones there. There were certainly plenty of nightmare images, of baleful heat and dark night, with old things of very dark times, some linked to the present day, but he brought us back at the end to ourselves , in Delapre’s Dining Room, which had somehow become invisible behind the images in our heads.

There was a great audience, and it was again a delight to welcome so many new faces to the Feast of Fools. Whatever button we’re pressing, I hope we go on pressing it :-)

Richard started the evening by playing his Greek lyre, an invocation to Calliope by Mesomedes who was, rather curiously, a Greek musician at the court of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
As ever, many thanks to the whole FoF team, Deepa who both welcomes you in and takes your ticket money, and Janet and Graham for providing refreshments and also the raffle, likewise to Rony for the WeGotTickets links.

And again, to Ben Haggarty for an evening we’ll not forget. We look forward to seeing lots of people for our next session on November 6th when it’ll be our first Open Tellers’ night of this season.

Sept 4th 2019: Tim Ralphs

"How to Spin Enchantment"

An utterly brilliant, scintillating start to our September season! To a room well filled with both new faces and familiar ones, an evening of sheer joy - all the more necessary at the present time in the world Out There!
An especial welcome to those who joined us for the first time - keep coming!
Tim Telling
(In fairness to Mr Ralphs, I must point out this photo was taken after the event. The cravat stayed firmly in place throughout the performance!!)

Huge thanks to Tim, and as always, to the team who make all this work. Thanks too to Liz York for instantly sitting in on the door, while Deepa and the other MK contingent spent over an hour trapped in traffic!
"How to Spin Enchantment" nested together a series of stories from the 17th C Pentamerone MS. It was fascinating, when talking to Tim later, to learn how much of it was original, how much he'd had to do to join this selection so seamlessly, and to hear that some of the wonderfully off-the-wall descriptions in there came straight from the original text. There was a wonderful lightness of touch throughout, great interaction with the audience, and apparent effortlessness... and it's no easy challenge to join so many stories together, and still keep the momentum going so energetically.
For those who attended for the first time, what a great introduction to storytelling. For those of us who've been in this regularly, what a treat!

Thanks to Sue Martin

Sue has decided to retire from the committee. She'd like to concentrate more on her first loves, of folk song and gardens. But we do hope she'll continue to come and hear stories with us.

We're going to really miss her wonderfully quirky stories. And I for one now look a little differently at people filling in crosswords on trains!
Sue was one of the first to sign up to the original conspiracy to start the club, after that Tim Ralphs workshop day. As well as bringing her storytelling, she kindly offered to look after the finances at least until somebody else took the job on.
It was quickly apparent just how much a club like ours depends on someone like Sue, someone so reliable and thorough, and with complete grasp of what was going on. It is no platitude to say that we would simply not be where we are now without all her work, and we're enormously grateful to her.
... in fact, she mentioned quite a time ago that she really would like someone to take over the finances, and we're delighted that Deepa has picked up this task ; we're extra grateful to Sue for staying on until she was sure Deepa had become thoroughly familiar with the workings of the Feast of Fools money management.

Our committee, currently Janet, Graham, Deepa and I are, I reckon, all going to miss her mixture of kindness, patience, and sense of humour.
So again, Sue, when you see this, remember you're always very welcome to come and spend evenings with us again!

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July 3rd

Open Tellers' Night

snook What a wonderful way to end our season!
Seven local storytellers, and no restrictions on theme... though themes of both animals and ships seemed to emerge in parts of the evening

So, many thanks to all. After Richard started the evening with a story of a Hebridean ship in a enchantress' storm, Pete Boyce brought a moving true story of a young badger he knew, David Poulter a tale with a cunning twist of an hostler who wasn't as silly as he pretended, Deepa a lovely story of a King who learns a tough lesson, Gary Huskisson, making his first appearance, a retelling of the Dream Time story of Tidalik the Frog, Lynette told of a memorable encounter with a communicative buffalo, and Stephen Hobbs a story of far more than just a neighbour and a rat.

As ever, our professional guests have a lot to live up to!

Extra thanks to Janet and Graham, not only for refreshments and raffle, but sourcing good cakes in the temporary absence of our usual baker of goodies.

June 5th

Tricksterland Image


This was an astonishing evening! Not that we’re surprised she was good, but just bowled over by how very good it all was!

First, thanks to the nearly capacity crowd who came and packed the Billiard Room. There was a great atmosphere from the start. Welcome to a goodly number of new visitors to the club, we look forward to seeing them with us again.

Then Nell briefly introduced her work, a saga of stories strung together, as she put it, from around the Snow Line, much of the material from what’s now called Nova Scotia, some apparently from as far as China, though these stories reach back to before either name was in use.

I’ve encountered stories from Nova Scotia before, with their deceptively simple language. Nell was completely in command of this style – seemingly almost childlike language, and plots which leapt and kinked in the manner of children’s imaginings into new angles and directions, but in fact beautifully honed words cutting straight into the matter, carrying stories which, while they came from culture(s) a world away from 21st century Northampton, somehow flew straight into the head, finding something deep buried there to resonate with, and issues such as grief, or growing up with a sibling, or being streetwise, things which still matter in real life here and now.
And some good very earthy laughs too, as well as tears in several eyes before the end.

As ever, many thanks to Janet and Graham, for providing both refreshments and beautifully wrapped wraffle... or should that be rapped raffle?… prizes.
Special thanks to Sue Martin, who arrived for an evening in the audience and found herself taking on the Door, in the absence of Deepa who was unfortunately unable to make it, through illness, but still sent everything prepared in a very orderly way, for which we were most grateful.

May 1st 2019: Open Tellers' Night

Hosted by Red Phoenix

I've heard this was a great evening! Since we were on the Island of Barra at the time, I can't do the usual first person view, so if anyone cares to send me a write-up, please, that would be most kind.
Meanwhile, many thanks to Red Phoenix for MC-ing and leading, and to Rooh for bringing and playing his banjo for the opening music, despite having been painfully insect-bitten on his hand.

April 3rd: Shonaleigh, "The Emerald Sea"

Shonaleigh image Thank you to everyone who came to this stunning evening. It's one of those that stays with me, and I'm confident I'm not alone in this. It was one of those times when storytelling comes out in all its glory for what it really is when done so well, a sharing by the performer with the audience, who become part of the performance, and in so doing, create a real bond of community.

For a couple of magical hours, we were transported into a world we utterly believed in, a world which had many more facets than we had time to see - "more stories than I can tell this night" indeed - and from the children present to the oldest, we experienced real magic and wonder. I feel strongly that storytelling is a healing thing; for me this telling of "The Emerald Sea" was just that, and from the comments from so many of the audience, it was so for many of us.

Shonaleigh is always keen to pay tribute to the women behind her, whose tradition she carries, and we applauded them too. She is a wonderful carrier, in truth.

March 6th: Open Tellers' Night including

The Second Annual Great Lying Contest

Very many sincere thanks to everyone who came to our utterly wonderful evening of lies and truths.
It is truly said that a good storytelling audience is doing half the work, the performer doing the other half, and this was shown to perfection

Between stories which sometimes brought tears of sadness and others which almost brought tears of laughter, it made for a marvellously therapeutic storytelling community of joy, profundity, and irreverence all in one evening.

It would not do justice to any to try to report what the stories were about, you really had to be there.
So I'll just give a great shout of thanks to everyone who prepared and delivered stories, song, and lies... and sometimes blurred the boundaries between them as well!

Stories were by Pete Boyce, Sandy Clarke and her ukulele, Deepa Anand, Stephen Hobbs, and Lynette Hill. Lies were by Jo Glover, Matte Black, Richard York, Frankie P looking very like Steve H, Lynette Hill, Graham Malpas, and Pete Boyce, with Pete being the lucky man who won the accolade of taking home his new Feast of Fools mug.
(Gentle reader, it must be pointed out that identical mugs are available on sale monthly, so you don't need to wait until you've won the lying contest to own one.)

Sue Martin took on the taxing task of refereeing the lies and kept the whole thing going with perfect pace and suspense, it was most beautifully done; special mention must also go to Terrie and Rooh for their impeccable time keeping, sounding the thunder alarm when 5 minutes had elapsed without fear or favour. I suspect Rooh was really hoping more people would go over the limit, so he could play with the thunder machine more often!

Thanks as ever to Janet and Graham both for running the refreshments and the raffle, and to Deepa for running the finances.

February 6th: Sarah Liisa Wilkinson, Nordic Evening

The Girl, the Snake Witch, and the Grinning Castle, and other Nordic tales

Sarah Liisa
What an evening of delight! From the very beginning Sarah Liisa's, The Girl, the Snake Witch and the Grinning Castle, a story of Brother and Sister, innocence, love, wickedness, and a young man convinced that the world had somehow yet to discover his towering intellect, fully lived up to all those recommendations, with description so vivid you were in the landscape, (and under the sea too), wicked humour spun on the turn of a phrase into complete seriousness, wonderful physical presence of all the characters, and all done with great economy and seemingly effortless precise choice of words. Sarah Liisa told me that her first nervous public storytelling 10 minutes was only in 2012, but she has all the assurance and judgement of someone who's been doing it a lot longer.
By half time the audience was happily buzzing.

Part two started with a section of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, chosen in response to a tune on the 5-string kantele, the traditional Finnish instrument to accompany story recital. I'm very grateful to Richard Leigh for lending me his kantele, and to some nice people on the internet for sharing some material I could work on!
I for one now need to hear more of this Kalevala, if it's half as vivid as the rendition we heard. Then, having most politely asked our permission for a bawdy story, a gleefully silly end to the set.
Sarah Liisa is truly a storyteller to watch out for.

January 2nd and Feast of Fools opens the New Year

What a blast! Feast of Fools' welcome to 2019 was surpassingly wonderful! Over 50 people present, with many new faces among them, a lovely warm atmosphere, and every story a great success.

Lynette Hill has written this account for us - thanks Lynette :-)
"To quote one of the participants, Mr. Stephen Hobbs, January 2nd at Storytelling at the Feast of Fools was 'a stonking evening' with an audience of more than 50. Every story of our open mic night was a delight.

We were graced with music from the from the Shetlands, performed by the ever-amazing Richard and Liz York. Richard got the storytelling started with a tale of luck, misery and the rivalry between brothers.
Dave Blake gave us the tale of how a hard-working maid's mistake reminds him to always back up his computer.
Sue Martin made a bravura return with the song and story of the hanging of master pick-pocket Tom Clinch.
Quick-change artist Peter Boyce followed with an Arctic tale of how a polar bear turns the tables on a foolish sailor and his mates.
After the break for all important tea and cakes, Liz York sang a traditional Irish song, "The Snow it melts the Soonest".
Then Sandy Clarke brought to life the French Canadian story of 'Petit-Jean and the White Horse.'
Lynette Hill gave us 'St. Peter and the Blacksmith' and
Stephen Hobbs finished off the evening with his original romantic true tale of avid cyclists Jim and Mabel.'

And what a night it was, every one a winner! We look forward very much to welcoming you all, both tellers and audience, for many more meetings!

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Previously at the Feast of Fools, 2018...

December 5th: Clare Murphy: UniVerse

Clare, arms spread
You'll have noticed these reports contain superlatives, because, to be honest, we've never had a duff evening yet. This one was superlative. A new visitor to us wrote afterwards to say "It was fantastic! If I say anymore I risk getting into hyperbole!"
Clare had the audience in her spell from the outset, and held us that way, delighted with the whole thing. It takes a special talent to make quantum physics come to life and even make quarks and gluon particles gain audience empathy, but she did, most triumphantly, woven with equally magnetic tellings of ancient Greek mythology. Writing as a musician, I particularly loved the theme of the music of the spheres, through the soul in the first instrument.
After an enlightening Q&A session following the break - great questions from the audience, including some she's not been asked, again from newly arrived listeners - she gave us a couple of very different Irish stories, with no physics but just as much magic.

The Delapre Dining Room was looking good too - more thanks to everyone who booked tickets in advance so we were able to use it. And more welcomes to those who joined us for the first time. Now you've met us, please do come and make the friendship more long lasting!
Feast of Fools mugs were on sale for the first time. We'll go on bringing them to subsequent events, so you've not missed your chance if you didn't buy one!
As usual, very many thanks to the teams of Malpas, Sue Martin, and Deepa Anand, for all their work both before hand and on the night, to make it all work so well.

November 7th: Open Teller's Night

Write-up by Lynette Hill - thanks Lynette :-)!
We heard from a full spectrum of the Feast of Fools’ storytellers. Richard York led the way with a story of three soldiers ‘who travelled across the back of nowhere’ and found that swans under spells could be turned back into potential brides. Deepa Anand helped us celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, with the lovely story of a story and song that refused to be forgotten, and lamps gossiping about their households. Lynette Hill both frightened and amused us with the tale of an ancient ghost who was not as terrifying as the family he tried to haunt.

Pete Boyce told two linked tales: the fable of a man who spent a night under the mountain, returning to find himself in the time of his great-grandchildren; and the true story of the body of a man missing more than 60 years found perfectly preserved in a cavern. Could a true event have inspired the myth? Storyteller Matte Black, in his first performance for us, brought the South American tale of the snake that ate bird hearts and grew so big that it now lives in the sky above as the Milky Way.

Sandy Clarke warned us that sharing and good manners always bring the best results with the traditional tale of the Three Heads of the Well. Stephen Hobbs finished the evening in fine style with his tale of Nasruddin and his Cockerel – it was news to us that Nasruddin lived in Northampton, but then, he pops up everywhere!

October 3rd: Red Phoenix and Chris Secker: The Crown of Feathers and Fins.

Leaflet with pictures
This was a superb evening, and one well worth waiting for. Chris, musician, and Terrie, storyteller, promised us a story of heroes in a land of jealousy and greed, in a grown-up magical tale bringing music, Phoenix filled skies, mermaids and creatures who talk and dance, and it was all there, and more! Lots of happy people both at the interval and afterwards fed back how much they'd enjoyed this.
Terrie was in great form, with two main stories woven into a seamless whole, combining several traditions most beautifully, and as ever, bringing her huge knowledge of storytelling to bear, while wearing that knowledge lightly.
And it was fascinating to see how wonderfully Chris' music both supported and enhanced the storytelling... not forgetting his starring role as the horse of the first hero! We've not had an evening with a double act of storyteller and musician before, and it worked brilliantly.
As I write, I've just confirmed Amy Douglas and Lucy Wells for December next year, so you've already got another to look forward to.


September 2018

A great night of tellers from round here - somehow the report never did get written, but very many thanks indeed to all who contributed, both through telling and being that most important element of live storytelling, a warm and responsive audience!

July 2018

July was a definite case of a cloud with a silver lining. Sadly our advertised teller, Amy Douglas, was unable to attend due to ill health, and we all sent HUGE get well wishes to her.
So instead...

"The Thesiad" by Stephen Hobbs, and "Ernest and the Wolf" by Lynette Hill

Theseus with Minotaur, and a Wolf After a great story of The Blue Rose by the always superb Kevin Walker, Stephen and Lynette each took a major spot in the evening, with a very entertaining and well sung version of "Ratcliffe Highway" by Sue between, as a change of mood.

While they'd both performed these pieces before, having worked them up, you'd not know they had only a week to get them back up to performance level, both were wonderful.
Stephen's Thesiad entertainingly explored the Thesius myth from the angle of an ageing Theseus and his scribe, determined that posterity should know about his great deeds, whether or not they were actually in the versions we now have. On the way we were reminded of many of the perhaps lesser known aspects of both the Minotaur and other stories of the hero, along with both surprising humour and more murkiness than some may have expected. Homer would have been proud!

Lynette's gripping "Ernest and the Wolf" told a reportedly true story of a famous wolf, in true Wild West 19th Century America, during which our respect for this creature grew and grew, along with ultimate respect for the man charged with exterminating him and his pack. Lynette moved us, and her at times shocking account made a great story out of this surprisingly complex story.

Many thanks go to all four performers, and especially Lynette and Stephen for stepping in and doing so much more than merely subbing in.
Thanks also to Kevin for more lovely cakes, and to Janet & Graham, back in the saddle after their own travels, for both raffle and refreshments.

June 2018

Thanks again to Lynette, superstar reporter for the Feast of Fools!

In June, Kevin Walker and Terrie Howey took the helm with a slightly Shakespearean theme in honour of Midsummer: ‘Where Faeries Wear Boots and Asses Talk.’ Kevin, Terrie, Dave Blake and his puns, Peter Boyce, Louisa McCleod, Lynette Hill and Stephen Hobbes stepped up to the open mic to share tales dark, spooky and fun in their turn. A delicious assortment of cakes were once again available, this time provided by Barbara Everest.

Insert from Richard, who at the last minute was unable to attend - reports from others suggest Lynette is too modest - the sentence, "Every one of the tellers was on fire" was included! Figuratively, not literally....

Mention was also made of the Feast of Fools’ strong presence at the upcoming MK Lit Fest at the Milton Keynes Holiday Inn on Saturday, 22 September.
First up, at 4:15 p.m., Terrie Howey will put on a workshop for children aged 8 to 12.
At 9:15 p.m. Richard and Elizabeth York and Kevin Walker will bring music and night-time tales for adults. Check out the lit fest at for more details.

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May 2018: Giles Abbott, "Mongan's Frenzy"

Many thanks to Lynette Hill for this report, in my absence!

May was the month when red hair ruled at Delapre Abbey. While Richard and Liz York skived off to tour France with a caravan for a month, Red Phoenix a/k/a Terrie Howey took the helm to introduce another flame-haired tale teller, the accomplished and very tall Giles Abbott. He brought ‘Mongen’s Frenzy,’ his wild Irish tale about a dream within another story. Which part was fantasy and which reality? Only the Gods and perhaps their sons know for sure. But watch out for the witch who tears holes in the fabric of reality. And her venomous sheep. Seriously. Keep an eye out for those sheep!

Kevin Walker generously provided a most excellent assortment of delicious cakes. In the interval, a rather dodgy character calling himself Frankie Purcell raffled off a library’s worth of books for storytellers. Thank you Kevin and Stephen Hobbs … I mean, Frankie!

Third Birthday, April 2018

What a superb birthday we had! More repoting soon...

March 7th: Emily Hennessey, with "Coyote's Sky"

Emily Hennessey (No prizes for guessing which animal featured in this moment!) Emily gave us a magical evening of wonderful storytelling, and superb pictures in the mind, as she explored the Native American Coyote figure with us. I think she's the first teller to get the audience singing too! A truly spellbinding set of stories, which deepened as the evening went on, stories to go away and think about too. She also gave us a Q&A session afterwards, with lots of excellent questions which both she & the audience enjoyed.
Several people asked about her source for the stories, and she's generously shared the book she mainly referred to - ask me if you'd like details.

Thanks to all who came and shared in it - again more praise from a teller for our audiences.
As ever, many thanks to Sue, to Janet and Graham, who really do so much of the work which makes this club thrive.
And especial thanks to Kevin Walker who at the last minute provided really lovely cakes which sold like, well, hot cakes!

New Year Double Bill, January 3rd 2018
Kevin Walker and Richard York

Kevin Walker Richard York What a smashing way to open 2018! We'll admit to wondering how many would turn up so soon after the New Year, on a cold windy night: we packed the Carriage House, using almost every chair in the building. Extra points to everybody who came, as the wind cut most unkindly through the gap in those glass doors! (Remember - we're in the warmer Billiards Room from February!) And the famous Feast of Fools atmosphere was as great as ever.

First Half: Since it's Richard writing this, I can only comment that it was an inspiring experience to tell a longer story to our audience, and feel the intensity of the listening. Many thanks for such a warm reception at the end for a story I love dearly.

Kevin started the second half, having set up an appealing display of Buddha statues and images, by taking us straight into a wisdom tale of a man chased over a cliff by a wild animal - a sort of cliff-hanger beginning. There followed almost an hour of sheer delight, as Kevin entertained and moved us, while giving deeper material to think on afterwards. Storytelling is the joy it should be when it's so conducted, leaving the audience feeling like a community brought together by the shared experience of listening.

Thanks too to the people who wrote afterwards with feedback - it's all very much appreciated. Please send us more - it really helps with planning how we run the Feast of Fools.

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Previously at the Feast of Fools, 2017...

Open Tellers' Night at the Feast of Fools, Dec 7th 2017

Open Mic Snook

There's a lovely community of storytellers and listeners making up the Feast of Fools. This was one of the times it felt a privilege to belong to it - what a superb night of hugely entertaining and moving stories we had!
... with the added bonus of an extra running thread through at least the first half.

Many thanks to our many tellers: after Richard came Pete Boyce, Stephen Hobbs, Lynette Hill and Tom Phillips in the first half, then Sue Martin, Phil Chippendale, David Poulter, and Kevin Walker.

So many thanks are due to everyone who came, who created such a lovely warm atmosphere despite the wind howling between the glass doors; especial thanks to the indefatigable Janet and Graham who turned up to calmly dispense refreshments and raffle tickets despite their house and their neighbour's being damaged by arson the previous night.

If you've never tried one of our open tellers' nights you missed a cracker!

November 1st 2017

Debs Newbold: King Lear Retold

Lear poster Huge praise to Debs Newbold for such an involving, gripping evening!
Our audience, who nearly filled Delapre's Dining Room after finding the way there through the suitably forbidding darkness, came away at the end of the evening full of the stories they'd just heard, an evening of such a love for storytelling and the characters of those stories, that I'd defy anyone not to be moved by it.

For those who missed it, from the first, she had us listening intently, and intensely. How anyone could distil the story of King Lear into this solo performance and bring it so fiercely alive is in itself a great wonder. I can still clearly see Lear carrying Cordelia's body at the end, along with vivid images of the rest of this supremely dark story - and all conjured with words and beautifully controlled use of movement.

The inbox was busy the next few days with people writing to say how stunning it was, what a superb storyteller she was, and what a great evening the whole thing was.

As a bonus, we started with music of Shakespeare's time, by John Dowland: one of his most famous pieces, "Flow my Teares", which seemed fitting, played by Liz York on a replica period double harp, with Richard on tenor recorder.

Many thanks indeed to all involved in setting this wonderful event up.

Somewhere in here has got lost the account of October. It will reappear....

September 6th 2017

Simon Heywood: Out of the Silence

(In very superior surroundings!)
Simon Heywood in performanceOver seventy people, our biggest audience yet, sat in the splendour of the Bouverie Dining Room at Delapre, and from start to finish of this astounding piece of storytelling, were utterly gripped. "Out of the Silence" is at times a harrowing roller coaster of an emotional ride through the stories of the WWI Conscientious Objectors, leaving the audience uplifted and inspired. For me, this was the third time of hearing, and every bit as as powerful as the first, and from all the audience comments I heard, every bit as powerful for all of us. Huge thanks to Simon for bringing us this landmark in storytelling.

We'll hope to use this room again from time to time, it's a great atmosphere, with a nice acoustic, both for hearing Simon's voice from the very back, and for playing the concertina into! The cafe did a roaring trade too. More thanks: to Sue Martin for much extra ticketing work, to Janet and Graham Malpas for the raffle along with other help, likewise Dave Blake for extra signage and help, then to Terrie Howey for rescuing us when I forgot to bring my camera and taking this wonderful picture of Simon as seen in role during the telling.
Truly a night to remember.

Delapre - our new home!

Delapre Carriage House Feast of Fools in Carriage House for first meeting

After much searching for our new home, one with decent acoustic, access, exclusive use, parking, affordability, etc, we moved into the Coach House at Delapre Abbey in June 2017.[ 2018 Edit - and later moved into the more comfortable surroundings of the Billiards Room, with no draughty doors, and better seats!] We're delighted to be there, and look forward to working with our new hosts at the Abbey. It's a place with its own stories - it was already there when the Battle of Northampton armies massed on its fields in 1460.
They probably weren't politely queuing for cake like ours as they did so, however... Between Barbara Everest's baking and Janet & Graham superbly cheerful and efficient combined refreshment and raffle service, ours is a much more civilised atmosphere! Cake Queue

Open Mic at the Feast of Fools

We had a great night, our first Open Mic in our new home, with some superb stories. I confess that I was feeling fairly grotty, but Dave Blake guested as MC Blake and did us proud! I apologise for a lack of further detail just now.

June 7th 2017

Dave Tonge: Tudor Tavern Yard Tales"

Dave Tonge Telling Tavern Tales How utterly appropriate that our first meeting in this historical place should be filled with Dave Tonge's mixture of the scurrilous and serious, with his set of tales from the 16th Century. (Yes, I know our bit's not a 16th C building, but it's part of a site which goes back a lot further!)
Result - one happy audience, very pleased both with the storytelling and the venue! Dave produced a brilliant mix of erudition and high entertainment - all that experience on heritage sites means he both instantly engaged his audience and then kept them with him on a journey showing how people four and five centuries back were so very like us, while living in a different mindset.

2017 Part One - Itinerant Story Club

As you'll see, we went on our travels between homes...

May 3rd

Open Mic night at Foodies.Rocks

There's a long tradition of itinerant storytellers, and May's meeting saw us in the basement of Foodies.Rocks on Northampton's Derngate. It was a smashing little place, just right for the intimate atmosphere of a small open session... between a flat bardic tyre on Stephen's van, a train in no hurry for Lynette, and some last minute illness, there was a moment when we thought it would be a case of several stories from each teller present, but it turned into a hugely enjoyable evening, and yes, Stephen and Lynette both made it, and gave us both stories and, in Stephen's case, a hard hitting poem as well. Sue was in good voice both for story and song.

Between a heavy cold and the need to rush off early to drive to the other end of the country very early next morning, I confess to not having kept such detailed notes as usual... though memories of some unusually excruciating football puns from Mr Blake still lurk in my mind...!

April 5th 2017

Janet Dowling: "No Damsels in Distress"

Janet DowlingOnce again, the Royal and Derngate generously hosted us in their Crown Room. Once again, thank you most kindly!

Janet gave us an evening of twists in stories we thought we knew, through a carrier story which switched between the present and the timeless, and through it all maintained a slow-burn growth of tension which culminated in a superb rendition of the "Bluebeard/Mr Fox" story during which nobody in the packed room dared to move for fear of breaking the spell.

Janet's another of the storytellers who were on the list of people we hoped to book right from the start, and it was a great reward for us finally to have brought her here. I'd been touting her as the storyteller other storytellers go to for knowledge, and her seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of stories and traditions informed this superb set.
All extra credit to her, for working despite a painful leg condition. I think those there would agree she thoroughly overcame this as she immersed her listeners ever deeper in her narrative.

March 1st 2017

Open Mic at the Royal & Derngate
With many thanks to the lovely people almost next door to us, who provided a very comfortable space at short notice, Feast of Fools went to the Theatre! ... or at least, to a rather pleasant upstairs room at the Royal. Here we had a very friendly Open Mic Night, with thanks for some wonderful stories from Stephen Hobbs, David Poulter, Sue Martin, Lynette Hill, and the unexpected bonus of stories from Jo Glover and from Graham Malpas, who made his debut as a storyteller, and who we look forward to hearing again. Thanks especially to these two for coming up with such great goods after walking in not expecting to tell!
Thanks also to Janet and Graham for dealing with the all important matter of cake, once again baked by Barbara Everest.

February 1st 2017

Marion Leeper "The Kitchen Cat"

Marion Leeper Just as cats can be mysterious creatures, from behind this modest title came one of the most beautifully crafted pieces of storytelling. Marion simultaneously told at least three stories, two of them traditional, one emerging more and more as the story of her own mother and her remarkable life as a diplomat's wife. Never overstated, but moving, funny, and with depths which kept me going back to it for ages afterwards, this was a piece which surely deserves to be shared with many more audiences.
There were so many clever touches which lesser hands could have made clumsy, but Marion made it seem effortless - for example, her use of colour in parallel in all three stories.

If you missed this, I urge you to look out for it!

Marion finished her evening with a couple of great lollipops in quite different, earthier style - another superb evening for the Feast of Fools and many thanks to Marion and to all who came! Once again we were on our own for catering, so thanks to Anne-Marie Sandos & Janet and Graham Malpas for running the bar for us again.

National Storytelling Week 2017, FoF and the BBC

On the same week as Marion Leeper's visit was the Society for Storytelling's National Storytelling Week, when the Feast of Fools did itself proud. Radio Northampton's John Griff has been supportive ever since we started, and once again we had a storyteller each weekday, and great stories they were. Thanks indeed to Stephen Hobbs, Lynette Hill and Red Phoenix for joining me in recording for them. We were also joined by Northampton storyteller Alex Ultradish, which was great.
And not just the stories - on Monday John ran a superb live phone interview with Del Reid, the grand master inventor of the whole Storytelling Week idea and still co-ordinating it.

Jan 4th 2017

Happy New Year and Wassail!

One of those nights when the Feast of Fools community combined to produce a smashing evening with great atmosphere. It started with the NN cafe being again in the interim between proprietors, so we were allowed to work our own DIY catering arrangements, for which all thanks to Anne-Marie Sandos and Graham and Janet Malpas, who did a great job.

Then, on a cold evening, when many people were huddling round their fires / central heating with mighty coughs and dripping noses, a lovely crowd of tellers and listeners turned up to share stories and see the still new Year into life, and there were some wondrously good stories too! After your 'umble correspondent kicked off with a traditional tale in a new form, there was a feast mainly of tellers' own original tales, some having their first airing. Thanks to Lynette Hill, Dave Blake, Anne-Marie again, David Poulter, Sue Martin, and Stephen Hobbs, after which I added another to make up for us losing a teller or two to the lurgy!

Thanks to Laura and Catherine of the NN Gallery for making the place available to us to work this way. And it worked very well! We loved being there, it gave us a great start.


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Dec 7th 2016

Peter Chand -The Snake Queen and other stories

Peter Chand Huge thanks to Peter Chand, who had the club doubling as a storytelling club plus an active Bhangra Dance class!! Feast of Fools Bhangra Then, from gleefully joyous stuff, everyone rocking with laughter, he did that thing only superb storytellers can do, and turned the whole atmosphere into pin-dropping dark. And back again.

Dhol Drummers And before that, two wonderful young Dhol drummers from the local Sikh Community Centre, who set the whole thing up perfectly... even if the PA system refused to talk to their backing track, so they ended up giving a drum duet with more rhythmic twists than you'd think were possible.

Extra thanks to Bean for running the bar for one last time before she and Pete head off to Cornwall, and to them both for all their hospitality and co-operation while they've been there. We wish them all very the best in future.

November 2nd 2016

Open Mic Night

Maybe it was something to do with Hallowe'en being so recent, but there was a definitely macabre theme running through some of the evening's stories this time!

After the traditional tune of a Soulcaking Song, Sue Martin, who MC'd, set the stories going with her most recent creation, or maybe, since it was a story of bending time, one she made years ago in the future...
And the evening was full of really great stories! All thanks to Stephen Hobbs, Anne-Marie Sandos, David Poulter, Lynette Hill, our NN Cafe host Pete Norman, and finally your 'umble scribe.

And thanks to the audience who as ever made the whole thing live!

October 5th 2016

Shonaleigh: "The Opal Forest"


This was truly a night of wonders from a leading, world class, unique storyteller .
I feel sure I'm not alone in feeling to have had nourishment for the soul as well as a great night's entertainment, as Shonaleigh brought us stories combining some of the bleakly terrible things humans do to each other, and some of the joys they share, with compassion, humour, great asides, pin-dropping silence, and a real over-arching sense of the community for whom these stories are intended.
We're privileged indeed to have such an evening, one which we'll not forget. And we packed a goodly number in, too!

Jump to Shonaleigh's 2019 visit

September 7th 2016

Open Mic Night Opens New Season

Our second Autumn Season opened with 8 strong storytellers and a very appreciative audience. It was an extra pleasure to welcome both two tellers new to our stage, and new members of the audience as well.

So following my story from Africa, here are, in programme order, my thanks to Theresa Kelleher for an evocative and atmospheric tale of Anglesey, to Stephen Hobbs for a wonderfully dark re-working of the Golden Apple story, to Dave Blake for an Olympian assault on our pun synapses, to Sue Martin for a crafty new slant on a Grimm story of death by cookery, to Mark Steinhard for an Orkney story which truly conjured both landscape and the people in it, to Lynette Hill for her moving tale of a passionate and unlikely love affair, and to David Poulter for his first visit to us, with a great tale.. tail? ... of two tigers to wind the whole evening up.
What a smashing way to start up again!
Come again next month!!

July 6th 2016

Kevin Walker: "A Whisker of Truth"

Kevin Walker

Kevin gave us what he described as a "compilation album of stories from favourite performance pieces, created over the last fifteen years for grown-up audiences." And what a wonderful evening it was. He filled the room with sheer delight, and a range of stories from dark to sensuous to gleeful, all told apparently effortlessly. I'd seen him several times before, so thought I knew what to expect, and it was even better. It was great to see him captivating the Feast of Fools club so completely, a club to which he gave much wise help when we were setting up, so this was his first visit to this particular child of his telling and advice!

June 1st 2016

Open Mic at the Feast of Fools

This was Sue's night of heroism! Through circumstances beyond our control, I couldn't be there, but there was a full list of tellers ready. Then through circumstances beyond their control, in the 48 hours before the event, four had to drop out, but I hear it was still a thoroughly enjoyable evening. A high point, I'm told, was the appearance of our new host at the NN Cafe, Pete Norman. As a Northampton Bard he's well used to a high standard of performing, but it was the club's first chance to see him in action. I'm just sorry I missed it! All thanks to Sue for MC-ing and thinking on her feet, and to all those who performed. We look forward to catching up on the others next time, and I look forward to catching up on hearing Pete.

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May 4th 2016

Guto Dafis: "Abduction and Enchantment"

Guto Dafis by Zoe Childerley Diolch yn Fawr Guto Dafis! Guto gave us stories told by an old lady in the Vale of Glamorgan, then a masterly retelling of part of the Mabinogi, with a perfect mix of warmth and darkness, wry humour, spot-on pace, and enormous love of both material and the places it's rooted in, with his music now urging the action on, now drawing a frame round a story.

People kept commenting on how Guto's mastery made us feel we almost knew the places in the landscape the stories came from. It wasn't until next morning that I realised he'd hardly described most of these places, but somehow triggered us into constructing our own pictures of them.

The sensitive way he integrated his music into the stories also won much praise - truly another great evening at the Feast of Fools, and all of them different!

April 6th 2016

Open Mic Special

Open Mic Snook April 1st 2015 saw us first open. Now here we were, celebrating a year on, thriving, gaining a great reputation among storytellers, and a wonderfully warm community of audience and storytellers.

Thanks to the crowd who filled Pete and Ben's newly acquired chairs in the NN Cafe, and thanks to the performers who kept us happy all evening! It was great to welcome back regular tellers and a new voice too - come again Lynette!
The superb Joe Brown was there with his camera too, and soon there will be pics up here to prove it. They'll be worth waiting for...

March 2nd 2016

Sarah Rundle: "Gawain and the Green Knight"

Sarah Rundle ... which was every bit as gripping as expected, and then some. Sarah held the audience, and took us on a rollercoaster of a journey as emotionally varied as that of Sir Gawain himself; she also wore a vast amount of research apparently lightly, so that whether you listened never having encountered the medieval poem or as a student of the period, you were perfectly satisfied. And there was a great tribute to the recently deceased "Father Jack" actor built in...

Richard & Liz York also set the scene with a variety of period music on period instruments. As half of that duo, all I can say is that we enjoyed both the playing, and our reception by the audience!

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Feb 3rd 2016

Eamonn Keenan

Eamonn Keenan Eamonn perfectly demonstrated the great storyteller's ability of art which disguises art: seemingly effortlessly holding an audience in his hand, engaging us almost as conversational listeners, in a truly delightful evening, ranging from parts of the Ulster Cycle of myths to his own experiences as a film extra.

Jan 6th 2016

New Year Open Mic Night

Sue Martin hosted the second in our pair of midwinter open nights, and as ever, the atmosphere was great. In fact there are those who reckon they like our home grown nights every bit as much as the guest teller nights, which is wonderful news, as that's exactly our aim in organising them!


Dec 2nd 2015

Open Mic Night for the Darkest Month before Christmas

You'd have had to pay well to see the line up of professional tellers who generously gave us short stories for this night. Jo Blake Cave, Clare Muireann Murphy, Marion Leeper, Red Phoenix, plus regular and resident tellers - a true pre-Christmas treat for a fortunate and very happy audience!

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Nov 4th 2015

Liz Weir

Liz Weir Liz Weir has been described as "The Storyteller's Storyteller". This evening showed why. Knowing that we're a fairly new club, she generously took us on a tour of different styles and sources of stories, keeping the audience perfectly relaxed, with a wonderful balance between the next laugh and the next moment of moving emotion. There's something about great Irish storytellers...!

Oct 7th 2015

Open Mic Night

By now we felt to be getting into our stride with Open Nights, and this first one after the Summer break was no exception - great atmosphere, great storytelling, and the great pleasure of never knowing what's going to happen next. Not forgetting great puns when a certain Mr Blake, father of September's storyteller, is telling...

Sept 2nd 2015

Jo Blake Cave

Jo Blake Cave We are truly lucky to have such a superb, poetic storyteller living in our midst. Jo gave us her newest story, "A Seat of Softest Fur", her version of the Norwegian story of the bear king. It was an hour in which any concerns of ordinary life were simply put on hold, as we followed this wonder tale, truly in wonder. These stories survive for so long only because they are so gripping, but it takes a great storyteller to make them gripping and fresh, and so Jo did.

June 3rd 2015

Tim Ralphs

Tim Ralphs Tim has a special place in our affections as it was at his workshop session early in 2015 that I floated the idea of starting the club, and we all got together, with much encouragement from Tim. In May Tim brought us "Rebranding Beelzebub", a wonderful journey of a story which somehow started with a row of organic vegetables in a Sheffield cellar... yes, it does seem unlikely, but made it perfect, entertaining sense to us all at the time, and explored a wide range of ideas in the process. Tim generously followed this with a question and answer session, which took us further into how the story was made, as well as giving insights into his storytelling art.

July 1 and May 6th 2015

Open Nights

Our first two open mic nights reassured us that our aim of dividing our time between guest professionals and "home grown" storytellers was a successful recipe. We had both experienced tellers, and more than one who'd never appeared before an audience before, and never a duff moment!

APRIL 1st 2015

Opening Night of Storytelling at the Feast of Fools

Red Phoenix storyteller Grand Opening Night... so there we were, in the lovely NN Cafe; we'd done the publicity, opened up, and just hoped people would turn up. And people did!

We started the stories ourselves, then Jo Blake Cave lifted the whole thing with a great tale of a man and some shoes, before Red Phoenix took the main spot for the second half, and so became our first featured Guest Artist, with a range of stories taking us through a range of emotions. Her reception was, quite rightly, wonderful.
Northampton's new storytelling club was well and truly launched!

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