Doncaster turns a page with brand new storytelling festival

02 Feb 2021
Storytelling Fest logo.jpg

Doncaster Stories and eight other cultural organisations have joined forces to create the town's first ever storytelling festival to celebrate diversity and different cultures and languages. The festival is bookended by National Storytelling Week and World Book Day with a month long programme of activities and workshops in between.

The storytelling festival is being hosted on the Doncaster Cultural Education Partnership website and involves several local organisations:

  • Doncaster Stories
  • Cast Theatre
  • Adult Family and Community Learning
  • Doncaster Libraries
  • BME United Doncaster
  • Hungry Little Minds
  • darts
  • Heritage Doncaster

Phil Sheppard, Senior Project Officer for Doncaster Stories, landed on the idea of a storytelling festival to create a programme of free (or subsidised) virtual events from different organisations that families and schools can access in one place instead of being overwhelmed by competing offers. Whilst COVID restrictions mean that the festival will be online for its first year, it’s hoped that in the future it can be celebrated with a series of free in-person events.

Research from the National Literacy Trust shows that storytelling has provided solace for young people during lockdown. Of the 4,141 children aged 8 to 18 who were surveyed, 1 in 3 said they were reading more during lockdown, 1 in 4 said they were listening to more audiobooks, and 1 in 5 said they were writing more often. The research also shows that audiobooks help children relax, whilst reading and writing helped children feel better when they couldn’t see their family and friends. The Doncaster Storytelling festival hopes to harness this increased literacy engagement with lots of feel-good activities and events throughout the month.

Activities include live workshops on Microsoft Teams, a young writers club with Cast Theatre, storytelling videos exploring different identities and cultures, book giveaways, and content from popular children’s authors. There will also be creative resources that take children away from screens after a day of home-learning such as using a dice to build a story and heading outdoors to play in the mud.

There’s already lots of things to get stuck into on the Doncaster Cultural Education Partnership website and more will be added throughout the festival. There’s even an opportunity for volunteers to create their own storytelling videos as part of the festival, and we’re especially interested in working with people from minority backgrounds – anyone wanting to get involved with the project should contact Phil Sheppard,

Phil Sheppard, Senior Project Officer for Doncaster Stories, said: “There’s always lots going on around reading and books at this time of year, spurred on by events like National Storytelling Week and World Book Day. So instead of organising lots of separate activities, we thought it would be more impactful if we all came together to create one big event under the same name. Doncaster Storytelling Festival is all about using the power of stories to celebrate diversity in the widest sense of the word and I’m really looking forward to spotlighting uplifting and empowering content.”

Susan Kerrigan, Culture Education Manager for Doncaster CEP, said: “The partners have pulled together some fantastic activities that both teachers and families can use to connect children and young people with creative activities at home. It would be lovely to see how our young people take part by sharing their photos and videos on social media using the hashtag #DoncasterStories. I can wait to see and share their creativity online.”