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Indepth breakdown of what happened at FEST 2010, Reading UK, please read and comment

Read on for words on FEST, and details on the Conference that took place in Reading UK August 2010

Hello hello fellow fiends of the written word...I am here to tell you, to share with you, hell to invite you... to the wonderful idea of FEST...

Federation of European Storytelling...

what is it? What will it be?  Why does it happen?

It all began many years ago with some of Europe's best tellers wondering how to bring people together, to bring storytellers together under a Europe wide banner.  In 2008 Heidi Dahslveen organised FEST 08 in Oslo, in 2009 Deirdre Foster and the FEST Steering Group organised FEST 09 in Lausanne. 

In 2010 Ragnhild Morch, Martin Manasee, Georgos Evgenikos, Casilda Regueiro and myself organised the 2010 Conference in Reading,
UK with help from the SFS.  And now FEST has a new Steering Group and a new city and date: June 2011, Madrid (or thereabouts).

There were many more people involved in the creation of FEST, many more
founding mothers and fathers.  Their idea has grown into this Conference
and this Federation.  We have gathered every year, 60 - 70 tellers from
all over Europe and observers from afar (Jordan and Canada to name a
few) to share our ideas, to share our wisdom, to offer enthusiasm and hope to
new tellers and new projects, and to blow fire on the spark that is FEST.

A Federation for European Storytelling stands the chance of becoming
many things: a marketplace, a meeting place, an umbrella, a place for
collaboration and so on.  Each year new ideas and new energy is brought forward and the Federation begins to take its first tiny steps into existence.

This year the programme for the Conference was meant to serve as a
mirror for the quality of the storytellers we attracted.  There were many
activities aimed at sharing knowledge and giving people time and space to get to
know new friends.  It is a short time for such a lot of is a
break down of what happened.  I do hope that those of you who were there
will add to what I have written, and comment on how it was for you.

Wednesday, August 9th, Reading University Campus, Reading UK

We gathered and registered, taking our name stickers and packs, making
tea and meeting new and old acquaintances.  The programme began at 4pm where the Conference was outlined, activities listed and main players were introduced.  That evening we had a double bill called:


Mats Rehnman: Fest , the story so far
Adrian Johnson: The making of a Storytelling Laureate
Georgiana Keable: Green Heroes
Torgrim M Stene: Multilingual Storytelling


Mats spoke about the origin of the idea for FEST, and how it developed with various people’s influence along the way.

Adrian spoke about the process of producing a storytelling laureate and how important that can be for raising storytelling up to be better recognised

Georgiana spoke about working with storytelling and the environment with children and how her work interacts with the Transition Towns.

Torgrim spoke about the multilingual project he is participating in with Albatrass cultural organisation to devise methodology for good bilingual storytelling to
expand the markets for non English tellers the world over.

I look forward to hearing people’s comments on these speakers. 

We wrapped up for the night and headed for the bar to share a glass together and better acquaint ourselves with the larger storytelling family of Europe and beyond.  While the topics and discussions that happen during the conference are very important, it is often an impassioned conversation over wine and whiskey that really fires up the blood and gives great sustenance to storytellers who have been working alone or struggling to find the merit in the work they do.

 Thursday August 10th, 2010

We resumed the Conference early on Thursday morning, opening with an introduction to the day’s activities:


Performance Storytelling

Young Storytellers

Festival Organisers

Multilingual Storytelling

Storytelling and Education


Story Share (led by Gabi Altenach)

Games Share (led by Love Ersare begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting)

Workshop Technique Share (led by Bea Ferguson)

Project Share (led by Dale Jarvis)





The Interest Groups I can say very little about as I was only able to duck my head into Performance Storytelling for a short time.  Each Interest Group had experts and newbies interested in the subject. I am unsure on what was discussed or developed in each one, and I know I have forgotten at least one!

The Share sessions were aimed at creating a space that would allow us to share our knowledge on the topics given: stories, games, workshop techniques and projects.  Again I only attended the games share, as I was well in need of some playtime.  It was heaps of fun.  Love Ersare from Sweden had us all singing and bouncing around the room, we boinged and zapped and turned into
statues….great fun, as well as learning a valuable game from Graham Langley (UK) called Hugging Tag / Hugging Tig…a great anti bullying game.

The Share sessions were run twice, just like FOUR SPEAKERS FOUR CORNERS to allow everyone to attend two different sessions (unless you were me, giggling away in the Games Share).


After that we took a break and then the somewhat chaotic and vague creation of mine called a LAB SESSION happened.  The idea here was that you could work with any teller, or group of tellers for an hour. 
You could work on any short story and try to work on a new way to tell it.  We encouraged people to play with language, music, physicality…whatever they liked.  Everyone also had the choice to take a break and not do the lab session.  Many people took this option.

At 6pm we had a mini FEST film festival, showing two short films, one brought by Serina from Jordan about a group of young storytellers who travel across Egypt in search of the masters of the lyric ballad tradition. 

Pebbles by the Shore I believe it was called, 20 minutes of a moving and beautiful journey for all who watched it.

SANCTUARY was then shown, brought by jack Lynch (Ireland).  25 minutes of 6 short films where famous Irish actors, singers and writers spoke the stories recorded from asylum seekers and refugees on their life in Ireland.  A different take on storytelling and a powerful one at that. 

Many thanks to them both for sharing their wealth of film with us. 

After dinner we all gathered again and set up a small performance area for the PRESENTATION OF THE LAB SESSIONS. 
Given that we didn’t know how many people had understood what we had suggested, or how many had actually acted upon it, Ragnhild Morch (Germany/Norway) and myself (Ireland) had to give way to the wonderful and invisible hand of serendipity.  Being the co hosts of the evening we introduced
the Presentation and then sat down in the hopes that someone would get
up and show us what they had achieved in that hour of playtime.

There was about 30 seconds of silence as teller turned to teller and smiled at the awkward quiet. 
Can you imagine it? A whole conference of storytellers absolutely silent?????…well it couldn’t last!

Dale Jarvis (Canada), Mariella Bertelli (Italy/Canada) and Nathalie Jendly (Switzerland) began with a beautiful trilingual rendition of Goldenhair, told with song and wonderful physicality.  They stole away my breath with their playfulness and the lyrical way they moved…as far as I was concerned from that moment on the lab had been a great success!

Following them was (I believe and please correct me if I am wrong!) the first ever storytelling fugue.  The Story of the Runaway Pancake sung in 5 languages (English was not one of them), with a bass beat and four storytellers.  It was mesmerising, impressive and captivating! And I didn’t understand a single word of what was said. Marvellous!

Then Georgos and Silvia from Greece and Agnesieka from Poland got up and told the story of the Mouse King who seeks the strongest suitor for his daughter.  The story was told in 3 languages with wonderful physicality, at times a greek style chorus, and song.  It was joyful to watch and listen to.

Pete Chand (UK) and Stacia Keogh (USA/UK) got up and told a saucy Punjabi tale bilingually.  Pete spoke no English and Stacia no Punjabi, nor did they translate. Rather they navigated the story as two characters and we missed nothing from the story, and were all brought roaring laughing at the end.

Mats Rehnman and myself got up and told a Nasruddin Hodja story using the echo method that I spent all of ten minutes learning while sat beneath a giant Cedar tree.  We told in three languages, lapping and overlapping the story between us.  It was a lovely lesson for me in co telling and people seemed to enjoy it.

The evening was ended with a spontaneous story introduced by Alexander MacKenzie (Ireland/UK) and told by Love Ersare (Sweden) Ragnhild Morch (Norway/Germany) and Bea Ferguson (Scotland).

(Did I miss anyone???)

The Presentation of the Lab Session lasted an hour and was a delight to the senses.  For me each story was a revelation not because of the story but because of the playfulness and the willingness to risk the safety of the known by each teller for the wonderful wildness of the unknown. 

We retired to the pub where songs were sung and jokes were shared amidst the
pattering of the English summer rain.


Friday was the final day of the Conference, and a day for business matters to be discussed.  A brief meeting was held in the morning to go over the day’s activities.  We would divide the Conference into Council meeting and Focus Groups.  The idea being that those who were on the Council could guide the Steering Group into the work for the upcoming year and the overall structure of FEST and those not on the Council could brainstorm about where FEST needed to go, the positives and negatives about the Conference, what was lacking and so on.

So divided we were. Myself and Ragnhild offered up the things we had been working on for the year in terms of policy, the formation of FEST, membership criteria and so on.  In the meantime Roisin Murray (UK) did a fantastic job facilitating the Open Space downstairs and getting some great ideas and criticisms from the participants at the Conference.

At the end of the day, around 3pm we had voted on FEST location for 2012 (Belgium with Guy Tilkin at Alden Bisen), as well as agreeing on FEST 2014, which will be in Umea in Northern Sweden. 
2013 has yet to be decided. 
Advance notice allows the host country time to prepare and apply for
funding and so on for the conferences. The Council had vetoed and ratified various policy ideas, amendments to the memorandum and other questions that arose.

A new Steering Group was voted into place to work on FEST and to prepare
the FEST Conference for 2011.

The New Steering Group are:

Theresa Amoon (France/Lebanon/USA), Pep Bruno (Spain), Pete Chand (India /UK), Clare Muireann Murphy (Ireland), Sue Chand (UK), Ragnhild Morch (Germany/Norway) and Torgrim Stene (Norway).  Betweenus all we have at least 8 languages and a lot of energy!

The actual goodbyes took about an hour and a half.  Tears were shed, friendships were formed and promises made to meet again.  It was an intense 48 hours, we did a lot, some say too much…some say it should be
longer next year, with more time to relax…many good suggestions were made.  Make more here, comment and leave your mark (and please fill in the gaps I left, or correct me where I misspoke)…or better yet, come next year to FEST and find out for yourself.

There is a FEST group on Professional Storyteller so join it if you want updates.  We hope to see you there, or in Spain next year.


Clare Muireann Murphy

Steering Group Member 2009-2010-2011

Views: 62

Replies to This Discussion

Thanks Kasper

you were missed!
Thanks for the in-depth update, Clare. Hopefully, I can attend next year in Spain. Look forward to meeting you one day.
Hey Michael

Who can resist Spain in June? Do try and come. INdividuals are welcome as conference participants. No doubt our paths will cross...someday! :)

Its been very confusing about the position of individuals to take part in FEST- and very frustrating for those of us in the UK who would like to have attended the conference when it was in the UK- but the eligibility criteria seem to exclude people who were not part of a national or regional organisation, but yet were very involved in storytelling developments. Hope it can be clarifed for the next one! it all sounds good work!
Hello Janet

Sorry to hear that. FEST is really only beginning to find its feet. We found it difficult to spread the word as there were only 5 of us on the Steering Group and we had our hands full with all the work.

Let me explain to you: to become a member of "FEST- the Federation" you yourself must be an organisation or association. However to be a PARTICIPANT at the FEST Conference (this year in Reading, Next year in Spain) you can be an individual or a member of an organisation.

I hope that clears things up a little. Each year it will hopefully improve until it is an up and running fully functioning Federation.

We look forward to your involvement!

Janet, I can only confirm that in my view this is an issue that has to be clarified in the future. One solution to many quite serious problems connected with this is to encourage more networking, shared projects and work in Special Interest Groups BETWEEN the yearly conferences. I don't think they can grow much more. But activities "in the spirit of FEST" can. I hope to see much more of this in the years to come!

Ulf, Swedish Storytelling Network
Thanks for this clarification- very helpful! I'll post it to Cybermouth- which is the UK storytellers email discussion group.

Keep up the good work!
Thanks Janet and Ulf

There are many problems still with FEST. It is in its teething stage and we have a lot to learn. A lot of people were confused about this issue. We will post it on the website and we are planning on doing a big mail out soon, which we hope will catch on like a chain letter around storytellers. So that should help.

If everyone told just two people within their artistic sphere then the world would know about all of it pretty quick!

Thanks again for the input, it is really appreciated! Please encourage other tellers to come on here and weigh in.

Wow! Why did I miss that! Sign me up for 2012 in Belgium, sounds like a wonderful festival. Loved the YouTube of you and Mats, what an enriching way to tell in tandem. I particularly loved that sense of play, brings a smile to one's face. Looking forward to reading about next year's one in Madrid - get more videos!
Thanks Vicki

yes videos will be important for next year. 2010 was a lot of fun, and people really took risks with the storytelling Lab. It was great. Glad you're interested, you'd be a welcome bright light of storytelling energy at it. It's an amazing gathering.

See you on the flip side of your wild year




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