Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
9:36 AM 7th November 2021

Settle’s Online Storytelling Festival Bucks Trend With Radical Vision To Make Arts Accessible For All

Dame Marina Warner. Image credit Dan Welldon
Dame Marina Warner. Image credit Dan Welldon
At a time when entertainment is making a return to in-person events, local arts charity Settle Stories have a radical vision to make arts accessible for all. They are gearing up for their second online festival - Yorkshire Festival of Story - after unprecedented success last year.

The question driving this year's Yorkshire Festival of Story (YFOS) programme is: “if once upon a time starts now, how do we get to happy ever after?”, and audiences worldwide are invited to join the conversation with interactive discussions, performances and masterclasses.

The festival will run from the 12th to 28th of November and will rely on public donations to ensure it can reach those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, as well as rural community groups in the Craven area.

The formerly face-to-face event saw a more than threefold increase in attendances last year and feedback suggests attendees want it to stay online. The festival will remain online to enable audiences of all backgrounds, including those with disabilities and mental health challenges, to access the performances.

Sola Story
Sola Story
This year, New York-based award-winning storyteller Laura Simms will present Rejoice Regardless, a show that uses mythic tales to provide a means of recovery in these demanding times. African storyteller Sola Story will explore the notion of “happy ever after” through his telling of the Epic of Mil Baraka. In panel discussions Dame Marina Warner will investigate how fairytales help us navigate a better future with experts including fairytale scholar Jack Zipes and Professor Cristina Bacchilega from the University of Hawai’i-Manoa.

This year’s Festival Guest Director is well-known poet and prizewinning children’s author, Kevin Crossley-Holland, best known for the Arthur trilogy, for which he won the Guardian Prize. He explains: “There really is nothing like this festival. Last year we reached a global audience and built a strong online community. As a small rural arts organisation nestled in the Yorkshire Dales, it’s an honour to digitally bring such a variety of content to audiences which ordinarily may not be able to access the arts. Also, being able to offer audiences the space to explore what ‘happy ever after’ could look like in the intimacy of their homes, feels timely and special.”

Settle Stories attributes part of last year’s success to events being live and available for a time-limited period. The festival welcomed local Yorkshire audiences, but 79 percent of online attendees were new to the Yorkshire Festival of Story. Central to this achievement was online community building. In November the festival will once again offer audiences the opportunity to interact through live Q & As, to get up on their feet in lively masterclasses, and to join festival organisers and special guests live on the festival living room sofa.

Laura Simms
Laura Simms
Artistic Director and CEO Sita Brand comments: “I can’t wait to welcome everyone back! I’m so excited to be looking at how we can use epic, myth and fairytale to explore how we all want the world to look next. What’s more the festival is entirely free again. Given the difficult times we still find ourselves in, it’s important we can do this to ensure it’s as accessible as possible, especially to those who wouldn’t have been able to travel to Settle for the festival, whether due to a disability, cost or geography.”

View the full Festival programme here: