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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.

Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief #dennis2018

I am pleased to announce that I will be telling Nigel Auchterlounie’s Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief this summer.  This isn’t just exciting because it’s Dennis the Menace but because it’s a brand new title being released by Beano Studios and Templar Books in May 2018 and they are entrusting it to me.

Below is a list of presentations which includes libraries and literature festivals.  The eagle eyed will notice that this year I’ll be doing a full week in London with further dates in the East Midlands and more work than ever in the North West.

I am also pleased to announce that Joseph Attenborough will be creating another original composition for the story and I’ll be sharing a poster for the summer created by Dan White on this website soon.

We are still three months away from the first date and there is still a lot of work to be done but I’m hoping that we can deliver something very special for the summer.  To keep up to date on how I get on use the hashtag #dennis2018 when searching for the project.

The Big Malarkey in Hull –  24/6/18

Manchester Libraries – 27-28/6/18

Oldham Libraries – 4/7/18

Sefton Libraries – 5-6/7/18

Wirral Libraries – 9/7/18

St Helens Libraries – 10/7/18

Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival 2018 – 24/7/18

Thurrock Libraries – 25/7/18

Southend Libraries – 25/7/18

Derby City Libraries – 31/7/18

Redbridge Libraries – 2/8/18

Westminster Libraries – 3/8/18

Hackney Libraries – 7/8/18

Brent Libraries – 8-9/8/18

Kensington Libraries – 10/8/18

Cheshire East Libraries – 13-14/8/18

Cheshire West Libraries – 15-16/8/18

Rutland Libraries – 21/8/18

Nottingham City Libraries – 22/8/18

Luton Libraries – 23/8/18

Bexley Libraries – 28/8/18

Trafford Libraries – 15/9/18

Bolton Libraries – 6/10/18

Tom Palmer’s “The Last Try” dates

The War GameFollowing the announcement of my project with Tom Palmer and Hull Culture and Leisure Ltd I am delighted to share the dates of the project.

Tom Palmer’s “Last Try”

Dates (times and venues tbc)

9th February 2016 – Hull

10th February 2016 – Hull

22nd February 2016 – Wakefield

23rd February 2016 – Bradford

24th February 2016 – Bradford

25th February 2016 – St Helens

It has taken a lot of coordinating to get this far and I’m grateful to Tom Palmer and the libraries involved for their support.  It’s a very exciting to think that next year I’ll be working in the heartland of Rugby League and I can’t wait to get stuck into the project and bring the story to life.

Today though (October 10th) it’s Grand Final Day and I’m a Wigan fan.  If you’re going to the game enjoy yourselves and I hope to see you in 2016!

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.