Once upon a time, exactly ten years ago, two storytellers waved their magic wands, and Snail Tales appeared...
Yes, Snail Tales was founded by Chip Colquhoun and Amy Robinson on the 7th of the 7th, 2007 – a very memorable and auspicious date! In the October of the same year, Chip and Amy performed their first paid event – making them officially professional storytellers.
Then, just one month later, they landed a contract with a school for five weeks of storytelling fun. That was when they quit their day jobs, and never looked back.
Now, a decade on, we'd like to share with you some of the things that Snail Tales has achieved – along with all its storytellers and the many, many children and grown-ups in our audiences that have been a part of the Snail Tales experience!
And stay with us 'til the end, and we'll let you know how you can get a special discount off a visit to your venue or school – or (if you're in Cambridgeshire) a free one!
In July, Chip pressed play on a voicemail that began, “You've been accepted for an Arts Council grant...” at which Amy and Chip began to jump up and down shrieking and whooping, and had to calm themselves down before listening to the rest of the message!
That first Arts Council grant helped to create Little Birds, the very beginning of Snail Tales' landmark project (now a large part of our multi-day programmes) which has helped primary schoolchildren nationwide to create their own stories and hear them told on stage.
Since then, Snail Tales has received six further grants from the Arts Council, for projects such as A Bird In Your Ear, POPWOW, and The First King of England in a Dress – all of which have made use of stories created by children in our workshops, giving them the incomparable experience of knowing their creative output is being shared far and wide.
In September, Chip jetted off to Romania for Snail Tales' first overseas gig, where his long-suffering translator soon found that it's not enough just to translate a story – you also have to growl in a pirate voice, do the actions and get the audience to join in! Watch the hilarious result here...
Since then, Chip has taken Snail Tales to five other countries including Hong Kong, Italy, and Argentina – and most recently Turkey, as leader of a Comenius Regio project supported by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme.
In October, Chip took workshops on storytelling and magic to the European Puppet Ministry Festival – where he and Amy had first picked up their puppet and ventriloquism skills back in 2008.
Since then, Amy has made regular annual appearances at the festival, and in 2013 she published the book and DVD Performing with Puppets alongside One Way UK, EPMF's organisers and puppet experts. You can watch one of Amy's first delightful ventriloquism sketches here...
In June, Chip and Amy found themselves in a room full of people and cameras, making videos for the OUP's new Oxford Reading Tree Traditional Tales series. Since then, their faces have appeared in classrooms all over the world – and Chip's Big Carrot story has gone down in playground history! You can watch the videos by clicking here.
In September, Snail Tales storyteller L-J Richardson represented Snail Tales at the British Awards for Storytelling Excellence, where the projects A Bird In Your Ear and Little Birds were shortlisted for Best Collaboration. L-J now stars in the current Snail Tales tour of The First King Of England in a Dress!
In August, another Arts Council award allowed Snail Tales to develop A Pinch of Pickle, a Whisk of Wise (also known as POPWOW), in which the fabulous set included a giant saucepan, smoke effects, and rear projection.
The show also included the stomach-turning "Horrid Porridge" song – and certain children who heard it still delight in singing this to Amy when she least expects it!
In September, despite changes to the National Curriculum which scrapped speaking and listening requirements, Snail Tales was commissioned as a consultant for a London primary school – to adapt lesson plans with storytelling in order to deliver the National Curriculum. This was so successful that two more schools picked it up, and it is now our Ocean INSET programme for primaries.
It also had a major influence on our Comenius Regio project with the EU Lifelong Learning Programme, where – together with the teachers and local authorities from UK and Turkey involved in the project – we begin collecting the world's first truly scientific evidence of the benefits of storytelling in education.
3 years on, this research is being conducted with the help of the University of Cambridge and monitored by both the Education Select Committee and the Department for Education – with no less than Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP soliciting first proofs of the report. Watch this space!
In June, Chip's earthquake folk tales shook the Big Bang Science and Engineering fair. The folk-tale-and-science combo, commissioned by the British Geological Survey, wasn't the first example of Snail Tales storytellers rubbing shoulders with scientific experts to explore the world: they were already "Creating a Legend" back in 2013 – with David Ault, one of our storytellers, wearing his other hat as project manager for the regional Big Bang Young Scientist and Engineering fairs.
This year, Chip saw two of his books get published: A Little Sport in Littleport (published by Babylon Arts) and Cambridgeshire Folk Tales for Children (published by The History Press).
The theme of local tales continued that year, with a brilliant project in Brandon, Suffolk – where Snail Tales storytellers Chip and Anna trained and performed alongside local amateur dramatics group Shoestring Theatre – to roam the town as characters from Brandon's past, telling stories collected and written by Amy.
So here we are in 2017! And we haven't had time to mention so many memories and achievements, such as our first Christmas pantomime (three storytellers, twelve characters and an improvised ending!), all the times Guy Fawkes has been spotted resurrected in Cambridge, our sold out Bedtime Stories at Greenbelt Festival... and so many more.
A huge thank you to all the storytellers, artists and supporting artists who have been part of the Snail Tales team throughout the years: Tiffer Robinson, Emma Sutcliffe, Paul Edmonds, David Ault, Nick Lee, L-J Richardson, Olivia & Nathalie Balzano, Erica Terry-Rose, Emma Marsh, Peter Grainger, Anneli & Medjit Kaybullaeva, Kat Scheurer-Smith, Amber Lickerish, Sonia Blanco, Richard Ault, Talulah Mason, Sarah Phelps, Tilda Stickley, Gloria Lagou, Dave Hingley, Jane Bower, Anna Harwich, Martin Smith, and everyone else who has temporarily slipped from our weak and feeble minds – plus of course every teacher, venue programmer, priest, local councillor, parent, child, puppeteer, interpreter, etc that we've had the pleasure of sharing stories with!
Here's to another decade of inspiring storytelling!
Our birthday present... to you!
To celebrate our decennial, we're offering a 25% discount on all our bookings until 21st July!
It doesn't matter if you're a theatre or village hall booking a show, a school booking a week of workshops, or a parent booking your own young storyteller's birthday party – you can all get 25% off!*
All you have to do is put "Happy birthday!" in the comments when you send a booking enquiry using our contact form – which you can get to by clicking here.
And if you're based in Cambridgeshire...
...we're giving your school the opportunity to have a visit from us for free!
All you need to do is be in the Big Read & Write tent at the Cambridge Big Weekend on Parker's Piece tomorrow, Saturday 8th July, from 2:30pm – when Chip will be there to share stories and sign books.
If you buy a book, take it to Chip for his signature, and say "Happy birthday Snail Tales!" as he squiggles on it for you... you'll get a free visit to your school!**
It doesn't matter if you're a pupil, parent, or teacher – buy a book and say those four magic words to win the visit to your school.
The exact date of the visit will be subject to availability, and must take place before the end of the 2017-18 academic year.
Chip looks forward to seeing you there...!
* Offer excludes Storytelling Bonanzas for schools – but that's it! The discount applies to everything else.
** A Snail Tales storyteller will visit a Cambridgeshire school to provide a free assembly performance for up to the whole school for up to 30min, and (optionally) a workshop of up to 60min for one class.