Halloween is a time for telling tales, so we asked professional London storyteller Vanessa Woolf to recommend the best yarn-spinning nights in town
Samhain is almost upon us. The boundaries between this world and the next will be thin enough to pass through. At least that’s what storytellers will say to you. Londoners are rediscovering the joy of listening and adult storytelling nights are booming across the capital. A good story has enormous power to transport you from the daily grind to the wonder of childhood. But be warned: some tales are definitely not for children! On the right night, you’ll find material that is challenging, terrifying, erotic and bizarre as well as gripping and enchanting. London has much to offer the adventurous listener. Here are our top eight for the darker days ahead.
The Embers are London’s premier storytelling collective, featuring a kaleidoscopic mixture of awesome performers accompanied by live music. They are running a free open day where interested folk can tell, listen, drink cocktails, chat, sing, eat cake and discover how to be part of the magic. The Jago. Dalston Junction Overground. Sun Oct 27. Free.
Venture to the villagey outer reaches of Zone 6. Surrey Storytellers meet once a month with the cream of the UK’s storytelling scene. This month it’s ‘The Flaming Queen’, a haunting tale about a difficult journey from poverty to power told by the delightful and charismatic Lucy Lill. The Sanctuary, St Michael’s Church. Ewell West rail. Fri Oct 25. £7.
Cosy up in the Queen of Hoxton’s rooftop wigwam and listen to masterful storyteller Giles Abbott weave intriguing words of witches and giantesses. He can also be found one Sunday of every month in Viktor Wynd’s eye-popping Museum of Curiosities in Hackney, though you will have to pay. ‘Wicked Witches?’ is a rare bargain – where you get to enjoy Giles sharing shocking folk tales for the princely sum of zero pounds. Queen of Hoxton. Shoreditch High St Overground. Oct 30. Free, register in advance.
My very own night, London Dreamtime, has the best audiences in town. (Not that I’m biased!) Every month we go to a different location for immersive storytelling. Next up, on Halloween night, is a lonely shack in a dark forest for a tale that is occult, scary and (somewhat) true. Bring a candle and something to sit on. It’s hard to pay attention when your chair is a gnarly tree root. A secret location. Oct 31. £5. Book at www.londondreamtime.com.
Wander the misty botanical gardens of Kew then drop in for stories of gods, goddesses, adventurers and explorers told by beguiling story-weaver Rachel Rose Reid. Her tales are as mesmerising for adults as they are for children. Kew Gardens. Tube: Kew Gardens. Sat-Sun until Nov 3. Free with entry (£16.50, £4.50 child). Check timings in advance.
This is a rare chance to hear one of the most enduring and mind-bending legends born out of Japanese noh theatre. It’s all
about young love and retribution. Expert storyteller Laura Sampson will be joined by kabuki musician and ethnomusicologist Yui Shikakura for an unforgettable and emotional retelling of the classic Japanese chronicle. British Library. Tube: King’s Cross. Nov 5. £13.
Listen to the magnificent Nell Phoenix tell the tale of ‘Storytricksterland’, a place where ‘old bones speak, and even rocks want revenge’. The gathering is
part of House of Hackney’s intriguing Witchmas 2019 celebrations: two beautiful weeks of love potions, magic, talks and tarot. Get ready for a bold array of brutality and shapeshifting by a mistress of the art. If you can’t make this one, try Storynight at Torriano, a monthly session hosted by Nell in Kentish Town. House of Hackney. Shoreditch High St Overground. Nov 8. £7.
Britain’s first and best true-storytelling club. Spark is an always fascinating (sometimes cringeworthy) mix of ordinary people telling extraordinary and revealing real-life anecdotes. There’s also the opportunity to sign up and tell your own tale. Next month’s theme is ‘ghosts’, which can mean anything from a supernatural encounter to painful memories of a vanishing ex. Not everyone has a book in them, but everyone has a true story worth telling. The Ritzy. Tube: Brixton. Nov 18. £5.
Want more? Have a look at what’s happening at this year’s London Literature Festival
.... and find stories worth taking home at London’s best bookshops