Jean Russell Storytelling Project 2016


The project was launched at the 2016 conference with a rousing performance by Anna of a Persian tale of Sultans, fat wives and skinny wives, rich men and poor men…

The Events


The day at Ipswich was organised in partnership with the Suffolk Young Carers organisation.  Young carers are defined as ‘if you are 9 – 15 years old and care for, or are affected by, a family member who has a physical or mental illness or who has a problem with the misuse of drugs or alcohol, you are a young carer’.  Suffolk young carers work with an advisor, meet other young carers at groups and activities and are supported at local schools. They are invited to talk to adults they can trust and ask for help if they need it.

The objective of the day was for the carers to have fun, listening to stories and learning how to tell stories themselves in workshops, by creating the end of a locally-based story and performing to the rest of the group. The story was devised by Anna, linking the graves of a horse and a young man in Mound 17 at Sutton Hoo with the medieval and European legend of the bay horse Bayard and his rider, Rinaldo.


Anna performed the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau to Year 2 and Year 3, first entering into a discussion with the children about friendship and particularly the difficulties of sustaining friendships within families. After describing how important ‘The Blessing’ on the firstborn son was in Israel, she encouraged the children to enact the story through call and response and song. At the end of the story, the children discussed how important it is to forgive your friends, how it is better to share than to compete and the need for forgiveness if friendships are to be maintained. The children also drew out the effect of lying to your parents and not to be mean to each other.

The second story – to Year 4 and Year 5 – was the more familiar Jason and the Golden Fleece, with the children taking on the roles of Jason, Scylla and Charybdis (called Rocky and Scarggy), Hercules, Achilles, Theseus and the entire crew of the Argonauts. This last was the favourite – the grunting of pulling the oars nearly raised the roof of the school hall. Jason retrieved the magical Golden Fleece to release his mother from his evil uncle and then Anna invited the children to decide on the uncle’s fate. She emphasised how, in storytelling and story writing, it is important to maintain consistency with the character of the protagonist. After many gruesome suggestions, the children finally agreed to give the uncle one more chance and to use the fleece to turn him from evil to good.


Aspire 2 logo

On Saturday 18th June children from New Christ Church School in Reading performed seven local stories taken from oral and photographic archives from Aspire2 and the Whitley Community Museum as part of the Light Up Whitley Festival. Click here for the press release. 

The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves, both on the 16th June when performing to the school, and on the  Saturday.


Earlier that week Anna had visited Robert-le-Kyng Primary School in Swindon with Aldbourne CBG and the whole school enjoyed working with Anna on the myth of Daedalus, Theseus and the Minotaur. Linking the imagination, vision and creative engineering skills of Daedalus to Brunel and the growth of Swindon as a railway town, the myth also explored themes of resilience, working together and striving to do one’s best.


  Bournville Primary School and Milton Park, Weston-super-Mare with North Somerset CBG 7th and 8th June 2016  

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Over 200 children from 5 to 11 years old were enthralled by Anna’s retelling of traditional tales from India, Ancient Greece and the UK – each one with its own moral: of enduring love, of friendship and of confronting fears. Anna skilfully used percussion, song and rhyme to transport her audience from the school hall to the highest mountain in India, to the woods of Mount Olympus and to the caves of ancient England. The children participated in the performance throughout – as Shiva and Sati, as Apollo, Cupid and Daphne, as the young King, chickens, trees, knights…and even the teachers were involved in the performances. Subscribe to our blog to read more and to keep up-to-date.

Great Western Hospital 14th June 2016

Working with Aldbourne Children’s Book Group. Anna worked with the Education Other Than at School department and Uplands School, using role play, story-making workshops and craft play to bring stories to life and have fun. And what a moving and inspiring day the first event with Anna Conomos, Jean Russell Storyteller, proved to be! The myth of Jason and the Argonauts capturing the Golden Fleece has never been so dramatically performed as it was by Anna and the 14 children and young people from Uplands School in Swindon and from the Children’s Unit at the Great Western Hospital.

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Armed with hats, feathers, Greek costume, a thunder stick, bows, arrows and cannon balls, Anna involved all the children in her performance storytelling. Theseus the Clever sported bright goggles and baubles, Achilles the Swift shot his arrow from his hospital bed and Hercules the Powerful rowed the Argo to Colchis with all his friends.


Anna then worked with older young people in the hospital’s Education Other Than At School department, helping them to create their own stories, looking at the ending of an African tale of the Tiger’s Whisker. The young people shared their endings and openly shared the message of the story for them: the need for patience, the need to keep trying and how fear can sometimes get in the way. They also explored with Anna how to physicalize the story, creating tableaux to build the scenes together before ending with a song.

Subscribe to our blog to follow each group’s projects as they unfold or follow us on Twitter. To read more about performance storyteller Anna, visit her web site: 

Oxford Children’s Book Group

OCBG will hold a very special two-day STORYFEST on the 17th and 18th November.  We are delighted to have been awarded a grant by the Ragdoll Foundation to run our Storyfest and to work with Anna Conomos, who is an internationally renowned storyteller. Anna will be coming to Oxford in November to work with children from three Oxford schools: St Ebbe’s, East Oxford First and New Hinksey. Naturally, Anna will entertain the children in her own lovely and inimitable way, by telling and sharing stories but she will also help the children and their teachers to develop their own storytelling skills.