'whenever a story is told, teller and listener embark upon a journey of inner and outer exploration. Through a process of connection with the story's content we are able to discover the personal meaning it has for us' Alida Gersie and Nancy King

We offer performances, workshops and residencies both specifically relevant to the National Curriculum and concerned with a more holistic approach to education -cross curriculum,cross cultural, multi dimensional.


SNAIL icon
An illiterate farmer took a letter
to Nasrudin Hodja.
"How do you expect me to read this?"
asked the Hodja.
"Surely you can read," cried the farmer.
"You wear the turban of a learned man."
"Alright" said the Hodja, handing over
the turban. "You put it on and then
you can read the letter!"


Narrative meanders in and out of song, slipping easily from one style to another. Themes are followed with humour and ingenuity, following thin threads of reason and connection, winding through pathos, philosophical fatalism, stark realism and fantastical dreams.
Tradtional tales told with contemporary relevance, the present reflecting back on to the past.
Rozzums and riddles, dances and dilemmas. Will you get them or will they get you ?

Helen specializes in stories that connect real and imagined or inward worlds (including urban London lore). Her style incorporates a rich range of riddles, rhythm, rhyme and rozzums, interwoven with music, song and sometimes dance. Her aim is to unite, excite, move and amuse, develop awareness and, most important of all, get people talking.

Helen and Rick work with all ages -pre-school to adult.
Our workshops aim to pass on particular skills and develop understanding through practical and enjoyable participative group activities.
Workshops may be one off or part of a series.
They may be run by Helen or Rick individually or together.
they can be used in many ways, and are designed to suit specific requirements - eg.
-to enhance specific skills (eg. language)
-to relate to curriculum requirements
-to support special needs
-to encourage social interaction
-to fit into a specific theme
- to provide new inspiration
- etc etc etc.
- For your convenience we have broken down our work into different areas, and listed samples of the sort of activities that might take place, but this is intended to help you to taste the range of possibilities, rather than being a 'list of ingredients.'
- Workshops are only designed after discussion with the venue/booker, and are frequently adapted after meeting the participating group.

"writing is a dance for the hand "(Japanese caligrapher)

As any teacher knows, there is an infinite number of ways to approach writing skills.
Helen has run many different kinds of writing workshops for many different groups, with widely various objectives
Eg. Family integrated early years workshops
Inter-schools KS2 extended writing development
One off writing inspiration sessions for KS1 , 2 and 3
After school club sessions
but work always starts with the spoken word in some form or other.

Why start with the word ? SNAIL ICON
1) This is partly to facilitate involvement. Since writing requires effort many need to begin by discovering what they wish to express in this way (something they want to spend time on; to have a chance to change, even redraft; something they want to last beyond the moment; something they want to externalise to the extent of being able to see what they have said.)

-'The craft of writing is essentially taking the familiar and illuminating it so that we see it in a new light -in great writing-as for the first time'
Paul Johnson - author 'A Book of One's Own'

2)It is also because, as a storyteller/writer, Helen approaches language aurally, as well as visually -the sound, rhythm, cadence of individual words and phrases,
the effect of rhyme or repeat alliteration in poetry or rap,
the character of the voice 'speaking' in letters or peronalised prose,
the 'colouring' we use in description -which senses do we unconsciously use most: visual? aural? tactile?-do we know? (If we explored this first through written exercises our conscious awareness might have time to intervene)
the shape/characteristics/structure of story , and how this helps draw the listener/reader into the imagined world )

-'storywriting is language in its highest form…the externalisation and imagizing of the hidden world of the unconscious…the handling of archetypes'….
Paul Johnson

From the spoken word, Helen's literacy workshops can move into 3 main areas

A - Development of story on the page, and related offshoots (storyboarding, mapping, listing ingredients (recipes) to planning, plotting, writing, redrafting a full length story or even a novel. (See Frances Fisher, PUBLICATIONS page, and Education PROJECTS subheading

B - Exploring the process of writing as a symbolic representation of sound and meaning, through looking at various scripts (eg Egyptian hieroglyphics, Mexican codices, Indian chitrakathi, shorthand etc.) .

C - Making (and writing) Picture Books.
This is both thoroughly enjoyable and immensely instructive. Helen has both combined forces with established artist bookmakers for extended projects (Gavin Rookledge, Les Bicknell, Jonathan Korejico) and run many shorter se
Workshops are minimum 2 hours; all day is better, suitable for all ages -primary, secondary, teachers. (2 day post SATS "from story in the head to book in the hand" workshops are now the most popular for Yrs 2 and 6)

"To watch that boy go from being disruptive to totally absorbed and proud of his work proves to me that this is real education." Parent, Gt. Bedouin School, 2001

In general, Helen's workshops are concerned with -
Emotional and imaginative involvement in narratives of all kinds
developing language skills
Encouraging confidence to speak
Considering purpose of speech
Retelling of traditional tales
Structure of story/song/poem/rhyme/riddle/
Creative improvisation and story-making

'An awareness of the fundamental rules and patterns of spoken language prepares the ground for managing similar structures in written language. The recognition of aural components in speech and song feeds into phonological awareness in reading and writing. An understanding of different modes of speech informs awareness of different categories of text. The verbal process of selecting the right word or sequencing the order of events is a prototype for planning, drafting and revising a written text. The capacity to predict outcomes in a told story; to argue issues; to improvise verbal descriptions of people and places; to play with words by recognising ambiguities - these oral skills are the pivotal building blocks of language development and are actually crucial to the acquisition of literacy skills'.
Kevin Graal 'Expanding the Frame'

Workshops usually last 1-2hours.

KS1 (4-7yrs)
Story emphasis is on 'patterned' traditional tales which allow maximum room for group participation, repeat phrases, songs and chants.
Shorter tales and rhymes are used as 'models' which the children practice retelling, and from which they may make new versions (sometimes retaining the beginning or an integral element to give 'shape' to the new work).
Longer stories are used to set a theme or mood, perhaps dealing with certain issues, but above all stimulating the imagination and involvement of the group. These may be halted halfway, or turned into a dilemma, to give wider opportunities in storymaking.

KS2 (8-11 yrs)
Story emphasis is on those tales which encourage discussion and problem solving-eg dilemma or riddle stories, and those which echo experiences or feelings relevant to older children -legends, folk or fairy tales with one foot in reality. This does not mean they have to be possible, or realistic
True life experiences are also used as a basis for both story sharing, focusing on aspects of telling, and development of new stories.
Other storymaking elements include - ending a story,
using a specific story pattern as a structure for new narrative (eg. Repeat chorus; rap; ballad styles; tall tale format)
weaving a new story around an object, or a picture
selecting 3-4 cards with suggested characters/situations/quests/magical powers.
building a story line by line, in pairs, or in a circle
Story genre and structure are also considered (difference between myth and legend etc. ; structural shape of narrative types, story 'boning' exercises etc.)

KS3 and 4(12-18)
Emphasis here is on the connection between traditional folk material and contemporary teenage storytelling -eg -old legend vis a vis urban myth,
riddles and rozzums in relation to jokes and anecdotes;
on puberty stories intended for young adults, drawn from a variety of traditions; on dilemma tales and discussion;
on personal and family stories, including the meaning of names etc;
and on telling styles/ways of narrating, including some consideration of different dialects etc. (practical exercises in pairs and small groups)

Emphasis is on group and paired work,very much concentrating on the spoken word, aural mnemonics,body language, imaging and drawing rather than writing (although writing may arise as a result)
Story types include
1)-life stories, true experience
2)stories/games/rhymes with repeat phrases and mnenomic feature -depending on the age range this may include rap and choral pieces, patterned nursery tales that are common to many countries, accumulative narratives etc.
3) folktales that use a lot of dialogue
4) dilemma and problem solving stories to encourage discussion /creative argument.
5) fables

Teacher training/inset
Teachers workshops include plenty of age specific stories and practical exercises to take away, with a range of suggestions on how to utilise them (eg. call and response story starters, group settler games, use of objects or visual aides to overcome initial nervousness etc)
But they are also concerned with the whys and wherefores of using story and related materials in the classroom, with particular reference to those cultures for whom traditional storytelling is an intrinsic part of education.
Finally all workshops include something -story, proverb or song- that is just for the teachers benefit-in acknowledgement of the work they do, and the pressures that many are under.



With this group,many of the activities involve copying and using simple repetitive rhythms. They may start as clapping patterns which later become played on a mixture of drums, bells and shakers. Some of these patterns may also be linked to story, song or to rhyme. The first steps are to aquire and maintain a sense of the beat. I would introduce the idea of rhythms in speech and show the relationship with rhythms in music. All these activities contribute to a programme that meets many KS1 requirements.

"He ensured that all the children had the same opportunities to learn, spoke positively to the children at all times and made sure that the efforts of each individual were recognised by the rest of the class" teacher - St Thomas' Primary school, Birmingham.

Here the point is to consolidate the sense of the beat and to start inventing original material from given models. I often start with rhythms played on the body which can then be played on drums - many of them learnt first hand from young drummers around the world (Morocco, W.Africa, India). After this, I encourage children to make up their own - sometimes alone, sometimes paired. This develops both a rhythmic sense and bodily dexterity.

"He taught me how to play the drums and really now I think I'm quite good at playing them" Charlotte -aged 9

I also use call and response patterns using questions and answers from everyday speech as repetitive rhythmic templates. We think about why we choose to use certain words and how we emphasise them and how changing these will change our rhythms of speech. We make clapping patterns and later, instrumental patterns out of our original phrases - again, this draws on traditional learning methods from many countries. This activity is clearly relevant to language and literacy work as it develops awareness of pattern, choice of words, tone, timbre and emphasis. Having established the paired format here, I may put 3 or 4 pairs together to create cross-rhythms.

"He taught me how to make up a rhythm and keep it going when everyone else played a different one against me" Ashley - aged 8

Cross rhythms are later developed,again by spoken phrases. Dividing the group 3 or 4 ways, I give each group a phrase to be repeated. Holding one against the others is a challenge. If this works, then I would develop these patterens through clapping and then using instruments.

I also play a variety of musical circle games - for example - a collective (usually non-English) refrain is sung followed by a 4 beat gap into which the participants improvise on instruments that are passed around the circle systematically. this gives repeated opportunities to try different patterns on different instruments in a very structured way. It allows each child to work at whatever level they can, as nobody is more important than anybody else. This has proved to be a valuable activity to bring out shy individuals and 'under-achievers', who can experiment without fear.

With certain goups I spend time introducing more abstract musical ideas. This may be listening to a piece of perhaps non-rhythmic music and then painting a response to it. These paintings may then be discussed by the class and used to provide their own original stimulii to new music.all the activities described satisfy KS2 requirements.

"The children all thoroughly enjoyed each session. They were completely caught up in the rhytmic clapping games which are, even now, a major feature of each playtime.Their inventiveness is amazing - children who perhaps had little confidence in their academic ability discovered that here was something at which they could be seen to do well.Children who perhaps found it hard to be part of a group activity were encouraged and gradually accepted by others as rick was careful to praise every effort
" I believe that my class gained a great deal from those few days with Rick. They now have a tremendous enthusiasm for music and there is not a single child who is reluctant to perform in front of classmates. For myself as a teacher, Rick has given me a wealth of ideas - not only for music but for drama, art and maths. Above all, Rick has taught me to stand back when children are being creative, and to give each creation time to develop" Linda Hollington - teacher Brookside school, Telford

- The beauty of the approaches and material employed with KS2 children is that they are all appropriate for KS3. The patterns may become more complex and the expectancies higher, but the basic building blocks of creative work remain the same.

- Similarly, all the activities described up to now are perfectly suited for teachers working with musical ideas. It depends on the particular group in question how advanced these concepts need to be. Teachers can then use or re-mould given ideas to suit the context and level at which they are working.

"Rick's wide instrumental repertoire, his ability to cross artistic and cultural boundaries, his communication skills and his personal enthusiasm make him a valuable asset in any programme of arts education",

Neil Rathmell- Arts Advisor Shropshire


Helen offers focus on particular periods of ancient history for primary ages (usually KS2),bringing the period alive with her knowledge ofrelevant scripts, folklore and oral history as well as documented history

Some aspects of Ancient Greece and Egyptian
Romans - especially in Britain
Anglo-Saxons (she worked for the British Museum on their 'Making of England-Up Until Alfred' - exhibition

For year 5 and KS2 and 3 she concentrates on 'Modern' (20thc.) History, and the Exploration of oral sources - see Community /Local history pages.



1987-90 As Director of the National Folktale Centre, Middlesex Polytechnic; Helen was part time tutor on polytechnic B Ed and RSC language courses; compiler of community language collections (audio/video/print etc.) Consultant to numerous literacy and oracy academic and community projects.
1987-8 Visiting storyteller for North Tyneside Oracy Project; exploration of childrens lore, and development of storytelling skills in primary and middle schools
1988-9 GCSE Curriculum Devt. Comprehensive School's Residency Pocklington, Yorks
1989 Instigator and tutor Lambeth Women's ESL storytelling/writing course
1990Tutor for Wiltshire Schools Oracy Project "Children as Storytellers"
1990 Lincolnshire primary schools in partnership; storytelling residency and bazaar
1990-2 ESL through stories; British Council work Norway and Egypt 1990, N.India 1991, Portugal 1992;independently arranged, Mexico 1992
1992 Plume secondary school, Essex; storytelling residency
1992 Poole schools consortium + Breakout Theatre;storytelling exploration for 4-14 yr.olds
1993 Olga Primary School, Tower Hamlets. Term long residency with Rick Wilson, + video project for 3-4 children from each class (%-11 yrs.); development of storytelling, musical and social skills; collection and presentation of children's lore in whole school event created and co-ordinated by the children involved in project.
1993-4 Sunderland Childrens Live Literature Residency (culminated in"Frances Fisher RIP," a novel co-written with Year 5 and 6 children from four schools) NB This project was a library initiated and co-ordinated project and won the 1995-6 Libraries Initiative Award.

1995-6 Tales from trees storytelling residency, Gossops Green First and Middle Schools..
1995-6 writer and co-director with film maker Korak Ghosh on bilingual film for children produced through residency in John Cass primary school.(LAB/John Cass funded).
1997-8 Brick Lane Girls Project. Storytelling/ family history/ writing project with 14/15 yr. olds, Bethnal Green College of Technology/Eastside Bookshop (E. London.)
1998 -9: Expanding the Frame - Telling Tales within the National Literacy Framework- LAB, Croydon, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Nat. Lit. Scheme supported project project exploring the use of storytelling in the Literacy Hour. Storyteller/tutor and overall producer of video and booklet resource pack (now available).
1998-Feb 99: Southwark Festival intergenerational Bankside Local History Story Swap project. (Working in residential homes, day centres, libraries and primary and secondary schools) Storyswap booklet/tape compilation (S. London.)
1999 Spitalfields Festival -storyteller,writing tutor, director for united schools 'New Works' performances (E. London.)
Summer 99 -music and words workshop leader for Plymouth Education Action zone
2000 continuing - member of the National Theatre's multi discipline Transformations project, exploring the effect of arts input into the development of literacy in KS1 and 2.(Tower Hamlets).
2001 Torriden Jnr school, s. London, writing residency concentrating on Myths and legends, old and new. tour of schools in Iceland, telling tales of Britain.
2001-2 Talk Tent - National Theatre and Art of Regeneration - major schools focus on tales and journeys. Storytelling Tutor and inventor of interactive resource pack.
2002-3 Yatra - Sacred Journey exhibition (Surrey) - gallery guide,educational workshop leader for KS1,KS2, KS3, GCSE and adult groups.
2003 Storyteller, project leader for Bromley StArt project - stories leading into art and textile work for nursery groups. Epping Forest Arts / Countryside Commission Picnic Project,working with schools and local adults to create site-specific performances.
2004 Storytelling tutor in residence for William Brookes secondary schools focus on 'Hidden Much Wenlock' (FATE's Winter's Edge Festival). Open Door Educational Project ( Ramayana epic, puppets and gamelan) for Redbridge school, Southampton. 'Saltney Storybox' - St. David's High school and Flintshire libraries - teenage tellers working with community volunteers and local history project on local stories and lore. 'Kahini' - storytelling project in Tower Hamlets schools for creative Partnerships / Apples and Snakes.
2005 2 month storytelling tour to Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and Peru, in schools and TEFL centres.
2006 Storytelling, music and visual arts development projects at Severndale Special school,Shrewsbury and at Penn Hall Special school, Wolverhampton. 'Word Up' - storytelling development project in Liverpool. CARA 2 National Action Research pilot project for Creative Partnerships programme exploring development of Creativity through storytelling KS3 and KS4-emphasis on reflective thinking,effective documentation and a clear,analytical final report.
2007 Creative Partnerships literacy and storytelling project with St Augustine's First school, Draycott in the Clay, Staffs. Llansilin Cross-Country Story Walk conceived and performed with Llansilin school and community, Powys. Festival of Words - Creative Partnership project with Bamboozle Theatre Co. for SLD primary school children,Leicester -focus on development of speech and communication through story.
2008 Telford Culture Zone. Storyteller/writer for schools creative evaluation writing workshops KS1 & 2. Barbican Project - Children as Storytellers - Tower hamlets school & Barbican Theatre, London. Telling Tales - schools project, Knowsley, Liverpool. Apples & Snakes - Creative Partnership project in E.London school.
2009 Maesydre literacy project for Powys CC - whole school storytelling scheme. William Martin school, Harlow - week long storytelling and storycloth making project. The Portal Project - storytelling and drama CP scheme at Meadows school, Oswestry (with Fiona Collins). Dingle Infants school, Dudley - CP Seaside storytelling project. Middlewich school, Cheshire - focus on Africa for KS3.
2010 Term-long literacy project at Marner junior school, London (with Debbie Gunaratne);Lines of Desire - story and visual image project for Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown for various Powys schools; Whizz - a term-long story/rhythm and skipping project (with Rick Wilson) at Trefonen junior school, Shropshire. Also, smaller projects and schools visits to Heathfield Middle school, London; Middlewich school, Cheshire; Woodside primary, Oswestry; Llanfyllin High school, Powys and Severndale School, Shrewsbury.
2011 After Offa - schools and communty social history research project- Shropshire/Welsh borders; culmination of Lines of Desire project;schools visits to Hall Green, Birmingham and Parkfield Community school, Wrexham
2012 Conclusion of After Offa; term-long story/book-making and music scheme at Maesydre primary,Powys (with Lucy Wells and Rick Wilson); story development work at Keele university, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh and at Ripley Arts centre, Bromley, Kent. School visits to Bishop Hooper,Ludlow and Penn Hall,Wolverhampton.
2013 Kensington Palace Project - 5 original stories for performance for under 5s, both in the Palace and at various venues in Kensington / Chelsea; A writing and story residency for children at Whitechapel Hospital throughout the summer.
2014 A story and music making scheme for excluded secondary pupils at VTEC Gateway, Shropshire; Working for Everyday Magic in London schools doing development work on a number of themes including the Ancient Greeks and Shakespeare.
2018 A term-long book making, story making,literacy and music project with Rick Wilson at Black Lane primary school near Wrexham, funded by Creative Partnerships Wales.



1985-90 Numerous teaching and production related schemes as drummer for the Academy of Indian Dance,working in London primary and secondary schools and at Surrey University; other independent schemes with dancers Shobana Jeyasingh and Jayachandran..
1991 WOMAD tutor for adults during Performing Arts Weeks in UK and Finland.
Tutor for Youth Theatre Pocklington (E.Yorks) production Drum Talk.
1992 Week long storytelling and music residency with Helen East in Suffolk - primary age project - Tall Stories Big Sounds .
1993 Term long residency with Helen East at Olga Primary school (London) on storytelling and music. 1994 Visiting Artist in schools and in the Community for Shropshire Education project - Young At Art -
1997-98 Walking the Downs - a large scale music and environmental project for primary, secondary and community participation with Glyndebourne Opera Education Department, Sussex.
2001 Musician in Residence at 5 Shropshire primary scvhools as part of County wide project - The Creativity Hour.
2001-2002 Musician in Residence at London (Southwark) primary schools - Redriff and Alfred Salter - developing creative music through drumming and rhythm.
2003 Term long residency at Norwood Secondary Girls school (London) building 3 drumming groups for end of term Carnival production. Education back-up work (with Helen East) around Yatra exhibition (Surrey).
2004 Week long project (with Helen East) at William Brookes Secondary school (Shropshire) on local lore.
2005 Story and music development work (with Helen) in schools in Birmingham and Wolverhampton in collaboration with Creative Partnerships.
2006 Story, music and visual art development work (with Helen, Lucy Wells and Fran O'Boyle) at Severndale Special school, Shrewsbury. Story, music and visual art development work (with Helen and Lucy Wells) at Penn Hall special school, Wolverhampton. Story and language development work at St. Thomas and Nelson schools, Birmingham
2007 Jeskyns Wood, Kent - outdoor environmental arts project with KS3 (with Red Earth). Cross country Crossroads - musical storywalk with KS1, Lansilin school, Powys. Festival of words - Creative Partnership project with primary SLD children, Leicester. Images from Sound - Matisse inspired art and music days (with Lucy Wells) with KS2 pupils at Longden school, Shropshire.
2008 South Liverpool Learning Network - music workshops for visiting schools. Severn Project - contributory performance project for KS3 with Bridgnorth Endowed school.
2009 Maesydre storytelling and music KS 1 & 2 project for Powys CC. William Martin school, Harlow - week long residency on storytelling and storycloth making. Dingle infants school, Dudley - CP project on storytelling of and by the seaside. Middlewich school, Cheshire - focus on Africa for KS3.
2010 Whizz project (Creative Partnership- with Helen East) at Trefonen primary school,Shropshire on story and music. Heathland middle school, Brent -summer festival days on story and music and Middlewich school, Cheshire - 2nd focus on Africa for KS3 (both with Helen East).
2011 After Offa- Living Life along the Border (Heritage Lottery funded) project including 4 primary schools - gathering, telling and recording local stories from the English / Welsh borderland.
2012 Maesydre storytelling,book making and music KS1 project for Powys CC (with Helen East and Lucy Wells).
2013 Redlands Drumming Project - a 3 month residency in 2 adult psychiatric wards in Shropshire introducing and developing drumming and rhythm; Kensington Palace Project - music and sound for Helen's original stories for under 5s.
2014 A story and music making scheme for excluded secondary pupils at VTEC Gateway, Shropshire. Working for Everyday Magic in London schools doing development work on a number of themes including the Ancient Greeks and Shakespeare.
2018 A term-long book making, story making, literacy and music project at Black Lane primary school near Wrexham funded by Creative Partnerships Wales.

Wenffrwd, Llansilin, nr. Oswestry SY10 7PZ
or 56 Westgate road, London SE25 4LZ
Phone: 01691 791333 or 0208 662 0736
e-mail: suitablelanguage@gmail.com