Storytelling Festival offers local yarns and travelling tales

The St. John’s Storytelling Festival is taking place October 10-15

Jonny Hodder

In a province lauded for its proud storytelling tradition, the annual St. John’s Storytelling Festival has become the preeminent venue for celebrating the history and continuation of the craft.

The festival began as a humble two-day affair back in 2004, but has since grown into a weeklong series of storytelling circles, workshops, and performances by local and visiting orators.

Christine Hennebury is the current president of the St. Johns Storytelling Festival. She believes the ‘rich community’ of local storytellers contributes to the festival’s success. Jonny Hodder / Kicker

“We want to stay true to the sense of oral storytelling but we’re very flexible about what that actually means,” said  Christine Hennebury, president of the Storytelling Festival,.

Hennebury is a writer who describes herself as a lifelong storyteller with a “dramatic but very matter-of-fact style.” She’s been volunteering with the festival for about a decade and believes its continued success can be traced back to the local community of orators.

“Luckily, we’ve got a really rich community of tellers here,” she said, noting that the festival is also trying to find new ways to include stories and storytellers from underrepresented groups.

One familiar face on the local storytelling scene is retired pilot turned recitation artist Dave Paddon, who this year hosts the festival’s “Tales from Land and Sea” night at The Ship on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

Paddon grew up in Northwest River, Labrador, but it wasn’t until he and his wife moved to St. John’s in 2005 when he first felt the itch to begin spinning yarns of his own.

“It’s something about the culture and environment here, I suppose. Especially here in St. John’s, there’s a huge output of storytelling, a lot of very creative people. And if you spend much time with them, I guess it sort of rubs off on you,” he said.

“That’s all I can figure cause I have no idea where it came from. It sort of appeared out of the blue at the age of 52 and I’ve been going with it ever since.”

Retired pilot Dave Paddon began writing recitations after moving to St. John’s in 2005. He is now a regular fixture of the local storytelling community. Dave Paddon/Facebook

The festival regularly features some of the best local storytellers and visiting orators from countries such as Norway, Scotland and, this year, Ireland’s Jack Lynch and Len Graham, each presenting their unique tales at a variety of locations around St. John’s, including the The Ship, the Botanical Gardens, The Rooms, and The Crow’s Nest Officer Club, the unofficial core of the capital city’s teller community.

Paddon himself began his foray into folk stories at one of the Crow’s Nest’s monthly open-mic style storytelling circles. He believes the rich history of these venues helps draw out his own inner narrator.

“It’s a very storied place itself. My father was on convoy escorts in World War 2 and he spent a lot of time at the Crow’s Nest between trips across to Europe. So it’s a great pleasure for me to go down there any time and sort of absorb that atmosphere.”

The St. John’s Storytelling Festival begins on Tuesday, Oct. 10, and runs until Sunday, Oct. 15, at various locations throughout St. John’s. You can check out the full schedule at the festival’s official website.

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