The Jack Ring Cycle

National folk epics. Greeks have the Odyssey, Irish have theTáin cycle, Finns the Kalavala, Icelanders the Sagas, etc. Told or sung for hours, they echo the national character of those cultures.

In Newfoundland we've got... Jack.

Jack Tales encapsulate elements of the Newfoundland character that have evolved over five centuries: honesty, naïveté, wit, handiness, courage, humility, cleverness, generosity, and a general belief in the impossible (amongst others).

In our real history, these qualities have enabled Newfoundlanders as a people to become briefly courageous, inventive, passionate, influential, miraculous and worthy of belief. We accomplish great things, win the Bag of Gold and marry The Princess and live happily ever after... until, of course, the story ends and we are left to our benighted existence once again. We elect fools to public office, mismanage our finances, settle for cheap bargains and easy choices, argue over petty grievances, fight and bawl. We die on the ice.

So... we're bringing Jack Tale tellers together with thinkers and historians. Storytellers to tell the folktales; speakers to talk about Jack in our real history. And to lay the foundation for a Newfoundland national epic. Come and join us.


Anita Best was born on the island of Merasheen in Placentia Bay on Newfoundland’s south coast the year before Newfoundland joined Canada. When she was a child, television had not yet taken over as the primary source of entertainment, and for many homes on the island, electricity was provided by gas-powered generators. Singing, dancing and storytelling were the main forms of recreation and when the nights grew longer and colder and the fishing season was over, people would gather in each others homes and keep heart in one another with tunes, songs and stories. Anita performs the traditional songs and stories from her childhood, as well as ones she learned later from people in Bonavista Bay, Cape St. Georges and the communities in and around Gros Morne National Park. She also performs songs from Newfoundland’s beloved contemporary songwriters, Pamela Morgan and Ron Hynes. With her rich voice and warm personality she builds a marvelous bridge between old-time and contemporary Newfoundland song-making and storytelling traditions. Anita has received several honours for her work in collecting and disseminating Newfoundland folksongs, including the Marius Barbeau award from the Folklore Studies Association of Canada and an Honourary Degree from Memorial University. Currently, Anita works with the Community-University Research for Recovery (CURRA) project and has an office in the Bonne Bay Marine Station in Norris Point, within Gros Morne National Park. To hear Anita singing alone or with Pamela Morgan, visit
To book Anita, contact her at

Mark Cormier was born at Cape St. George on the Port-au-Port Peninsula, Newfoundland. He comes from a family of fifteen children, ten girls and five boys. Mark grew up in an home environment where accordion music and story telling were common place. Home language was predominantly French. His love for traditional music and story telling was instilled in him at a very young age and it was not until later in his life that he realized
this passion for the two. Mark started to play guitar at the age of fifteen but no one knew about it. He played in his room where no one could listen to him. After finishing high school, he took a trade as a short order cook but did not continue with that. He went to Memorial University of Newfoundland for four years and then returned home to teach. Teaching and story telling went hand in hand in the class room.He taught for thiry-one years and retired in June 2010. MArk started telling stories in public about five years ago.This is his third appearance at our festival.

Marjorie Doyle is an essayist and author of Reels, Rock and Rosaries: Confessions of a Newfoundland Musician. She has won Silver in the National Magazine Awards, and is a four time winner of NL Arts and Letters Awards. She’s been a reader for the CBC Literary Competition and a juror for the Canada Council, the NLAC and the NL Book Awards. Doyle has participated in the Writing Studio at the Banff Centre for the Arts and has read across Canada, including at the Royal Ontario Museum and at Words on the Water on Vancouver Island. In 2009 she was Haig-Brown writer-in-residence at Campbell River, B.C.
Marjorie has been a columnist with the Globe and Mail and music columnist for the St. John’s Evening Telegram. Publication credits include Descant, Geist, Queen’s Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, Antigonish Review, Ottawa Citizen, This Magazine, National Post, and The Independent. As a broadcaster Doyle hosted the national CBC Radio program That Time of the Night, and was heard frequently on Stereo Morning, The Arts Tonight, Gabereau and Morningside. She co-hosted the award-winning Doyle Bulletin with her brother John. She has lived in Canada, the U.S., Switzerland and Spain. She makes her home now in her native St. John’s. Visit

Mary Fearon has been performing professionally since 1997. During that time, she has performed and ran workshops at a variety of festivals, schools and other events both here in Newfoundland & Labrador and in Australia. Her interest in traditional Newfoundland material inspired her to co-develop the book, Over The Big Fat Waves; A Collection Of Newfoundland & Labrador Rhymes, Songs and Language Games.

Andy Jones has been a professional writer and actor for over thirty years. During that time he has been involved in a number of storytelling programs in the schools of Newfoundland and Labrador. He conducted the Oral Tradition Project, a series of workshops introducing storytelling to a generation of young Newfoundlanders by having them become storytellers themselves. At the first Longue Veille in Cape St. George, Andy worked with a community collective on Louis et Alain et La Bête  Sept Têtes, a story loosely based on Jack Tales told by Emile Benoit and his brother John Alfred Benoit. Besides performing for three consecutive years at the St. John's Storytelling Festival, he has also told stories at Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival and has toured Newfoundland Schools with dramatizations of a number of Newfoundland tales including Jack Meets the Cat, Peg Bearskin, Jack and The Three Giants and Little Jack The Little Fisherman (both from Freeman Bennett of St. Paul's, Great Northern Peninsula). Andy has recently worked with illustrator and puppeteer, Darka Erdelji producing The Queen Of Paradise's Garden and Jack in the Manger.

   (back to 2011 storytelling festival schedule)