Seeking Stories for historic project

Home Out of It: Tonic Tales for Troubled Times seeks stories! Deadline May 30th at 11:59 pm NST

St. John’s Storytelling is calling Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, home or away, to participate in one of the largest story collection projects in our province’s history!

Home Out of It – Tonic Tales For Troubled Times” invites folks with strong connections to our province to submit their stories. We want to hear the stories you told your kids, the tall tales from grandparents or your own heartfelt personal story. From those submissions, St. John’s Storytelling will be releasing an eight episode podcast hosted and produced by award winning radio documentarist Chris Brookes.

The project follows in the footsteps of one of the greatest artworks to emerge from a past pandemic: Giovanni Boccacio’s Decameron. The Decameron is a collection of 100 stories of love, tragedy, wit and guile, collected in Italy during the scourge of the Bubonic Plague.

Sharing stories is the way we’ve maintained our connections to each other during this current global pandemic and with our rich and varied culture of storytelling it seems only right that we scour the world to create a compendium of tales from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Anyone from our province or who has made their home here, or those that have a strong connection to Newfoundland and Labrador can submit stories. We want this project to be as expansive and rich as our communities are, featuring stories from seniors, and folks who self-identify as Indigenous, persons with disabilities, 2SLGBTQIA+, and newcomers.

Stories do not need to be COVID19 -themed. Any theme or style, contemporary, historical, folk tale, fairy tale, personal, mythical, legend, ballad or rhyming recitation; we want to hear them all! “Home Out of It” seeks to paint a portrait of a contemporary province that weaves together modern stories with those that have lived here for generations.

Click here for all the details. Share your story in this historic project and we’ll share it with the world. 

Black Lives Matter


The St. John’s Storytelling Festival has long maintained that the act of sharing stories is, at its core, the art of recognizing in one another our humanity. It is the act of connecting across all manners of difference in the hopes of understanding one another. During times of political unrest, during times of revolution, it is crucial we listen to the stories of the oppressed. We must familiarize ourselves with the lives and histories of those suffering violence. And as we listen, we must listen with our whole hearts, and all the empathy that we can muster. We must right now listen to stories of Black people in Canada and the United States, so that we may understand, and join and support in their struggles.

With love and solidarity,

June 3rd, 2020 

Media Contact:


We stand with Black communities against white supremacy, police brutality, and systemic oppression.

We, the undersigned, join with the artists of Newfoundland and Labrador in challenging systems of oppression and systemic racism that endanger members of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities. We acknowledge Ktaqmkuk as the ancestral homelands of the Beothuk and the Mi’kmaq, and Labrador as the ancestral homelands of the Innu of Nitassinan, the Inuit of Nunatsiavut, and the Inuit of NunatuKavut.

Events that are now unfolding across the United States demonstrate the extent to which Black communities face ongoing police-sanctioned violence. The same has long been true in Canada  and we must take action now. Collectively, we need to push towards meaningful change within our organizations both to combat these realities and to support anti-racism initiatives, including those that work against anti-Black racism.

Our organizations adamantly commit to the following:

  • Decolonizing systems of oppression through solidarity practices. We will ensure we have structures of accountability in place within our own communities. We refuse to prioritize or maintain cultures of white privilege that reinforce inequity and jeopardize human safety and freedoms in NL and beyond.
  • Promoting meaningful and tangible inclusion that addresses exclusionary economic policies impacting BIPOC  individuals.
  • Acknowledging and addressing existing social constructs that perpetuate racist worldviews that normalize inequality and police brutality. Ideologies of whiteness as default or norm contribute to the dehumanization of BIPOC individuals. We refuse to accept this status quo as it continually puts community members in danger and normalizes police violence on our streets.
  • Further increasing diverse publication, production, and programming through our respective fields while challenging ownership and appropriation of voice narratives, ventures, and organizations.
  • Using our platforms to dedicate space and uplift BIPOC artists and their stories.
  • Leveraging our resources to shift focus on and provide new professional, paid, and equitable opportunities for BIPOC artists throughout our province.

Black Lives Matter. Ending all forms of racism and violence against Indigenous, Asian, Migrant and Newcomer, Muslim, and Latinx people and communities matters. Ending Patriarchy, Islamophobia, Transphobia, Anti-Semitism, Ableism, and Sanism Matters.

These commitments cannot be realized alone. We need to dismantle white privilege, re-learn behaviours, re-imagine systems, and foster critical dialogue with BIPOC communities. We will hold ourselves and our organizations accountable in consultation with BIPOC communities. We will ensure that these actions are effectively implemented and maintained within our organizations.

We therefore issue the following challenge to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador:

  1. Join us in calling on all levels of government to condemn police brutality targeting BIPOC communities and to commit to work towards decolonizing and dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy embedded within our society.
  2. Join us in calling on all other organizations to do the same and to re-publish this statement and/or add their organization to the list of supporters.
  3. Join us in committing to hold, and calling on others to hold, anti-oppression workshops and discussions focusing on decolonization and combating racism within our organizations, and to offer free anti-oppression workshops that are open and accessible to all members of our communities.

We recognize that this is an ongoing process and are committed to furthering our knowledge, practicing accountability, and taking all necessary actions to dismantle white supremacy and other systems of colonial violence.

Signed in solidarity by the following creative sector organizations of Newfoundland and Labrador:

Eastern Edge Gallery

Riddle Fence

St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival

Artistic Fraud

Business and the Arts NL

Neighbourhood Dance Works

Lawnya Vawnya

Union House Arts

Persistence Theatre Company

St. John’s Storytelling Festival

St. Michael’s Printshop

Resource Centre for the Arts (LSPU Hall)

Wonderbolt Productions

Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador

Tuckamore Festival

Sound Symposium

Visual Artists of Newfoundland and Labrador

Association of Professional Theatre of Newfoundland and Labrador

Best Kind Productions

Winterset in Summer Literary Festival

The Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society

First Light St. John’s Friendship Centre

Eastern Owl

White Rooster Theatre

Black Lives Matter-NL:

Anti-Racism Coalition of NL:

Black Canadian Studies

Welcome, Mariella Bertelli!

We are thrilled to be welcoming Mariella Bertelli for a series of events this March including a solo performance, classroom visits, a workshop for storytellers, and a featured performance as part of our World Storytelling Day event. Mariella is an accomplished teller whose range of stories rooted in cultural and family histories in Italy include the magic of fairy tales and the incredible resilience of families across trials, tribulations, and generations.


Mariella Bertelli is a Toronto-based storyteller who tells fluently in English and/or Italian. She tours in Canada and internationally with a wide repertoire, from longer narratives to tiny tales, telling to people of all ages.

She is a longtime and experienced storyteller, with a wide repertoire of folk, fairy and literary tales, especially from her Italian heritage. She has also developed stories from her background and life experience, including her own newcomer’s experience from when she first arrived in Canada as a teenager.

Mariella’s style is varied, she adapts her craft to suit young and older audiences. She sometimes uses other arts, like Kamishibai, Bankelsang (Cantastorie style storytelling), Crankie and Tall or Miniature Puppets. Her rhymes and rhythms enchant little ones while her family sagas of migration and endurance captivate older children, teens and adults.

As a storyteller and through her work as a member of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People), Mariella is also an advocate for children and young people’s rights to stories, literacy and information. She has developed and delivered training programs on reading with newcomers and refugees in Rome and in Toronto. She has been involved in the IBBY Italia project, to build a children and young people’s library on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where thousands of refugees have been passing by.

Through this project she has initiated another project dear to her heart, with the high school students on the island: to translate into Italian a Canadian book, Stormy Seas, Stories of Young Boat Refugees , written by Mary Beth Leatherdale and illustrated and designed by Eleanor
Shakespeare, published by Annick Press in 2017. The book was published in Italian in 2019 by Il Castoro Publishing House and presented at the Bologna International Book Fair last April. She is also currently a judge on the International jury for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award, also known as the Little Nobel Prize, administered by IBBY International.

Mariella was one of the featured national storytellers for the TD Canadian Children’s Book Centre Tour In 2018, traveling in Labrador, where she reached various communities and many children with her stories. In 2019 she represented Canada at the International Storytelling Festival in Sharjah, U.A.E.

She has been storytelling at National and International festivals, events and conferences in Canada, the U.S., South Africa, England, Belgium, Italy; she has taught storytelling courses and has presented a variety of workshops to adults, children and families; she has been a speaker on storytelling and is active in the storytelling world community.

Derrick Dymond receives Emerging Teller Award

The St. John’s Storytelling Festival is thrilled to announce Derrick Dymond as the recipient of the Storytellers of Canada Emerging Teller Award for Newfoundland and Labrador! Derrick will work with mentor Gary Green to prepare a story for the Storytellers of Canada AGM in Fredericton, NB at the beginning of June and will be featured in several upcoming St. John’s Storytelling Events throughout the year. Derrick has shown great promise and we look forward to hearing more from him.


Congratulations Derrick!


Derrick Dymond was born in St. Johns Newfoundland and moved to his present hometown of Torbay as a teenager in the early 70’s. He remembers as a teenager hanging out at his future in laws as they would host parties full of traditional Irish and Newfoundland music and dancing and how this influenced his love of all things traditional. It wasn’t until his wife Patsy got tired watching him play air guitar and bought him his first real guitar at the age of 45 that he immersed himself in learning to play and sing.

Derrick is chairperson and a founding member of the Torbay Folk Arts Council, as well as a member of the Torbay Folk Group, and the Killick Folk. After watching his good friend Gary Green tell his stories he decided to take part in a storytelling workshop and is hooked. He told his first story as part of the workshop and is now excited to be part of the storytellers circle.

Giddy String Grins! With Anne Glover

By Andrea McGuire

Friday’s storytelling session at the A.C. Hunter library was jam packed, with “just a little squeeze space left,” as host Catherine Wright pointed out. There were a slew of kids seated on the floor at the front, while parents, storytellers, and other intrepid adults hung towards the back.

Why had we come here? Anne Glover, who tells stories incorporating nimbly looped string figures (think Cat’s Cradle), had come to tell her stories for kids. Many of the kids and grownups here had already seen Anne this week—some through Anne’s school performances, some at her workshop, and some at Tuesday night’s Story Circle—and everyone seemed excited and ready for more.

But first, we were treated to stories by two young storytellers: Benjamin Wright, age 11, and Julianne Taylor, who is a Grade 6 student at St. Mary’s Elementary. Benjamin told a story he made up himself, called “Tom and the Talking Fish.” His mom, who was also the host, said the story was “inspired by Benjamin’s love of nature,” which was easy to perceive. Benjamin’s tale was set in a pond by the forest, and his cast of characters included water sprites, a talking fish, and pixies with magical powers.

Julianne followed this with her telling of “Snow White and Rose Red,” a Grimms fairy tale about Snow White and her redheaded sister (but technically not that Snow White: see The pair make friends with a bear, but run into some trouble with a malevolent dwarf. When Julianne voiced the dwarf’s complaints (crying out “Me beard, me beard! You cut off me beard!”), everyone started to giggle.

Anne Glover then took the floor, beginning with the tale of a baby rabbit who’s often left home alone. Throughout, Anne showed us her string figures—a turtle in the baby rabbit’s picture book, a fox running along a path—which always yielded much oohing and aahing. But Anne’s stories for kids are also full of gestures, some coming from sign language, which sparks mid-story guessing games. At one point, she slowly swayed an upright arm in the palm of her hand. This meant “forest,” and everyone mostly got it.

The kids were invited to jump like baby rabbits, make the sound of a key sliding under a stone, and name the baby rabbit’s uncle. Everyone was deeply invested in the twists and turns of the story’s plot. When the tale’s villain, the fox, disguised himself as the baby rabbit’s best friend, no one was fooled, and many kids cried out to the rabbit: “No! No! It’s a fox!”

The story ended happily, as Anne assured us it would. She then told a zoomed-in, oversized string story with a big yellow rope, where five kids played the part of five fingers on a hand. The story was about a monster with no friends, who wanted to catch them using his magic web (or big yellow rope). Every kid eventually wriggled free, thanks to two helpers enlisted for the great un-looping.  One exclaimed the moral, saying, “You don’t make friends by catching them! You make friends by knowing each other!”

Anne then invited five kids up to show some easy string shapes that kids could make. Together, they made string puddles, string teeter-totters, string tear drops, string platefuls of spaghetti, and gigantic giddy string grins. She closed by teaching everyone a string trick, “like a magic trick,” letting us in on a secret while likewise dazzling us all.

Any french-speakers with children aged 2 – 4 are invited to a string stories workshop / performance with Anne Glover at the Centre des Grand Vents, 65 Ridge Road on Wednesday, October 17th at 11 am!

Click to enlarge!

Stories & Songs; Siren and Otherwise

By Christine Hennebury


Our Wednesday story adventures began with a Community Culture Circle at the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre where activist and storyteller Tshaukuesh (Elizabeth) Penashue shared stories and fostered a lively discussion of Innu culture.

Next up, we headed to the Engaging Evenings event at The Rooms where Shoshana Litman ensured that the event lived up to its name. The audience was indeed fully engaged in her traditional stories from Israel, Afghanistan and Somalia and even lent their voices to a charming chorus to accompany the tales.

After ending on that high note, we traipsed over to ‘Ships at the Ship’ where host Randy Crane presided over an evening of stories that explored our complicated relationship with the sea.

Randy’s stories gave us a vivid glimpse into the hearts and minds of shipwreck survivors. We all felt as if we were right there with them, crowded into the Marconi House on the Florizel, or clinging to the rocks on the shore waiting for rescue. Just listening to him caused a huge storm of emotions.

Lynn Hamilton McShane and Eugene Kane also told a Florizel story, recounting a 1980s interview that Lynn did with her Pop, Tom Kane, one of the men who participated in the rescue and salvage operation after the wreck. Hearing his despair, his sadness and his resignation to the facts of a life near the sea was sobering and powerful.

Between the intensity of the shipwreck tales, we had stories of a lighter note.

Jim Payne regales us with a story of a fisherman-turned-cow owner, by rather nefarious means…

Dave Paddon’s recitations were charming, as always. In the first, we were carried along into a game of one-upmanship as two men tried to claim that they each had the better boat. We’re not sure it ever got sorted but we enjoyed listening as they tried to figure it out. And in the second, we found out all about how hapless boys went a bit astray while on a task for their mother (spoiler: she fixed it all up after).

Christine Hennebury told a couple of what she called ‘ship-adjacent’ stories. In the first, she reframed the story of a Siren into a feminist tale of a woman who just wanted to do her own thing. Her second story featured the vicious last words that the Pirate Anne Bonny said to her husband (note: those words were NOT love-adjacent).

Jim Payne’s stories about his brother being saved by a spirit boat and about the devil making a bad deal were delightfully rich in the daily details of life in fishing communities and spoke to a long history of shared understanding of the ‘the way things are here.’ If you ever have to make a deal with the devil, ask Jim how to get the upper hand.

Between Sirens and punts and shipwrecks and spirit ships, we had wave after wave of emotion at Ships at the Ship and we loved being along for the ride.

Tunes, tales, and triumphs! Storytelling Circle opens the Festival

By Andrea McGuire


Karen Carroll tells a tale of molasses and homemade bread

On Tuesday evening, the festival began with a Story Circle held above Rocket Bakery. Three storytellers—host Kelly Russell, Sharon King-Campbell, and Anne Glover—were slated to tell their stories in turn, along with anyone who wished to join the circle as part of the open mic. Nine storytellers were heard all told, including Dave Paddon, Stella Mair Evans, Patrick Kennedy, Gaurav Madan, Karen Carroll, and Angus Anderson.

The stories were set in both the faraway past and the here and now. We heard true life tales of incredible feats (such as running from Quebec City to Montreal in five days straight!), recitations about vegan sea creatures and talking ninja caplin, and a Jack tale explaining how Jack, the fairies, and the leprechauns came together and outsmarted some dastardly land developers. We heard folktales from way back when, a heartfelt ode to molasses and bread, and a modern day meeting of wits on Water Street. As they told their tales, some storytellers wielded mittens and rhyming couplets, while others used concertinas and string. But whatever their means, each teller unquestionably held the rapt attention of the room.

Kelly Russell began the Story Circle, leading with his memories of renowned fiddler Rufus Guinchard. At the time of their meeting, Kelly was 19 and Rufus was 77, and Kelly introduced himself by way of playing one of Rufus’ tunes, which he’d learned from a tape in MUN’s Folklore Archive. After describing this iconic moment, Kelly went on to play that very tune. At first, I almost felt taken aback—were we really listening to the tune that had started it all, before the duo began touring internationally? Kelly continued, telling more stories of tunes before playing the tunes—including how Rufus once woke him with a tune suddenly remembered (“Kelly, Kelly, wake up! I got another one!”­­) Every melody felt more and more resonant.

The next featured storyteller, Sharon King-Campbell, told stories about her grandfather, Frank, a well-read man with “long arms and nimble fingers” from Stratford, Ontario. Whether he was riding barrels over Niagara Falls to prove his sea legs, or winning bets for his vocabulary, Frank’s ingenuity always shone through. Sharon’s stories unfolded like folk tales set in the 1930s, and Frank’s tricky triumphs were easy to root for.

Anne Glover’s incredible String Stories!

Anne Glover, the last featured storyteller, wowed the crowd with her characteristic “string stories”— stories wherein key images and characters are formed through the manipulation of cat’s cradle-style string. Anne can loop string into houses and chairs, turtles and dogs. She can make a knotted bird slowly fly through the sky. What’s more, Anne performed all the characters in her story—including a snake, a chicken, and the mythical Anansi spider, amongst others—with total conviction. As Anne showed her string images around the room, taking care that everyone could see, I was reminded of seeing a picture book read aloud. But with Anne’s stories, the images are created in real time—you can witness the construction—and the looped figures carry a certain timelessness, while hinting at just enough of a form to spark images in the viewer’s mind.

Anne Glover’s string stories are truly not to be missed. She’s leading a string storytelling workshop on Thursday evening (October 11), telling stories to kids (and adults, as she assured us!) on Friday afternoon (October 12), and telling stories for Francophone toddlers and parents on Wednesday, October 17. For more details, click here!



Off to a great start!

Kelly Russell plays a jig to kick off the festival at our Story Circle!

The smiles on everyone’s faces at our Circle last night told a tale of their own, and it was the story of having a great time at our first Festival event for 2018!

Our host, Kelly Russell, brought us all together with his delightful combination of music and his music teacher and the creative ways they came about naming some of their tunes. He kept the whole evening in harmony, really (ha!)

Our featured teller, Sharon King-Campbell – who spent time over Thanksgiving Weekend practicing as she walked around town – shared some treasured memories of her grandfather, Frank. Now that we’ve all about his adventures, his handiness, and his expansive vocabulary, we feel like we know him all to pieces.

Dave Paddon was on hand to share a hilarious recitation about a kitchen full of fish that had us all cracking right up. You can catch more of Dave’s terrific foolishness tonight (Wednesday) at ‘Ships at the Ship’ at 9pm.

After feasting on Rocket’s delicious treats during the Intermission, we were back with more glimpses of the story delights that lie ahead this week.

Gaurav Madan, who will be part of Tales from Near and Afar on Saturday, told us an epic tale of a 5 day run from Quebec to Montreal. The story was terrific and, by the end, our legs were tired in sympathy! Angus Anderson, who will be back for Homespun Tales on Friday night, had us all in stitches with his anecdote about telling time with the sun.

We enjoyed finely tuned tales from a few more open mic performers before closing the night with our visiting teller Anne Glover. Anne wowed us all with a real treat: an Anansi tale. We didn’t get video evidence but we are pretty sure she actually turned into a turtle, a chicken and snake right there on stage! We also got a chance to see her magical string come to life. Her workshop on Thursday is going to be amazing.


This was great fun and we’re just getting started. See you tonight at:

Engaging Evenings at The Rooms with Shoshana Litman, 7 pm (free with admission)

Ships at The Ship! Hosted by Randy Crane at 9 pm ($5 cash at the door)


The festival is upon us!

OCTOBER 9 – 14

After months of planning, we’re just a day away from the start of our Festival and we are so excited to get the stories going.

As always, we look forward to welcoming our story circle regulars and some special guests for our week of stories. We’re thrilled by every single teller who is joining us and we’d like to extend a special welcome to some of our visiting tellers and people who are participating the Festival for the first time:

Anne Glover (BC) will be sharing some of her string stories with us,  Shoshana Litman (BC), Canada’s first Maggidah (Jewish Storyteller and Teacher), will be here to bring us some participatory stories and songs. And we’re welcoming to the stage some new local talent as well! Daze Jeffries has a folklore, music, and trans activism background and will be telling in a non-traditional, poetic format; Gaurav Madan, who has come by way of Montreal and Kingston but was raised in New Delhi, India will be evoking the sights, sounds and smells of places far removed from our chilly Fall evenings. And teller Tama Fost will be combining storytelling and throat singing like you’ve never heard it before…

…and that’s just the beginning of the variety of stories and tellers you’ll see at this year’s Festival!

Are you wondering how all of those styles and ideas will blend?

The answer is that they will blend PERFECTLY. It happens EVERY time.

We just love the way all of the tellers mix during our Festivals. It doesn’t matter whether they are meeting for the first time or if they have known each other for years, their passion for storytelling lets them find common ground and encourage each other.

Have you ever watched a storyteller relish another teller’s stories? It’s incredible to see. It might be that they have heard this story develop through various retellings, so they know all the ins and outs and enjoy the familiarity of the tale. Or this story or style might be new to them and they enjoy it both for the novelty and for the skill involved in telling it. If you watch a teller listen to someone else share a story, you’ll see smiles of recognition, sparks of surprise, and nods of appreciation because storytellers can admire the craft even as they get caught up in the tale.

The fun of seeing tellers immerse themselves in each others’ stories is just one of the joys of of the Festival for us. Another thrill is seeing the audience get carried away by a story.

When everyone first sits down, they get to chatting and there is a friendly buzz in the room but once the tellers get started a certain wonderful quiet falls. It’s almost like the room falls under a gentle spell and you can see everyone smiling, nodding, jumping in surprise together as the storyteller’s magic takes hold. Bringing that sort of ‘caught in the moment’ peace to a group of people is one of the reasons storytellers enjoy their work, and it’s definitely one of the reasons we host the Festival.

Another joy of hosting this festival comes from seeing all kinds of people jump into the fun and challenge of our Festival workshops. New tellers taking their first brave steps towards the stage, established tellers gathering new threads to weave into their tales, teachers, youth group leaders, actors, writers, and all kinds of others trying out some new techniques for their own work, and on then, the workshop leaders cheering them all on – it’s just amazing to be part of the whole thing.

We hope to see you this week, in the audience, on the stage or in a workshop, and we hope you enjoy our Festival just as much as we do!