Tag Archives: Kingston

2017:the summer that zipped by at 100mph

So the six week holidays are coming to an end and another Summer Reading Challenge is drawing to its conclusion.  Once again thousands of young people have participated as readers and volunteers in libraries across Britain and once again I have played my small part in launching, enhancing and celebrating the challenge through storytelling.

This year my major project was Jeremy Strong’s “The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog”, a silly story about one boy’s efforts to train his chaotic pet.  I first presented the story in libraries in June and by the end of the summer between myself and Dan McGarry will have presented it over 80 times to just over 2500 people.  I have also been presenting Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

I have had a very good summer and a lot of people have said a lot of very nice things about my work (I’ve met lots of lovely people, worked in a couple of new areas and for the first time I have been receiving reviews on Facebook).  This has been very flattering but I feel it’s really me that needs to thank people for their contributions to what must be classed as a successful project.

Lauren and Verity – I love you both and I’m looking forward to a family holiday; you deserve it.

Jeremy Strong and David Higham Associates – the author of this fantastically silly story and his agents has been a very active supporters of the project and their encouragement and flexibility has been important.

Dan McGarry – I can’t take credit for all the presentations.  In Northamptonshire sessions were delivered at all but two libraries and Dan brought his unique twist to the presentation of the story.

Joseph Attenborough – this is the fourth project where Joey supplied an original soundtrack for me to work with.  Whilst some would say music is unnecessary I say the music is a vital contribution, setting the tone of the story and the atmosphere at key moments.

Dan White – another valued contributor, Dan’s image of Streaker at full speed has appeared in libraries across the country (at one stage it dominated my twitter timeline almostly entirely!) and has really helped to attract an audience to the project.

The Libraries – we can have the best project ever but without library staff support nobody would come.  This year more than any other it has become clear just how crucial good library staff and their relationship with service users is in building a suitable audience for events.  I have discussed advertising in this blog before and once again word of mouth proved the best way of drawing a crowd.

The service users – my style of storytelling relies upon interaction and participation (if you come to my event I’m going to spray you with water and stick a silly wig on your head).  It has been brilliant to see young people at my events up and down the country willing to get involved in my madness with good humour.  It has also been great to see so many people who I met in 2016 whilst doing Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” returning to hear about Streaker.  As one storyteller said to me, this is the ultimate compliment.

One of the privileges and pleasures of this year’s Reading Challenge for me has been talking to people about stories and books and recommending new and old stories to children.  It is quite easy to become consumed by the logistics of delivering events at multiple venues (believe me, it’s a mammoth task) and lose sight of what it’s all about; the pleasure of reading.

I’m not going to lie, there have been mornings when my body has told me that I’m no longer in my twenties and there have been late nights when I have felt desperately guilty for leaving Lauren literally holding the baby but I have enjoyed it and have already started work on next year’s challenge.

For now though I’m preparing for the new school year.  I do have some more reading challenge dates into the autumn and then some more public appearances into the winter including a couple of small festivals.  Keep an eye on my website and I’ll look forward to continuing to share my work and any developments with you here soon.   For now though, Streaker and I are off to pick out a sun lounger on a Spanish beach!


Things are coming together nicely for the summer tour of Jeremy Strong’s “The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog” and today I thought I’d share the poster image.

We are doing 99 presentations of  the story (I say we because these days its a team effort; Joseph Attenborough has agreed to create the soundtrack, the poster image for the project was created by Dan White and Dan McGarry is doing some presentations for me this summer so that I can have some time with my new family).  The dates are now up on the website so have a nose through and see if we’ll be passing your neck of the woods.

To keep in touch with what we get up to I’ll be using the hashtag #100mphdog on social media between June and October 2017.  I look forward to seeing you this summer!

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.