Tag Archives: Croydon

Jeremy Strong, Nigel Auchterlounie and me

I have been very lucky to work with some top writers who also turned out to be very decent and supportive people.  They championed me and my work without ever seeing what I had done with their stories.  So this week I decided to share video of The Hundred Mile and Hour Dog with Jeremy Strong and Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief with Nigel Auchterlounie.  This was a bit daunting because whilst I am confident in my own work the last thing you want is for somebody to say they hate what you do and you should stop.
I needn’t have worried.  They both loved what they saw:
“Don’t miss John Kirk’s genius storytelling. He’s brilliant!  John Kirk brings stories to life in an amazing way and encourages children’s reading, writing and listening skills”.

Jeremy Strong

“That was excellent John. Thanks so much for showing me and thanks so much for doing it in the first place!  You had me laughing within the first couple of minutes.  Well done! I loved it!”
Nigel Auchterlounie
It was a great thrill to have the opportunity to tell these stories but I’m even more thrilled that having shared footage of my retellings both authors took the time to watch the films and comment on it.  I’m also glad because whenever I have told the stories I have seen myself as an advocate of the author; a sort of unofficial cheerleader for the books trying to encourage young readers to engage with their titles.
As a storyteller you come to appreciate that some words go further and mean more than others and after a lot of work and a lot of miles travelled these words mean an awful lot to me.

My adventure with Dennis continues! #dennis2018

In March 1951 Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher made their first appearance in The Beano.  Dennis, the trouble making school boy who terrorised his arch enemy Walter, proved popular with readers and soon became the Beano’s most famous character and their longest running comic strip.  As the world has changed so too has Dennis and as he approaches 70 years old Dennis, with his trademark black spiky hair and red and black striped jumper, is now more than a comic book hero, he’s a British institution.

In the summer of 2018 Dennis and his Beanotown friends supported The Summer Reading Challenge; a national reading scheme encouraging children to read in the school holidays and I presented Nigel Auchterlounie’s “Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief”.  To date (this blog was written in August 2018) my retelling of the story has been heard by almost 3000 children in public libraries across England.  The response from audiences and librarians has been overwhelming:

“Fantastic, lively, creative and entertaining storytelling.  Brilliant way of encouraging children to get interested in books.” Audience member, Nottingham City Libraries

“It was excellent.  A good balance of performance storytelling, great support for reading and literacy skills development…  The high level of participative activity ensures sustained engagement and enjoyment.”  Librarian, Derby City Libraries

Children have really enjoyed hearing about Dennis, joining his adventures and tackling the challenges of the Chamber of Mischief.  They have left our sessions buzzing about reading and the potential of books.  The response in cyberspace has been equally positive with lots of parents, grandparents and libraries taking to social media to share photographs and feedback using the #dennis2018.  It may have been a long, hot summer but Dennis has made it very enjoyable.

Now, with the kind support of Bonnier Publishing, I am pleased to announce that this storytelling session is to be made available for school assemblies and events.  For the next ten months teachers will be able to introduce the zaniness of Beanotown to their classes as Dennis helps us encourage and inspire a love of reading.

Nigel Auchterlounie’s “Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief” is published by Studio Press and is available through all good bookshops and public libraries.  If you are interested in my retelling of the story I will be visiting Bolton Libraries and participating in the Loogabarooga Festival in Loughborough during October.  If you’d like Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief to visit your school or event contact me.

Working with Dan McGarry #dennis2018

Way back in 2005 I was involved in a production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  The production was based in Cambridgeshire and involved us performing at stately homes and beauty spots across Cambridgeshire and east Anglia.  All these years later I am still in touch with some of those who were involved including Gemma Boaden.  Gemma is amazing.  She is very professional and thoroughly dedicates herself to whatever she puts her mind to and over the years has been a very good friend to me.  Since doing Alice its been my pleasure to drag her into projects including leading a BTEC acting course in Sutton and facilitating presentation workshops in Hertfordshire.  Gemma is now an acting voice coach at Northampton University, mother to two wonderful children and married to Dan McGarry.

Dan McGarry and I obviously met through Gemma.  He has a unique and enviable skill set as an uber-talented actor musician, stand up comedian, presentation coach and storyteller.  Most importantly, he gets my way of working and is happy to do likewise.  Last year Dan helped me deliver presentations of Jeremy Strong’s The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog and this year he’s agreed to tell Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief.  This means that when I am planning and preparing the project I have a sounding board and conspirator and if its not me leading the session I can be 100% confident that the calibre of the presentations will be incredibly high.

Dan McGarry will be presenting Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief

@ Croydon Libraries on 24th July 2018

@ Redbridge Libraries on 2nd August 2018

@ Westminster Libraries on 3rd August 2018

@ Luton Libraries on 23rd August 2018

@ Cambridgeshire Libraries on 30th August 2018

(Check the calendar for other dates)

What a summer!

The Mad Hatter in HullAs we reach the end of the summer holidays I find I have a couple of minutes to myself and that its time to begin reflecting on a very busy time.

Over the past seven or so weeks I have met a lot of people, visited a lot of new places and had a generally wonderful time.  I’d like to thank all the libraries (and festivals) who made me so welcome this summer.  I got booked up very early this year and so there were a few regular haunts that I didn’t make it to (Hackney and Brent) but I hope we can arrange a visit later in the year.

In 2015 audiences were generally up on previous years.  This may be because I offered a selection of stories; Terry Deary’s The Sea Monsters, The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!, Arabian Nights, Superlative Tales and The Elephant’s Child and other Just So StoriesLibraries were able to choose a story to suit their audience and I saw a lot of people at more than one session (ie they came to two or more different stories).  In one instance a mother and daughter travelled from Westminster to Feltham to see me again (get a map out, that’s a long way)!

StickersAs I went along I handed out business cards and stickers and have seen the reaction to my work on this website, my Facebook and Twitter pages.  I also used my tour to promote the work of Grace House and to date have raised just over £300.00 (to donate visit my Justgiving page).

Its been a fantastic summer and it seems strange that on Friday I’ll finish up in Walthamstow – it doesn’t seem five minutes since I visited Kingston to help launch their reading challenge!  Once the last dates are honoured I will look to the future and how I can continue to build audiences and offer high quality storytelling to libraries and library users.

If you joined me this summer and supported an event – thank you, it was appreciated.

Gods and Monsters: Approaching Homer’s Odyssey

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.A year ago I devised Dracula to coincide with The Summer Reading Challenge (SRC) 2013.  The piece was hugely successful and it has been my pleasure to present it across the rest of the country at schools and events since.  Time waits for no man and a year later I am about to embark upon an even bigger tour with an even bigger challenge: Homer’s Odyssey.

I had originally thought to give SRC 2014 a miss – Private Peaceful was a very demanding and very consuming project and I thought that perhaps I needed some time to reflect.  In February I was booked by Hammersmith and Fulham Libraries for four days of storytelling.  I knew that the obvious choice considering the theme this year is Mythical Mazes, would be Theseus and the Minotaur but I tell this already as part of my traditional storytelling offer to schools.  I briefly considered “The Secret Garden” as an alternative slant on the theme before settling on Homer.

There are many good reasons for children to hear The Odyssey.  It may be 3000 years old but its a really famous and influential story packed with Gods and Monsters.  Be it the Coen Brothers’ Oh Brother!  Where Art Thou? or the test of the Glass Slipper to find true love in Cinderella, shades of The Odyssey are everywhere.  The original is very skilfully written and as the plotlines merge it is clearly much more than an adventure story.  There is a strong message through the narrative about the foolishness of men and the wisdom and fortitude of women.  I have used this blog to talk about the role of strong women in fairy tales before and whilst Odysseus truly is a man of exploits and trials (many of which are brought about by ill judged decisions) loyal Penelope is admirably steadfast and dignified as she waits for his return.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.In recent months I have been doing more and more work around narrative poems.  I have explored Alfred Noyes’ Highwayman, Tennyson and even used narrative poetry as a device for telling the story of The Great Fire of Guilden Morden.  I have been keen to retain the sense of a narrative poem, its language and imagery, in my reinterpretation.  I say reinterpretation because mine will be an adaptation of Homer.  There is no way I could remember twelve and a half thousand lines of poetry but I hope that I offer a flavour of the journey as we follow Odysseus home in just 40 minutes.  My story must also have a sense of progression and therefore cannot afford to linger.  My other big challenge is making the piece accessible to very young audiences.  I want the experience to be fun but its important that the tone is right and any jokes mustn’t cloud the narrative.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.The result is a series of short stories which in the future I will be able to tell independently or present as a show following Odysseus from Troy back to Penelope.  I’ll be doing my usual array of voices, physical attitudes and helping the audience to identify Gods from the Monsters with suggestions of costume and some more visual setpieces.  (I have already redecorated my Kitchen with tomato juice in a failed attempt to produce a suitably gory effect for the blinding of Polyphemus).

If the preparation is an indicator of the summer to come then it’s going to be epic!

Dates from 9th July 2014 in London Libraries.  Follow link and check local listings for details of presentations.

“Saluting” my CityRead 2014…

Here is the story of my CityRead2014 in pictures.  The saluting came about when the group piled into the photograph at New X Learning.  It became a trend that would be repeated across London.

I started in Lewisham…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

and was next in Wandsworth.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

April rolled in with presentations in Barking and Dagenham…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

and Islington.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

As the Easter Holidays began the dates came thick and fast with presentations in The City of London…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

Waltham Forest…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

and Ealing.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

I did nine presentations in Croydon…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

eight in Haringey…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

with days in Merton…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

and Camden too – Phew!

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

When the schools went back we pressed on with huge crowds in Lambeth…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

Redbridge…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

and Brent.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

Not forgetting Hackney…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

Westminster…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

Kensington and Chelsea …

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

and Hammersmith and Fulham.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

As April ended I went to Bexley …

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

and Bromley to work with secondary school groups.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

My CityRead 2014 finished with May visits to Richmond Upon Thames…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

… and Kingston Upon Thames.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

65 presentations in 27 days across 23 different London authorities to 2300 people.

My CityRead 2014 was incredible.