Category Archives: Birthdays

Partying into 2019!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a peaceful festive period and that the post Christmas blues haven’t set in just yet. This Christmas I had a run of children’s birthday parties. They were all so much fun and I’m just bursting with excitement to tell you more about them..

I started with a 1st birthday party in a play cafe in Islington. It was a bit of a tight fit but with shuffling tables (and parents) about we managed to create an adhoc performance space where I led a song, rhyme and storytime similar to the work I do for nurseries and libraries. I did a 30 minute set and tacted on some of my favourite global folk tales (Indian and Turkish) due to the wide age range at the party. Here’s the host feedback:

“I was a bit apprehensive as I had not seen John live however he was brilliant! and most of all the kids loved it just as much as the parents.”

Whilst the first party was fairly straight forward the second party was an absolutely bespoke project as I retold Chris Van Allsburg’s Polar Express for a book loving six year old in Greenwich. For reasons to do with preparation time and the difficulties I can have getting performance rights I decided quite early on that this would be a narrative storytelling (an abridged but interactive version of a far more elaborate story). Rather than just more drama roleplay activities, as it was a party I interspersed the storytelling elements with traditional party games like Follow my Leader, Blind Man’s Buff and Pass the Parcel. Here’s the hosts feedback:

“John managed to take a story we’ve read 1000 times and turn it in to a new and exciting adventure for my son and 20 of is friends. He held the audience of 3-6 year olds throughout and was energetic, innovative and entertaining throughout”.

For the last party I did something really quite exciting and at the same time really quite terrifying; I presented a who dunnit? for nine year olds. The party was held in a Pizzeria in Chingford and the eight guests were seated at a table. I shared a scenario about a missing birthday cake and then cast the guests as characters in the story. And do you know what? The children really got into it. They enjoyed playing the game of detectives and just as importantly I didn’t get thrown out of the restaurant for being a rabble rousing nuisance!

So three parties in two weeks. A very special first birthday, a retelling a family’s favourite story and a risky concept in a restaurant. Each had its challenges but they were a lot of fun and now the parties are over I want to do them all over again.

If you know somebody celebrating a birthday or are looking for party entertainment at affordable rates contact me to discuss how a storyteller can help deliver a unique and memorable event.

Verity Beatrice Kirk

Verity Beatrice Kirk was born on the 14th February 2017 at 4.09am.  Mum and baby are well and beautiful.

Verity (from Veritas meaning truth) – In 2012 Lauren and I married and had our wedding reception at Conway Hall in London, home of the Ethical Society.  Above the stage was the quote from Hamlet “To thine own self be true”.  It seemed appropriate for a vet and a performer to marry under that banner and it seems appropriate now as a mantra for our daughter to live by.

Beatrice – keeping to the Shakespearian theme, Beatrice features in “Much ado about Nothing” and is of course one of the Bard’s strong willed women.  The name also means bringer of joy (and she’s certainly done that in our house!)

So she’s here, Verity’s story has begun and life will never be quite the same again.  Every time I tell a story, wherever in the world I am I’ll be telling it for my beautiful daughter.  Welcome to the world VB!


A letter to Ezra..

I was recently asked if I would contribute to a young man’s life book.  I’m sharing it here because I hope its relevant to other young people.  This is what I wrote:

Dear Ezra,

First of all Happy Birthday!  I vaguely remember being thirteen.  It was tough but I got through it and so will you.  Your Mum and Dad asked me to write something for your lifebook so here it is:

Here’s a slice of perspective for you.  Supposing you live to be 81 years old (I know that is a strange thought when you are coming to terms with being a teenager) the following points will apply:

1) You will have slept for around 200,000 hours – that’s a massive amount of time so I suggest avoiding it (particularly when at music festivals).  May be you’ll be tired but you’ll achieve more (see point two).

2) You will have worked for around 81000 hours – that’s based on you working 35 hours a week for 45 years.  Again I advise avoiding it or at least doing something cool which you won’t resent.

3) At 13 years old you had 90% of your life ahead of you – that is seriously exciting.  I hope you enjoy every second of it; challenge yourself to be your best, cherish the highs and get through the lows.

4) Your teenage years will have represented 4% of your life – it may seem crazy when your body and emotions are changing and when you are being bombarded and information, choices and unless you’re very lucky, exams, but however hard it gets remember that 4% is nothing – you’ll get through it and be free to get on with the remaining 86% of your life.

5) If your teenage years represent 4% of your life, what percentage would you give to some of your “friendships”?  1%?  0.1%?  If you love somebody hold them close and share your life with them -this isn’t a dress rehearsal so fill your life with those you value.  When you meet (and we all do) opposition don’t waste your time with hate; show them how to live better.  Many of your acquaintances will be distant memories for a lot longer than you ever know them and why should 0.1% of a life ruin a good thing?

6) If some of the people you’ll meet are there and gone in the blink of an eye, what about your family?  My Dad once said to me, you can’t choose your family, and it’s true; the day will come when you fly the nest and make your own way in the world but your parents and your siblings will always be there for you and you’ll be stronger for it (honestly).

In the heat of the moment there could be rash choices which later become regrets.  I encourage you to take a breath and a slice of perspective.  Does it matter that I can’t watch my TV show – probably not.  Life’s a marathon and not a sprint.

So Ezra on your thirteenth birthday, as you journey into adolescence remember to love and live well and don’t worry about today because today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

All the best,



An Unbirthday Party

A Birthday Party is a very special thing.  When a child reaches the age when there is innocent pleasure in parlour games and jelly and ice cream its up to you to take advantage before this briefest of windows closes and they become too cynical for pinning tails on donkeys.

In the planning and execution of a Birthday Party its worth remembering that you are creating an indelible memory which will effect the child’s relationship with birthdays forever.  Some of my clearest childhood memories are from such parties: the joy of presents, the disappointment at losing party games, the sickness caused by too many sweets and too much excitement.

DSC03063Organisation shouldn’t be taken lightly.  There’s the cake, the birthday tea and of course the party bag and prizes.  The song says “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”; whilst it wasn’t necessarily referring to the party organiser, in an age of competition between parents the pressure to find an edge will drive you to distraction.

A storyteller offers a party just that edge.

It has been my pleasure to offer my experience to both children’s and adult birthday parties where “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was an overarching theme.  For a children’s party I appear as The Mad Hatter, weaving Lewis Carroll’s poetry into an afternoon of games and activities ranging from group storytelling to decorating paper hats.  In the case of adults I work as coordinator and consultant, bringing a team of performers to mingle at the party.

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.For any age group a storyteller adds value to the celebrations.  Storytellers will delight and entertain guests whilst a strong sense of the narrative can define and guide a party purposefully with energy, colour and imagination.  The ability to collaborate with a storyteller means that the party organiser is able to request personal touches as your wildest dreams are brought to life.

The legacy of great storytelling at a Birthday Party isn’t difficult to quantify and will make all the hard work seem worth it.

“That was the best birthday party ever!”

“That was brilliant!”

… or sometimes – “thank you”.