Storytelling clubs in Stroud have been many and located all over – in the time that Fire Springs members Anthony, me and Kevan have lived in Stroud there have been several iterations. First, we were at the Angel Café Bar (now JRool…), then The Bear at Rodborough, then Anthony and I, with our fellow Stroud storytellers Di Humphrey and Fiona Eadie founded Stroud Story Cabaret in 2011, featuring guest artists, storytellers and musicians, from around the region. That ran for a couple of years, and then Kevan took up the baton and started the Story Supper at Black Book Café. He now runs Stroud Out Loud at Mr Twitchett’s in the Subscription Rooms. Anthony and I were delighted to be invited to launch their Gloucestershire Ghost Tales book there!
And what a great evening it was!
Kevan couldn’t be there – the lucky fellow is on a writer’s retreat at Hawthornden Castle, near Edinburgh – but his singer/musician partner (and newest member of Fire Springs!) Chantelle Smith was our wonderful host for the evening, bringing everything together with warmth and sincerity – and dealing with any technical hiccups with aplomb!
Anthony and I performed four stories from the book (there are twenty), topping and tailing each half with our stories. We wanted to show the real mix of tales we’ve tried to make in there, and my opening tale, ‘Molly the Dreamer’, is a grisly but comedic jaunt through the many, many fell things that lurk at the wonderfully named Woeful Danes Bottom, near Minchinhampton, which launched the evening with laughter. Anthony’s first tale was the heart warming ‘Save Me Tonight from Benhall’s Dreary Wood’ – though there is little left of the wood just outside Cheltenham these days to be dreary, as it is home to a housing estate and GCHQ… Anthony began the second half with a chilling tale of Civil War royalist justice that takes places near what is now the Second Severn Crossing, and I ended the event with The Christmas Ghost, a seasonal tale from the little church of St Mary de Lode, just outside the cathedral precinct in Gloucester.
The rest of the evening was floor spots, and we had a wonderful set of tales, songs, poems and even stand up! If you want to find out all the contributors, go to the Gloucestershire Ghost Tales facebook page and you’ll see everyone. Thank you all, you were all amazing! Highlights included Peter Adams stand up routine about getting older – with an emphasis on scatology! Who knew there was so much to look forward to? Fiona Eadie’s tale about St Nicholas acting Pied Piper to a plague of rats is a favourite of mine anyway, and it was such a treat to hear Glenn Smith telling his tale of what happens to the Good Folk at the day of judgement. Robin Collins, a Stroud Out Loud stalwart and true bard, shook us all up with the truth about sex – I will never be able to go out in the rain without thinking about his poem, I tell you! And Chantelle sang a beautiful variant of Bruton Town, a murdered lover song in which the dead man gets the last laugh, to an Appalachian tune I hadn’t heard before. When I say highlights, though, it is so hard to choose as it really was a fantastic night of local – and not so local, as we had performers from Swindon and Newent – talent.
- Kirsty performing The Christmas Ghost … see the book in the foreground (copyright: Chantelle Smith)
- Anthony performing The Royalist Ferryman (copyright: Kirsty Hartsiotis)
- Robin performing his poem about all natural sex… (copyright: Kirsty Hartsiotis)