Words That Change

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Welcome > Archive by category "Finding Folk Stories"

A story that needs you: Speechless

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Please be warmly invited to the Ostadetheater, 18-20 April for a storytelling show about a storyteller losing stories and finding them again. The evening will be a set of stories within stories within stories, set to music. A little like Arabian Nights, but for the coffee and cheesecake generation.

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“Stories are an inseparable part of the human dream.” Robin Williamson

I’ve begun the Finding Folk Stories tour, to discover what a European version of this dream looks like. Originally imagined as a series of events in different cities, it is becoming a more all-embracing journey of deepening into story, and what this means for us as better people and members of our community.

I’m fascinated by European stories as the ones of other cultures seem so much more present and developed in their societies. It is also my own responsibility to know and penetrate my own culture before I can understand and relate to others’. Finally, the political conversation in Europe – of borders, currencies, government disputes and control – completely contradicts my experience of this wonderful continent of interweaving cultures, merging into and re-absorbing each other.

In September I travelled to Helsinki. Not just its bricks and water but its stories also. Markus Luukonen, of Samova, organised an outstanding night in an old nuclear bunker. The brilliance of the bunker was the long tunnel down which you had to walk to reach the main chamber. During a story, at moments of dramatic impact, a yell would boom up and down the tunnel adding both surreality and hilarity.

The Finns are serious types. Like the Dutch, they are straight forward and honest, but quieter. The months of snow must give them plenty of time to think. They speak softly, and consider gently until THWACK, a startlingly direct observation hits you squarely in your face. This can often be a sign that they like you.

The stories we heard that night were from the great Kallevalla, the Finnish equivalent of the Graeco-Roman Iliad, or Indian Mahabharata. The beautiful lines of poetry that mark its beginning were recited in Finnish by Markus Luukkonen before launching into a creation story of wonderful movement and timing.

In keeping with the theme that the journey is an on-going cultural exchange with one story from each event told further down the line, I told a story told by Sahand Sahebdivani at the tour’s first event in Amsterdam, relating the stealing of the the Shofar of Abraham by Ibn Dawd. Yvonne Karsten, meanwhile, told a cracker of a soul-sold-to-the-devil gypsy tale from Romania.

Markus Luukkonen recites the opening lines of the Kalevala

There followed a stunning open session when we learned about the touching origins of a jar of apple jam (brought live into the room!), a woman whose dog teleported back into a locked woodshed after being lost in a deep dark winter night, we learned that Finland looks like a woman, and heard about a woman’s journey from “the left ear to the right breast to the left knee.” You just don’t get that kind of information from a tourist office. Not so layered, not so infused, and not so interwoven with the livingness of life: renewed in minds, hearts and hands, shared with strangers newly become friends.

The recording device – wonderfully lent to me by the excellent Mickey Smid (writes music – hire him here) – had a few difficulties, by which I mean difficulties in my own understanding of how to turn it on. SOME of the stories were recorded, some not. I’ll share what I can soon.

A new story launches

The Finding Folk Stories journey is beginning this Sunday at the Mezrab in Amsterdam – in its last gig before it moves location.

Join us in this haven of stories for an evening of European folk tales. This will be the first stop on a tour that will take us around Europe joining people and their stories in spaces where their imaginations can live.

We’re finding out what Europe really is all about, through its stories, through its people, through it places.

Before the stories begin, as part of the same event, the Orange Tea Theatre company will bring some well-spoken English theatre.

Event details:

Domselaerstraat 120 1093 MB Amsterdam
Sunday 24 June
Doors from 19.00, starts at 20.00
Free entry – donations welcome to support the brilliant Mezrab

Facebook event page

And we’re off!

The Finding Folk Stories tour is kicking off in June 2012 to do exactly what it says: find folk stories and share them across Europe. Launching from Amsterdam’s storytelling heart – the Mezrab – the tour plans to take in Glastonbury, UK; Helsinki, Finland; and Syracuse, Sicily. Each location will feature local storytellers and provide an open space for anyone to come and share their favourite story.

Linking spaces together in a single journey means that we can share stories from different traditions and with different people.The tour is therefore a transeuropean cultural exchange as well as support for local storytelling scenes. By surfacing and sharing stories from around Europe it is hoped that an idea of our European spirit can emerge, serving as a basis for cross-cultural understanding and feeling of unity.

As the tour progresses sights, sounds and above all stories will be shared on this page for you to enjoy and participate in the tour from wherever you are.

If you have a favourite story you would like us to share along the way please email simon@wordsthatchange.nl. The best stories will either be told live at the circles or shared here on the Finding Folk Stories blog.

To stay updated click ‘Like’ on the Words That Change Facebook page. Looking forward to having you on board!

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“Simon has a very rare listening skill.  On the one hand, he can listen empathetically and unconditionally.  On the other hand, he refrains from validating your own explanations and excuses.  Without saying a word, and by simply listening in different ways, he can help guide you through your own thicket of doubts, fears, aspirations, justifications, hopes, and […]


I spent a brilliant time with a group of corporate leaders in the Autumn. Having organised a pitching competition, they wanted a little storytelling help, so I came in to enjoy their company. Now I must tell you, this was a very analytic division of quite an analytic company.  Being much more at ease in the creative […]

What to expect at the Media Trust story training for non-profits on 4 December – to which you can sign up here. It’s rare now to see non-profit organisations talking only about themselves. Instead they are becoming very good at telling the stories of other people: the ones that speak for themselves about the good […]