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  • Writer's picturehannah brailsford

Half a Year of Tales!

As we reach July and the half way point for 2024, I thought I would reflect on the year so far and look ahead to the coming months.

I've been blessed with an eclectic mix of work and projects so far this year from working in schools, collaborations with fellow creatives and brilliant arts organisations and here are the highlights.

The first half of the year, aside from storytelling, was taken up with co-directing Platform Theatre Arts youth production of Age is Revolting for National Theatre Connections. This was the first time our youth theatre has been part of the festival and taken on a full length play. Despite the usual stresses and strains of pulling a full scale theatre production off, the overwhelming feeling from being involved was of joy and immense pride in what our young people achieved. Myself and co-director Michelle Barrington witnessed such growth in both performance skills and confidence from our young company of actors and they really bonded as a group. They took everything in their stride performing in two very different theatres in Southend and Norwich and rose to all the challenges of the rehearsal process. They owned their final performances and demonstrated just how important drama and the arts are for young people's confidence and self esteem.

April was all about the schools outreach programme for The EASF 2024 and another joyous example of young peoples creative expression. I had the great privilege, alongside the wonderful storyteller Dave Tonge, to lead on the delivery of storytelling workshops with two local Stowmarket primary schools. I worked with Abbots Hall Primary over two weeks to facilitate the year four students creating and telling dragon stories for The Story Bazaar to open the festival at The Food Museum in May. After sharing a favourite dragon tale, the young people enthusiastically came up with their own adventure stories featuring a few of the characters in my story and a whole host of new ones! They worked in pairs or groups to storyboard their ideas and then bring them to life in their own words and telling style. They then got to share their stories to family and storytellers, including the wonderful Taffy Thomas in the beautiful Tythe Barn. It was wonderful to have the barn buzzing with the enthusiastic voices of these young storytellers and an absolute joy to be a small part in igniting their imaginations.

The rest of the festival was wonderful too and it was a weekend packed with memorable storytelling moments, in particular Shonaleigh's 'The Petal Demon' and Karin Lundengard's 'When the Water Turns Blue'. As ever with festivals there were performances I was disappointed to miss especially Amy Douglas' 'Travelling Together'. I did have fun telling myself over the weekend with Super Great Kids Stories, again encouraging our young audience members to share a tale or two and as part of The Straight Track of Story story walk masterminded by the fantastic Sarah Lloyd-Winder. Roll on 2025 and the next festival!

May continued to be a busy month delivering stories in schools across Essex and Kent and running a puppetry and storytelling course for young people at Focal Point Gallery in Southend. My work isn't just about telling for young people though and it was great to be back telling to adults. First off it was Quercus at Belfairs Woods as part of a new collaboration with Essex Wildlife Trust to bring storytelling nights to the woods. It was really special to finally perform the show as it was first intended, in the woods in the presence of the trees woven into the stories and accompanied by the talented musician Kate Waterfield. We had over fifty listeners and the perfect weather and it felt really magical. Hopefully, next later this year and in 2025 we can tour the show to other outside venues.

Finally, I had a 'pinch me' moment when I got invited to be the special guest storyteller for the fabulous 'Women Who Gave No F*cks' show with Alys Torrance and Lucy Lil. What an honour to perform alongside these two female powerhouses of performance storytelling and to be part of such a fun show, thank you ladies for asking me.

June and this months focus is on projects for August and September focusing on Shakespeare and nature and storytelling in different hats, both as a director and a performer. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in delivering these two exciting projects and working with friends and fellow creatives. You'll have to wait until the next blog to find out all about them, but for now here's wishing you all a wonderful summer of stories.

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