On a dark and stormy night .....

The Bath Storytelling Circle was founded in December 1999, not as an attempt to provide alternative entertainment once the computers, TVs and radios of the world failed following the then anticipated ravages of the 'millennium bug', but as an opportunity to promote and celebrate the ancient tradition and modern practice of oral storytelling. 

On a dark and stormy winter's night last century, in the back room of a pub in Bath, about two-dozen strangers - storytellers, poets and folk-singers - gathered together for the first time. Few there knew each other beforehand. But what drew them all was the opportunity to partake in an ancient, oral bardic tradition - gathering together to share stories, in prose, song or verse, spoken from memory not read from the page. That first evening, in front of a smouldering, smoky fire, tales were told of legendary heroes, mythical creatures and quirky every-day happenings. Traditional ballads were sung, original rhymes recited, and much drink imbibed, to help soften tongues, fire imaginations and stir hearts.

Those gatherings have taken place each month, continuously ever since. While it has convened at various locations over the years, under different Masters of Ceremonies, and with an ever-shifting membership, the Bath Storytelling Circle has been comfortably and convivially settled at the Raven, in Queen Street, central Bath, for a decade now - meeting on the third Monday of every month, and regularly attracting audiences of between twenty and forty people. Over that time, a wide range of performers have shared a great diversity of material, of voice and of individual being. And the quality of listening has developed and been sustained too over the years, with one of the strengths of the Circle being the 'safe' space it provides for beginners to start out and for the more practised to take performance risks.

The Circle has also maintained its special place in Bath's community cultural context over the years, through exercising its 'one rule' (no reading from paper) - which has encouraged some of Bath's poets in particular to commit their works to memory, following the lead of their storytelling and folksinging colleagues. And as Anthony Nanson, the Circle's founder, wrote at the time of the circle's tenth anniversary, "The Circle has nurtured the storytelling scene in Bath by promoting performances, workshops or courses in the area during the customary 'announcements' at the end of the session's first half, which serves also as a pulpit for all manner of counter-cultural shenanigans. It's become part of Bath's civil society." ('The Benefits of Amateur Storytelling', Storylines, Society for Storytelling, Spring 2010). The Circle also contributes strongly to informal community-building and has become something of a local forum for disseminating pro-environmental ideas ('Voices in the City', Chapter 13 in 'Storytelling for a Greener World: Environment, Community and Story-Based Learning', Hawthorn Press, 2014).











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