Welcome to the 2012 Westcountry Storytelling Festival!

The festival will take place from Friday 24th to Monday 27th August 2012 (Bank Holiday Weekend) at Embercombe near Exeter.

Tickets: £85 (Adult) £35 (Child) Concessions & reductions for family groups.

Free camping & lots of accommodation options to hire.

“This festival is as near
perfection as it could be.”


Welcome to a magical, intimate, sustainable festival in the stunning setting of Embercombe’s fifty acres of broad-leaf woodland and wild-flower meadows overlooking Dartmoor and Haldon Forest. World class storytelling and live music, poetry, puppetry, circus show, giant puppets and entertainment for every age group, including babes in arms and older festival goers. Plus deep, dark, edgy tales and songs that explore our roots in this land and in story.

In the old English tradition of wassail, the festival will sing the land awake with story, song and spoken word and the storytellers will take us to marvellous, mysterious and macabre places we have never been before…

“At their heart myths are psycho-active, they do to a person what a dream usually does….. When you engage with story consciously then you open a door in your waking life for a great torrent of insight to come through.”
Martin Shaw

Visit the Red Tent, the Mythic Tent, the Pirate Platform, the Talk Tent, the Juno Tent, the biodynamic TasteGarden, Centrefire, the Grand Yurt, the Den, the O1, the Dragon’s Circle or spend a day in the Greenwood hearing tales of Sherwood and wild women of the woods around camp-fires under the stars. 100 artists in 20 venues over 4 days. 30 different workshops, 30 music sessions, plus talks and tours.

All outdoor venues have a wet weather contingency so the music and stories will be rocking whatever the weather. The camping field is quiet (but gently sloping!)and everything stops at 11pm. Dogs on leads are welcome. If the festival is not sold out by August (it was last time) – we will offer a limited number of day tickets. Watch the website for details.

See shire horses ploughing, watch threshing & try your hand at scything & bread-baking, take part in crafts, activities, survival skills, archery, film-making and song-writing. Eat wild stew and fabulous organic food from Embercombe’s own land and the Food Groove.

Embercombe’s founder Mac, an international TEDx speaker, will be telling stories and talking about Embercombe and its work and there’s a chance to try out several of the Embercombe programmes from Stone Soup to The Journey.

Top European Storyteller Jan Blake returns by popular demand as do UK masters Ben Haggarty and Nick Hennessey. Holly McNish will perform the poetry that won her the UK Grand Slam. Mythologist Martin Shaw will be there with his pirate crew in the Mythic Tent, Young Storytellers of the Year, Banterous Potential, are featured alongside Frankie Armstrong; Caitlin Matthews; Rachel Rose Reid; Jo Blake Cave; Usifu Jalloh; Clive Fairweather; Spindle Wayfarer and a host of international, UK and local teller, musicians, poets and other artists.

Midnight feast, dawn poetry, travellers tales and stories from the streets. Powerful myths, ghost stories, local tales, shamanic storytelling workshops, fire ceremonies, meditation, Tai Chi, laughter workshops, fairy feast, Green Market, a World Cafe discussion, Playback theatre, Earth yoga, land ballads, community choir…..it’s weekend that will delight, awaken and replenish you.

“A five-star festival!”



‘Patterns under the Plough’ is the theme of this year’s festival, paying homage to George Ewart-Evan’s inspirational book recording the oral & folk traditions of East Anglia. The focus of many stories at the festival will be the land on which we stand.  Patterns under the Plough is a reference both to farming and to the influence of the cosmos above us.


An open theme…

The theme is very open and invites anything from creation stories that tell how the land was made, through celebrations of our connection to the wild and tales of traditional land practices, to stories that question our current relationship with the planet and look to a future that may bring us back round to survival once again. There will be workshops and activities linked to all these themes.

For more information about the themes, click here.

The festival in 2010 sold out and to keep the atmosphere intimate, there are limited tickets available for 2012, so book soon and take advantage of the Early Bird discounts.

Click here to buy tickets  Tickets are available on-line only.  Day Tickets will only go on sale in August 2012 if there is still availability.

We invite you, if you can, to come for the whole festival and find a sense of community and connectedness to the earth.

You will need to know which accommodation option you are taking up to book tickets.
Do please read about the exciting possibilities of staying in yurts and tipis as well as camping for FREE.


Dr Martin Shaw talks about what makes the Westcountry Storytelling Festival so special:

Sue Charman, festival director, talks about the themes behind this year’s festival and how they’re woven into all the stories and activities:

Chris Salisbury, artistic director of the festival (aka, storyteller Spindle Wayfarer), talks about why Embercombe is the perfect venue to sing the land awake:

Finally, Jackie Juno, performance poet extraordinaire, gives her take on the festival:


Workshops and stories
for all ages…

* For mothers and fathers with babes and toddlers (0 – 3)
a special children’s tent  sponsored by Juno Natural Parenting Magazine with a space for feeding babies and listening to stories in a relaxed atmosphere.

* For 3 – 7s
a craft tent every morning, stories and activities in the afternoon, tractor rides  and walks, finishing with bed-time stories.

* For 8 – 12s
their own space for stories and activites such as den-building and wildcraft with late night tales around the fire.

Jan Blake



* for teenagers
a place in the wild wood to hang out, Robin Hood stories, music, poetry, discussion, the chance to make a film about the festival, true stories and ghost tales at night plus survvial skills workshops and story rounds for you to develop skills as a teller.

* For families
lots of family-friendly, day-time stories and activities.

* For adults
a potent mix of powerful stories, live music, workshops and story rounds including storywalks off site, new commissions, late night tales and Embercombe’s stunning 50 acre site to explore.



Westcountry Storytelling Festival 2010 at Embercombe
Young people’s film-making project with Take One Planet
Facilitated by Alex Gater


Festival Specials…

Ben Haggerty

Late night line-up:

Martin Shaw has promised a telling of local Dartmoor stories encapsulating 2000 years of history in one all night dusk to dawn telling….we are also planning a Midnight Feast including a “Star Trek” look at the night sky with food and fable from 11pm – 2am.

Ploughing a furrow:

Two giant shire horses will be ploughing a field during the Festival and the ancient threshing machine will be back by popular demand.  Take the chance to scythe and flail grain, grind it in a hand mill and bake fresh bread in the outdoor clay ovens.

Early Morning circles:

For those who would like to share a seat around the fire, take a walk in the early morning air, tour Embercombe, sit in the woods, meditate or just ruminate – there will be morning circles on Saturday, Sunday and Monday to join when you can share how you are feeling and connect to others.



The Red Tent:

The Wood Sisters and Tarte Noire will be telling stories; telling fortunes; offering meditation and sacred time in nature as well as crafts and performing for women only and mixed audiences.

The Mythic Tent:

The Westcountry School of Myth will be back, telling tales in a tent and inviting deep discussion of some of the issues raised by myth and stories in connection with this year’s theme.  We hope to have a World Cafe style discssuion for as many as are interested.

Opening and Closing ceremonies:

We invite you to come for the whole festival and find a sense of community and connectedness to the earth over the three nights and four days.  The ceremonies will be simple, powerful and participatory – come and be part of the story.