Tuesday, September 29, 2020



So many Journeys, so many Changes, in this sequence of stories!
A free event every day, from Monday to Friday. The rest are ticketed, to provide income for our tellers. All on Zoom, to save you Journeys!

Mike O'Leary's Cryptid tops and tails the main festival, as a prologue and epilogue, staggering through a world of folktales.

The Big Opening, with stories from the regular tellers at Heads and Tales and Southampton and Sarum Story Clubs, is at 5pm on Monday October 5th. It’s FREE, but it’s better if you register at the booking site [see below]. If you’re too late, the link will be posted here! The same is true for Free at 3, with a half-hour story each day from Tuesday to Friday.

Jack o' London leads us off, with Cath Edwards, then Taprisha follows the King of Ireland's Son on a Journey that is so long, it needs two sessions.

For those weary of walking, Sarah Lloyd-Winder has Railway Stories.

Those who want to follow the Changes from the past can hear Sharon Carr-Wu telling the tale of Mary Anning, Bone-Hunter, while Marion Leeper and Jessica Law enter the fantasy world of the Renaissance with Bradamante in speech and song.

Rascally Michael Dacre relates the life of "Black Sam" Bellamy, Prince of Pirates, while Lisa Schneidau, showing, perhaps, a gentler side of Devon, takes us for A Walk through the Wild Woods, before Jason Buck introduces us to Ulfhednar, a special kind of Viking, who Changes from Fear to Love, from Boy to Wolf.

On Saturday, we are definitely on the move with Dave Tonge the Yarnsmith, our Journey shortened by his tales On the Road and At the Inn, while Sarah Rundle is on the Silk Road, from the Far East to the Near East, with a story at every stop.

Katy Cawkwell brings our main events to a close with a Journey that took place four hundred years ago, but whose consequences still affect us: the voyage of Mayflower, and the intertwined personal histories of a man who sailed to America, and an inhabitant of that continent whom he met there.

For those still unsated, the Cryptid will come slouching by on Sunday evening.

Tickets, and booking for free events, here:

Further information here

And here



Thursday, August 13, 2020


 Come and listen, come and tell! This is what you need to know, in order to join in:


The theme emerged from Southampton Story Club on August 6th, and the story of Panaumbe and Penaumbe and what they could do with their sphincters... But we'll expand it in any way we choose, from the very big to the very small, girls with no hands, monsters and men with more than one head - even people who are capable of telling and hearing stories at a distance... which is what you will all be able to do, if you click the link above!

Friday, July 24, 2020


Marion Leeper’s marvellous bouquet of memories and Märchen, “The Kitchen Cat”, in which real life was even more fantastic and moving than the fairytales, filled the first half of our evening.

To pay due homage to her skill which had brought us such magic, the club regulars unfolded their own cat/animal tales.

Paul went first, with the little old lady cat-lover and her three wishes, one of which, alas, had already been robbed of its full effect by an earlier veterinary intervention.

Raph’s account of how the contingent can be mistaken for the necessary involved the tying of a cat to a bedpost as a precondition for successful yogic meditation, a technique faithfully followed by all the guru’s pupils and sanctified by tradition.

Maddie found, in the jealousy of the Rat for the Cat’s drum-playing prowess, and an unfortunate accident, the source of the calming purr which we all like to elicit.

Nicole told us how the Great Native American Hunter plugged the prime orifice of the Super-Skunk and reduced it from The Waster of Prairies and Destroyer of Woodlands to its present size and relatively moderate degree of noxiousness, so that it only smells like an onion cooked with an old sock in ammonia gravy.

Ian updated The Twelve Hunters from Grimm, with Prosecco, and women’s magazines, and boxes of chocolates.

Dan told a favourite story of his, and ours, and his kids in school: The Mouse’s Husband.

Mike closed with a Christmas story (at second-hand) from Taffy Thomas: Why The Cat Is Always Cleaning Itself… and so a delightful evening came to an end.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

THE KITCHEN CAT told by MARION LEEPER Thursday 16th July

"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.

A complex and moving way to honour the past’

A marvellous story that shows how real life and the stories we hear and tell mix with and illuminate one another…

And somewhere behind it all is the story of Cinderella...

Buy your ticket here, and you will receive the zoomlink by email


There should be time, after Marion's show, for some stories from the floor - cats, or other animals, would seem an appropriate theme!

Saturday, June 20, 2020


Two listeners, one the loyal James, and eight tellers! Some madness, some midsummer. Dan began with Komachi and Shosho, who feature in more than one Noh play as well as several wood-block prints, as a classic pair of lovers. Komachi demanded that Shosho visit her for one hundred nights in a row, before they could be married. [Normally only three were required – and Komachi tended to dismiss her men after one…] Shosho, who had a long way to walk and return, managed 99 – but then weather and weariness took their toll, and he died on the way…

Raph introduced us to The Young King from Oscar Wilde’s The House of Pomegranates, which you can find here http://www.gutenberg.org/files/873/873-h/873-h.htm#page1

Janet told us of Count Alaric and his encounter with a fair maid of the fey on midsummer’s morning, their marriage, and how he won her by renouncing her – no love stronger than the love that wishes the lover’s happiness above its own. The story comes from Barbara Leonie Picard, who wrote her own fairy-tales, as well as re-telling them from many traditions.

Maddie’s offering came from Lisa Schneidau, its message clear and important: if you ask, and are grateful, and take no more than you need, then you will not fall into the trap of compulsive behaviour – unlike the Greedy Farmer, who thought wild strawberries were his right, and could not stop eating them until he BURST!

Ian created his own compelling tale out of the differing versions of No. 1 in the Child Ballads. On Midsummer’s Day, year by year, the Man came, was made welcome, and vanished with each daughter as she became a woman at 18. The youngest was resolved not to disappear in this way, so armed herself against fairy enchantment with three small iron horseshoes, and a wand of rowan all wrapped with red thread, so that, although she followed him into the Fairy Mound [known, tellingly, as The Clootie Stane, The Devil’s Stone] she was able to answer his riddles and break his power and lead her sisters out to freedom – though those women trapped there in the distant past could only crumbled to dust, though at least their souls went free. Here are the original 5 versions, so you can see what skill he exercised https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Child%27s_Ballads/1

Paul told the tale of Vasya Whitefeet, a pale-skinned Roma, born of a settled family, who yearned for the wandering life that his parents had deserted, resumed it in disguise, pretending to be a fool, but a gifted musician, and used his skills to obtain a beautiful bride whom he kept against the will of her father, before the pair of them again went of them on the road.

Finally, Mike told the Estonian legend of Koit and Æmarrik, the Dawn and the Twilight, the two Immortals entrusted with the Light of Heaven, its lighting and its extinguishing. Around Midsummer, in the latitude of Estonia, they come together for a month, Æmarrik taking it slowly, slowly from Koit, and not quite dowsing its fire, then passing it slowly, slowly back to him, for him to light it. But in that process, as their hands brushed one another, another fire was ignited, in their touching fingers, in their watching eyes, and warmth grew between them. Noticing this – for what can remain hidden from the All-Seeing one? – the All-Father asked them if they did not wish to marry? Together, as one, they both said No. Better than always being together, they said, would be to have eleven months of anticipation, and then one month on the edge of fulfilment. Thus would Love last forever – even for Immortals. And that, of course, is why the season of Midsummer is so full of magic. Here is the story, in German, and in old-fashioned black-letter type

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


It's that time of the year when crazy stuff happens - though whether you will notice it under the present circumstances is another matter! Nonetheless, storytellers, like other mythical creatures such as fairies, pixies and elves, will be virtually active as we move towards the midpoint of the year!

Thursday June 18th, 7.30pm to 10pm - just click the link to be magically transported to a virtual glade - and bring your own tales to pin on the donkey!

Sunday, May 17, 2020


Morris Dancing is anything but down-to-earth! And we hope that the stories we tell will be the same. Although the whole of society is grounded, and sent to its room, we can escape via cyberspace - you don't even need a wardrobe, just a laptop or a smartphone, and the magic code, which is this 

The Zoom meeting will start at 7.30 on Thursday 21st May, our usual 3rd Thursday slot, and carry on till we're all told-out - we welcome tellers and listeners who may not be able to get to real Ringwood, but only need a click to get to the virtual one.

Be inspired by the past - by Maypoles - Robin Hood - Chaucer - whatever!

Hope to see you there!

Adderbury Morris in 1908, a boys' side especially revived for Empire Day [the last performance of the old side had been in 1880] by 21-year-old Frances Etrenne Hoskyns of Cotefield House, and Mr and Mrs Walker, the school headmaster and his wife, on the basis of Cecil Sharp's book of 1907. Cutting edge historically informed performance!

Of the boys in the picture who went to war in 1914 only Charlie Coleman, front second on right, returned.

The way things used to be.



Zoom-zoom – as I used to say in my childhood, in my pedal-car. But now it brings us all together. Paul started, with the tale of Nureddin, and the renewal of Marrakech, whose wise sultan got Nureddin his money back, and punished a greedy magistrate in a permanent way. After we’d clapped for the NHS, Janet took us further, with Svetlana, who had to be turned into a broom so that she could hear what the Sun had seen, and put everything right [and still didn’t get her name in the title of the story!]

Nicole had a tale of her family that she hadn’t been able to tell at our last meeting – so she told us all about John “Whitewing” Henderson, and his twenty-five mentions in the local paper, and what his sobriquet signified: street-cleaner! And how he took to drinking, but then found God, and went to Him shortly afterwards.

Maddie took us through one of the Italian tales in Italo Calvino’s magnificent book, with a prince who preferred reading to hunting, but came across a mysterious woman, whom he lost, but pursued, and, thanks to a timely hermit, found again in Peterborough, after quite a bit of opium… [You had to be there…]

Ian turned Child No. 32 into a splendid tale with a Haunted Hall, and all kinds of unpleasantness, before its happy resolution, in which the Hideous Hag became a Wonderful Woman. You can read it all here

Raph gave us The Enchantment of Dyfed, which is essentially the Third Branch of the Mabinogion – but as a self-contained story, with some abridgement, and making sense on its own… [and also full of topical references to social distancing, which wasn’t hard in the unpopulated wasteland to which Dyfed had been magically converted. Here is a translation of the full version… http://www.mabinogi.net/manawydan.htm ]

As a very quick closer, Mike referred back to Paul’s tale of the magistrate who refused to admit that he had ever received the treasure that had been entrusted to him for safekeeping, and told this story: A merchant, going on a dangerous journey, put his wealth into olives – quite literally, pitting them and slipping gold coins inside each one, then sealing them in a jar which he gave to a friend for safekeeping, not telling him of its true contents. When the sealed jar was returned to him, 7 years later, he was shocked to find only olives in it, and went to Harun-al-Rashid for justice. The mighty caliph, confronted with the contradictory statements of two apparently honest men, was stumped, and, walking the streets by night in disguise, as was his wont, asked one of his friends among the beggars for advice. “Have you ever eaten seven-year-old olives?” asked the beggar. “Of course not!” replied the caliph. “They taste foul,” said the beggar. “Tomorrow, in court, taste one of the olives from the jar.” Harun did. It tasted fine. “You opened the jar,” he said to the man who had kept it for his friend, “took out the gold, put in fresh olives and re-sealed it. Return to your friend twice the money you stole from him, or I will have you executed and confiscate all your wealth.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


The more tightly the body is confined, the freer the mind is to roam, whether the mouth is telling or the ears are listening.

Heads and Tales Story Club offers its second performance in cyberspace by the magic medium of Zoom. [It really is magic – click on the link, do what they say, and you will be taken there… https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81846492589 ]

Thursday, April 16th is the day, 19.30 is the time [with a little break at 8 to cheer for the NHS] and what will happen is up to the tellers who contribute – and also to the audience, who can naturally contribute… it’s possible to mute the microphones of all the listeners, but we don’t like to, because we want to hear the oohs and ahs and the laughter – so we only do it if the dog’s barking or the washing-machine’s reached the spin part of the cycle – and then you can do it yourselves…

As always, we welcome stories from the floor, but we have a load of tellers lined up as well…

See you on Thursday – which should be tomorrow!

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 Renée, 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 Lemminkäinen’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!