Friday, March 27, 2020


Ah! Technology – much maligned – accused of distancing people from one another – depersonalising – impersonalising – and yet, last night, it brought us all together, safely.
No drives in the dark. No two metre rule.

Nicole had suggested Family Lore - and then couldn’t be there, because of the handing-over of house-keys! But a lot of us were: Dan, with Jess, and Ian and Maddie and Raph, without a camera, so we have no idea what he was getting up to, and Jill [without a microphone to start with] and Mike, and, as listeners, Karen, and very briefly Ren√©e, who seemed a little bemused, as though she was in the wrong meeting, and left quite rapidly.

We started early, to make sure we all knew what was going on, and to let people dribble in, and the telling began at 7.30 with “family reminiscences”. Ian told us Tales of the Anderson Shelter [two], Maddie told us two tales of Portsmouth Harbour, one sad and shocking, one basically funny, with flour-bombs, Mike told us about his father and grandfather on bicycles, exploiting licensing-hour differentials in the snowy Pennines. Then we all went out to clap for the NHS at 8pm and came back in to hear Raph telling a Chinese Cinderella [at his father’s request].

It was a rich evening: in no particular order we heard Ian tell Cap o’ Rushes [as an English Cinderella]; Dan tell The Cruel Mother [pieced together from 19 Child ballads]; Jill told The Caravan Holiday with Gladioli, and, by special request, The Teeth; Raph told The Last Log, from Norfolk [for reasons of relief, it must have been from Cromer, even if Raph reckoned it was to do with dwergar, the spirits brought over from Scandinavia by the Danes who settled there]; to link with Norfolk, Maddie told a family reminiscence, The Cycling Holiday; Mike told us a little more about his father’s shiftless side, and also The Tale of God, the Devil and the Nettle; Raph, to back up the Scandinavian element, sang The Ikea Song; and Maddie closed the evening with Lemmink√§inen’s visit to Tuonela, and the timely message that Mother Knows Best.

Next Thursday, April 2nd, will be the first Zoom meeting of Southampton Story Club. No driving needed! Room open at 7, telling starts at 7.30, why not come along?
Click on the link, and Robert est ton oncle!


Obviously, we couldn't meet last Thursday, for reasons you will understand - in the hurry, we cancelled on Facebook, but forget our poor old blogspot!

And still in a hurry, we forgot to tell our blogspot that we had organised another meeting on Zoom for Thursday26th March - thanks to Nicole!

And we have held that one, thank you very much, and very successful it was!

So, as we say sorry, we refer you to the next post to find out what happened, and to urge you to look beyond Ringwood for your storytelling, because these may be dark times, but there are also more opportunities to listen and tell without even having to step outside your front door!

See you on Zoom!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


Thursday 19th March, at The Elm Tree, Hightown, Ringwood, starting at 19.30 promptly

We charge for admission at Heads and Tales so that we can pay for the room - and also in order to bring in professional tellers from other parts of the country, people we know and have heard elsewhere and are sure that you will enjoy.

Marion Leeper is one of those. She tells to small children in a small, completely dark, tent indoors - and she also tells stories that come out of Orlando Furioso, a vast and amazing poem in ottava rima from the early part of the 16th century.

What she is bringing to us is something even more complex: partly a personal memoir of and about her mother, and partly a traditional story in a new guise. [But don't those old stories keep on turning up, wherever we look?]

She couldn't remember who she was, but she knew that once she had been someone important... Scraps of memory, legend, and black lace woven together to tell one woman's rags to riches story, in an evening that will take you on a romp through the folktales and cocktail dresses of 1950s Europe.

Sunday, February 2, 2020


To celebrate National Storytelling Week every year we combine forces and tell an epic with as many storytellers as we can muster. We have done Gilgamesh, we have done Herakles [Life and Labours], we have done the Middle High German version of Tristan und Isold, we have done The Life of Loki, and this time we are presenting some tastefully chosen crumbs from the vast banquet that is known as The Arabian Nights' Entertainments or The Thousand and One Nights.

Thursday, February 20th, at The Elm Tree, as usual -- arrive early, so we can start bang on 7.30, because, if we overrun, someone may want to cut off our heads...!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020



Panto stories... Cinderella, and Pussies Galore! Whether they're in boots or with Whittington!

As usual, the Elm Tree, Ringwood, 7.30 start, £5 admission...

Friday, November 22, 2019


Following our policy of trusting one another and not planning the details, we undertook an evening of Arthur, start to finish. Ian began with Vortigern and Merlin aka Emrys and the prophetic Fight of the Dragons. Mike filled in a gap with Uther Pendragon’s impregnation of Igraine [thanks to Merlin’s wiles] and his slaughter of her husband. In next to no time, Arthur was born, spirited away to anonymity by Merlin, and re-appeared after Uther’s death to pull The Sword from the Stone and be acclaimed rightwise King of All England.

It fell to Raph to tell the story that no one knew, Balin and Balan, with the two brothers from Geordieland, a link to the Lady of the Lake, a link on to the Fisher King, and a tragic end because of the Cursed Sword, and a segue into the interval, after which Nicole guided us through the tale of Parsifal, as Wolfram von Eschenbach tells it, until eventually the Foolish Lad Asks the Right Question, healing the King and the Waste Land.

But before the serious stuff, Janet had entranced us with Sir Salvio’s incomprehension of women – a fault fortunately remedied when he discovered at last What Women Really Want, and applied the lesson! [Men will have to find this out for themselves – women already know.]

Dan presented Lancelot as a spear-happy selfish jerk, breaking hearts and lances wherever he went, in the tale of the Lily-Maid of Astolat, and Mike brought us the Last Battle, Mordred, the return of Excalibur to Deep Water, and the departure of Arthur to Avalon, for the healing of his grievous wound… and on the mere the wailing died away…

And Maddie, who had proposed the whole thing, never got to tell Gawain and the Green Knight, because we’d run out of time!!!

So, we tellers insist that she headlines with it, and anything else she wants to do, later in the year, with the rest of us a support act, limited to 5 minutes each, just to teach us!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


So many stories! So many versions! And always room for more!

Balin and Balan, the Lily Maid of Astolat, The Fight of the Dragons, The Sword in the Stone, Uther and Igraine, Gawain's Marriage, Gawain and the Green Knight, The Last Battle, The Sword Returns to Deep Water, Perceval...

Friday, March 8, 2019


No, nothing to do with the Old Testament. It's a Persian epic by Ferdowsi, three times as long as the Iliad, and composed at a time when the Normans [who were really Vikings] were still learning French, so between 977 and 1010 CE. It tells the story of Persia, the Age of Myth, the Age of Heroes, the Age of History, moving from Zoroastrianism to Islam with the Arab Conquest of 651.

Most of all, though, it's packed with stories. Love-stories. Heroic stories. Revenge. Monsters. Bravery. Treachery. Matthew Arnold took his epic poem Sohrab and Rustum from it in the 19th century. Surrounding countries, Georgia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Armenia pillaged it for tales and examples of heroism. Lavishly illustrated manuscripts were produced for all sorts of kings, emperors and princes.

Now, Madeleine Grantham has picked from its 50,000 couplets the stories of Bahram Gur, who is a historical figure to whom myths and legends have been appended. Adventure. Excitement. Novelty.

Come along and find out what it's all about on Thursday March 21st, starting at 7.30 at the Elm Tree, Hightown, Ringwood. Only a fiver for this widescreen epic!

Bahram Gur is entertained by musicians

Bahram Gur tramples Azadeh

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


Tomorrow, Thursday February 21st, Ian Tovey will be telling Trickster Tales at The ElmTree, Hightown, Ringwood, starting at 7.30 - if you're not there on time, Coyote will let down your tyres, Brer Rabbit will rip off your wipers, and I don't even want to think what Reynard will do to you!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018



Turkish Knights, Saint George, Death and Doctors, all under the bold direction of Paul Butler, a former Morris Man, will recapture the thespian delights of yesteryesteryesteryear in an under-rehearsed impromptu performance of the [genuine] Quidhampton Mummers Play. [May contain nuts.]

The picture below is for illustrative purposes only, and in no way guarantees the presence of the ingredients depicted. But it should be a lot of fun!

At The Elm Tree in Ringwood, BH24 3DY starting at 7.30pm on Thursday 20th December... get there early to have a few bevvies, without which it won't be nearly as enjoyable!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Mostly, storytellers have a particular niche. Some do tales of their own lives, or their family's history. Others dig deep into the treasure-chest of traditional stories. A few go to history in general,or particular events and lives.

Maddie will be interspersing maritime yarns with tales her father told her about his adventures at sea and in foreign ports. So be prepared for a few ups and downs on the ocean waves!

Thursday 19th July, Boston Tea Party, The Furlong, Ringwood, 19.30, £5 admission - and come early to buy coffee and cake!

And we're having a holiday in August, so see you in September!

Friday, April 27, 2018


Janet Goring will be coming all the way from Southsea on May 17th to tell us stories from round the world...
To celebrate her second headline appearance, we have a puzzle: how many Chinese can you count?
Twelve - or thirteen?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Spoiler alert! Gunther doesn't get his way!

“Brunhild Watching Gunther Suspended from the Ceiling on their Wedding Night”

John Henry Fuseli

Excerpt from The Nibelungenlied (c.1200) translated by A.T. Hatto:

“His attendants, both man and woman had left him. The chamber was quickly barred, and he imagined that he was soon to enjoy her lovely body: but the time when Brunhild would become his wife was certainly not at hand! She went to the bed in a shift of fine white linen, and the noble knight thought to himself: “Now I have everything here that I ever wished for’. And indeed there was great cause why her beauty should gratify him deeply. He dimmed the lights one after another with his own royal hands, and then, dauntless warrior, he went to the lady. He laid himself close beside her, and with a great rush of joy took the adorable woman in his arms.

He would have lavished caresses and endearments, had the Queen suffered him to do so, but she flew into a rage that deeply shocked him – he had hoped to meet with ‘friend’, yet what he met was ‘foe’!

‘Sir,’ she said, ‘you must give up the thing you have set your hopes on, for it will not come to pass. Take good note of this: I intend to stay a maiden till I have learned the truth about Siegfried.’

Gunther grew very angry with her. He tried to win her by force, and tumbled her shift for her, at which the haughty girl reached for the girdle of stout silk cord that she wore about her waist, and subjected him to great suffering and shames for in return for being baulked of her sleep, she bound him hand and foot, carried him to a nail, and hung him on the wall. She had put a stop to his love-making! As to him, he had all but died, such strength had she exerted.

And now he who had thought to be master began to entreat her, ‘Loose my bonds, most noble Queen. I do not fancy I shall ever subdue you, lovely woman, and I shall never again lie too close to you.’

She did not care at all how he fared, since she was lying very snug. He had to stay hanging there the whole night through to dawn, when the bright morning shone through the windows. If Gunther had ever possessed of any strength, it had dwindled to nothing now.

Friday, March 30, 2018


Fifty-one years ago, I read Das Nibelungenlied for the very first time, and was amazed. I thought mediaeval literature was cosy, funny, vaguely dirty stories - Chaucer, in other words. This definitely isn't. Nor, although some of the names are the same, is it Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, which is mythical, symbolic, heavy. This is a bit more like Icelandic sagas. Whatever you do is going to bring disaster. Laughing today, weeping tomorrow. One death now, many more in a while. The poem tells you that, all the time. Kriemhilt is beautiful - so bold warriors are bound to lose their lives because of her - and you keep on listening because you want to know exactly how and exactly why and what they said as it happened.

It's old, and it's dark, and the main characters shine as they move through it. There is loyalty, there is vengeance, there are two women in competition with one another. Sounds pretty modern to me!

But judgement, as always, lies with the listeners. Come. Listen. Judge.


Lisa Kenwright, who runs Mister Rook's Speakeasy in Frome, will be telling Goblin Fair, a tale of her own devising, on March 15th. [She knows what we're like, because she came and told her own version of Mister Fox on February 15th...]

On April 16th, Mike Rogers will be delving into his own past and bringing us his version of the Nibelungenlied, the earliest of the great German mediaeval epics, which he studied as a student, and which has never entirely left his mind. [Elements of it made their way into Wagner's mind, and contributed to Der Ring des Nibelungen - but so did a lot of other things! This is the real German mediaeval version, though it feels a lot older.]

On May 17th, Janet Goring, aka Bluebird the Storyteller, will be taking us Around the World in Eighty Minutes, so get your stopwatches out - but don't forget to listen...

On June 21st, Mike O'Leary will be Walking Around and Falling Over Stories, which is what he claims to do all the time - he is a well-travelled and much-loved fixture on the Southampton story-telling scene, with a vast range and repertoire, and this is the first time he has come to us. Let's hope he brings his fan-club!

We can only see so far into the future, so the last thing that is predictable is Madeleine Grantham on July 19th, with Blow the Man Down, which sounds definitely nautical! [Possibly even naughtical!]

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Maddie set us off with The Beginning of the World, and told us how Men and Women eventually got to know each other, and found they could give one another pleasure.

Raph departed from the Valentine's theme completely, with a Chinese tale of two brothers, which begins with a miraculous dog that can pull a plough, and continues with the wicked brother destroying all he touches in his attempts to copy [and cheat] his sibling, until the monkeys take a final hand.

Ian, a new recruit, told us Tam Lin, the way he tells it, which was certainly a tale for Valentine's, full of passion and suffering and loyalty.

Lisa, our headline guest for March, came over to see how we did things in Ringwood, and gave us her version of Mister Fox, with a bit of anthropomorphism, or lycanthropy, depending on which way you look at it. She brought with her Leslie, from Frome, who told us about the origin of the fruit that is the shape of the human heart, the strawberry, and how it put an end to the quarrel between the First Man and the First Woman, and if that hadn't happened, where would we be?

Mike told a Kabyle story of the Nzemi, the Man Whose Trade Was Pleasing Women, a tale collected by Leo Frobenius in The Black Decameron. [Some of those present wished such a person could be made more generally available.]

Maddie gave us the wisdom of the rabbi's wife, which sorted out a potential problem for the newly-weds through food metaphors, while Raph remained resolutely unromantic with Coyote Steals a Blanket, and Ian took another view of other kinds of love with The Unicorn and the Single Wish.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Choice, choice, choice - so many out there, and which is the right one?

Or maybe you don't want to stop at one? Not even one at a time...

Even Darwin had to acknowledge that evolutionary changes in the area of increased sexual attraction don't always make practical sense.

We always make space for tellers from the floor, but this is one of those nights, like Halloween, when we welcome as many as possible to share stories. Go on! Give it a go! You know you've always wanted to!

And maybe you'll go away from the club with someone other than the person you came with...

Monday, January 8, 2018


Iron teeth are not just Stalinist dentistry. They are the sure sign of a Russian witch. Beware. Be very, very ware!

We are in Siberia. Home of Baba Yaga. Endless forests. Look at the picture. Birch trees, all identical, all different. No way to know your way. Only the noise of pursuit - unless it's just the trees in the wind. What do you think? Dare you believe it? Dare you not believe it?

Come with us. Come with our storyteller. She'll keep you safe. Probably. Nothing's certain, after all.

Except that you won't want to miss this evening... with Katy Cawkwell...

Tuesday, December 19, 2017



A story, of course. And a bit of magic. And a bit of tradition – a link with the past, with Christmases gone by.

Then you want Gawain and the Green Knight. It starts off at Christmas, in the court of King Arthur, where the King refuses to sit down and eat until he has seen a wonder. If the knights daren't grumble, their stomachs do.

But then, there rides into the hall where they're not yet dining a Green Man, on a green horse, with an axe in his hand, and he issues a challenge: which one of these knights is bold enough to strike a blow at him, in return for having a blow struck in return the following Christmas?

Only Gawain is foolhardy enough to risk his life to keep up the reputation of King Arthur's knights. But he thinks he's sorted the matter when he strikes off the Green Knight's head with one stroke of the axe: no return match!

However – and here's where the magic comes in – the Green Knight picks up his head, picks up his axe, mounts his horse, reminds Gawain of what he has sworn to do, and gallops off into the night.

Is this something new from Pixar, or Peter Jackson, or even Spielberg? No, it's in the theatre of your mind, in the cinema behind your eyes: it's a story – the oldest art in the world, before there was fire for them to see to paint in the caves.

And you can hear the whole of it told by Sarah Rundle, widely acclaimed professional storyteller for everyone, and not just children, at the Boston Tea Party in Ringwood, starting at 7.30pm on Thursday, December 21st, admission £5. Get there earlier if you want coffee and cake!

What a way to start Christmas!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


How did he get from this                                    to this


to this                                                             to this?


Come along and find out on Thursday, 16th November!