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A blog like a rare british summer - only happens once in a blue moon!
So here I am struggling with the digital world, a brief update, some plans and a new book. I started with a bang this year... literally. Alfresco Festival was brilliant, good weather, great company. Spare Room Arts, Dan the Hat, Jimmy Juggle and Rhubarb Theatre very nice group and delivered the goods as far as kids entertainment. First time for my gorgeous onion tent, all summer people have been saying how much they love it. But then the lightening storm, wow! what a belter. I feel for Mark and Nicky the organisers as it meant closing down the festival a little earlier than normal on Saturday but they are excellent at what they do and will be back next year. Then swiftly on to Acoustic , outstanding, Gate to Southwell, best ever, Willowman excellent, and then a break! Wales with the lovely Samantha Boulanger and Guto the whippet. Sam is an artist, photographer and budding print maker, her work is amazing and I met some of her lovely friends. Back to reality after four glorious days, and Texfest. Not so great, the organisers are very new and did not get it right, I was cut off from the main arena and had to work hard to get people down away from the action. If I do it again I am going right in the bloody middle. Short moan, cos it's my blog and I can if I want to. I do NOT like funfairs at festivals. Parents or guardians pay money to come into the festival and do not want to be shelling out £3 for five minutes of a ride every time their kids ask. They are noisy, greedy and do not belong. Go to a funfair if that's what you want. Rant over. And what tonic did I need after this? Rock Oyster in Cornwall a beautiful setting on the banks of the Camel River and a marvellous little festival. Loved seeing Flotsam Circus family and Planet Puppets again.
Onto Lichfield Fuse, a new one for me and a free festival! Lichfield is city and the people are so lucky to have this on their doorstep, thouroughly enjoyed it. Up to Underneath the Stars next and wow! what a festival, packed tents at every session, which has been the case at most festivals but this one went to another level as they couldn't all get in and I had to open all three doors and sit the big people outside. Lauren, Kate Rusby's cousin excelled as a night fairy scaring the kids to bits. And the Plague Doctor came out for a brief wander to the trauma of some kids and hilarity of others. Loved it all. And most recently The Big Family festival. Now this is aimed solely at kids, everything and it was fun. Flotsam Circus family there so great neighbours but after two dry months the weather broke. Rain and strong winds but we kept going and Angela and George the organisers did everything they could, note to the whingers on social media, they can't control the weather!
So now at brothers plotting in the pub our arrival at Cambridge Folk Festival, can't wait, new walkabout and stories coming your way.
Already planning ahead with a new book in a very different style, next year, Halloween an allsorts. Catch me in a field soon, come to Gin School or just grab me for a story. Ta ta for now.
The thoughts and meanderings of Mark Fraser
Brief blog, so busy working on new books, stories and gin I have hardly had two minutes to sit and write this. I am busy contacting new festivals for next year, so many have moved weekends it has really thrown me out, I will be unable to go back to some of my favourites as they have moved and clashed with some that haven't, it is very sad. But what doesn't kill you etc. and already there are pastures new to explore. I am looking forward to Alfresco where I am assisting with the set up and creation of a new exciting kids/family area. Lakefest is a new one for me thank you Sarah of Spare Room Arts, I can't wait. Others are considering and discussing so I hope they come through. Still got a busy summer ahead but would like to be further afield in 2018, if anyone has a need for a frankly brilliant storyteller get in touch.
Also a new tent on the horizon a lovely Lotus Belle Tent, slight reservations about the door being too small but the lovely people there have organised a special order where there are three doors at the front, so caters for the odd adult that just stands in the middle of small doorways, they do that you know.
Christmas also on horizon, not so busy for me as the stories tend to be fairly similar around this time of year, one or two venues but mostly I am busy teaching gin making at Salcombe Distillery. It's a lot of fun and always an appreciative, if slightly wobbly at the end, audience. New book coming along, new ideas for more stories next year and a character creation in Jacob Cracker, failed grave robber. New gravestone to be made too, lighter and more durable I hope. So have a lovely Christmas, mid winter celebration or just a nice December! See you next year.
Sept 17th 2017
Long time no hear! It has been a very busy summer, Since July I have been to all sorts of places and met many lovely people
After a brief hiatus it was off to Rock Oyster, here I met the brilliant Planet Puppets, they performed in one of the stories, and Flotsam the Fool a lovely circus family. At one point I did a quick head count in the story tent and there were well over a hundred kids squeezed in not to mention all the parents and older kids listening from the back. On to Tolpuddle and the great family that is the Tolpuddle kids field, Tim Jacques organises this and it is simply the most beautiful group to work with.
After Tolpuddle a long drive up to Barnsley for Underneath the Stars, The family of Kate Rusby organise this festival and it is stunning, beautiful setting and fantastic people. I have met some lovely people on my travels but none more so than Samantha Boulanger, check out her page Samantha Boulanger Artist on facebook. Not only one of the nicest people you could meet but also she made me epaulettes for my pirate coat. I am still in awe. She like whippets too for all you fans of the cat like dog. I met Kate Rusby herself too, slightly star struck, but she had time for a quick chat and then she herself went to help with taking down the festival, good for her.
Next stop Cambridge Folk, with my awesome brother Stuart. We made a gravestone this year to advertise the late night stories, we had a lot of fun carrying it around and picking on people through their tshirts to cajole them into late night stories. Once again rammed in the tent.
Wickham! Very muddy, towed on to site and then stuck in mud. But the organisers performed a Herculean effort to get the site ready and pull off an amazing festival, so much good music and the people so friendly. Lots of fun in the story tent, big crowds for myself and The Travelling Talesman, Peter Chegwyn the organiser is simply brilliant.
Sidmouth Folk festival followed, it is a very nice town based festival but the storytellers should be allowed their own tent, it would work so much better. Nice to see Ursula Holden-Gill a great storyteller though.
Beautiful Days, not much I can say about this apart from it is one of my favourite places. The people are all so united in their intentions to have a great time and still care about each other. Tell-a-Vision, Juli and Guy joined me again and were epic with their presentation of superb shadow puppetry and storytelling. Not only that but great company too. Bumped into Phil Cudmore the previously mentioned singer song writer from Gate to Southwell, he was perfoming again, is he destined for stardom!? I was there at the beginning, ha!
Purbeck Valley Folk Festival, a wonderful place to be, met up with Chilli Baba, Pauline and the circus people, Joe the clown and The Travelling Talesman so the company was excellent. This site is incredible, even a little steam train in the hills behind tooting whistle, too idyllic. Good music too.
Swanage Folk, lots of fun despite high winds, Margaret Tyrer does such a good job getting us organised, myself and Andy Walker the magic man had good crowds until the wind became too much for the tent but a great place any way.
And finally the finale which is Looe music festival, the ultimate end of season party on the beach, if you want a final festival rush get there for 28th September it is the best thing to do in autumn, honest.
So now I am back, there is a new book out Never Eat Soggy Weasels, a collection of stories from around the compass. A new one in production, The Lizard Hat Maker and the Bear's Hair. I am back at the Salcombe Gin Distillery taking Gin Schools, in two words... try it. Best school on planet, not only do you gain knowledge but you also geta bottle of your own gin at the end. Look out for Salcombe Gin it is one of the best around and gaining popularity daily.
So I am off back to drawing board, literally. New stories to develop, pictures to paint and people to go and see. Until next time, thank you for listening and reading. M x
July 3rd 2017.
Back in the room!
Sorry folks, been so busy with vans, books, pictures and the start of summer the website and blog have been sadly neglected. All that will change now! Providing I can get internet access. So what’s been happening. I got a new van and have made it possible for me to live in it so I can travel without stopping and imposing myself on lovely people, though I still do. I have completed a new book and for all you lovely crowdfunding people the dedication is in the back, you are all named. New stories that are going down very well. I am also aware that I owe some of you storytelling sessions, we will discuss when we meet or I can be contacted via the email firstname.lastname@example.org
Incidentally I have been telling stories to queues a lot this year especially at Glastonbury, so the name Walk the Lines works well on that level too. I have met lovely people again, you all know who you are but special mention to Mark and Nicky of Alfresco, Rhubarb Theatre, Rae (still giggling about your Tuesday club) Dan the Hat, all at Altitude, Acoustic, GtSouthwell, Willowman, brilliant Phil Cudworth winner of Southwell open mic and originator of the tiger tail. Plus many many more.
The kids have been fantastic, they never cease to make me laugh, inspire and amaze with their creativity. Example; if someone lives in the middle of nowhere then every time they step outside their door they will be somewhere, anywhere and elsewhere. Deep! Kitty, Sylvie and the kids of Willowman take a bow!
So I am on a weekend break but about to hit the road for the rest of the summer Cornwall next, Rock Oyster, Tolpuddle, Underneath the stars, Cambridge Folk, Wickham, Sidmouth, Beautiful Days, Purbeck Valley, Swanage and Looe to come. If anyone has anything for mid September or wants me for then I can do it!
So this is brief but apart from putting my back out talking to a whippet, I am fine and immensely happy to be doing what I love. If you see me anywhere please do say hi and get a hug. More will follow, see you soon lovely people.
01st March 2017
Only five more days of the crowdfunding project and I have been overwhelmed with the generosity and comments from friends, colleagues and people previously unknown. It is a truly humbling experience. But there are just five days to go and I would dearly love to get to the £3000 mark as this would see me get the van before the season starts and therefore start its use as a story van. I have a new book due out for the summer and everyone that has pledged money to the project will be name checked in the back under the thank you section. I also received some anonymous donations which is so kind, for every one of these than a charity, school, library or other good cause will receive some of my books for free. I feel it is important to give back to these wonderful places that inspired me, yes even school inspired me on reflection, I wasn't the greatest pupil in the world.
Now also gearing up for the full summer season of festivals, a pretty booked summer although there are two weekends that are still free due to a cancellation and a fallow year. If anyone has any need for a storyteller and walkabout artist for 1/2 July or 12/13 Aug please do get in touch. They are the only two weekends from mid May to mid Sept that are free. In my next blog once the crowdfunding and the new book have been finalised I will list all the places I will be over the summer, I really hope to see old friends and meet new audiences over the coming months. I have library and school bookings before hand as well as a local restaurant that has found pizza and stories do mix. But until May there is a lot of work to be done, I have new stories, a story stone bag and new puppets all to finsish and rehearse so that it looks seamless to the people facing me all summer (seamless? with my sewing skills?) So thank you to those involved, please do pledge if not already and the Story Man's Van could be coming to a place near you.
2nd February 2017
Well here we go. I am currently in the throws of crowdfunding, it would be terribly good of you to visit my crowdfunding page. Google The Story Man's Van or click on the link below and it will pop up. The reason why I am doing this was highlighted perfectly this week.
I was contacted by the local small library in Salcombe in Devon. It is a beautiful old room in a marvellous big house overlooking the sea. A small library it is true but it does cater for all ages from the very young to the very old. There is internet access and a very good selction of books, or access to the county resources if the book you require is not available. To sit in the windows and read whilst the sea shimmers or crashes below is an unbelievable treat. However Devon County Library wanted to close it down, they feel it is underused and will save funds if they shut it. Fortunately a local group has formed and they fought against the closure. The County have installed a monitoring system for a year to see how many people have used it, so the rescue group are organising as many activities as they can.
One of which is to have a few story sessions over half term and Easter. They approached me and tentatively asked how much I would charge for such events. This is the very reason why I am looking to be more mobile! It is close enough for me to offer them free sessions, I believe libraries are important, it is where my love of books and reading started. In a small library with my father, he would get three or four books a week and I would be in the childrens section reading and chosing a book to take home.
So, if I can help then I want to, but not just locally. Do you have a library near you? Do you have a school that would benefit from a storyteller, maybe you have a charitable fundraiser, or good cause that you could use support from me. If I could be more mobile then this would bring expenses and costs down for causes like these and I would love to help, sometimes for free. Please have a look at the crowdfunding site and get involved, there are some wonderful rewards available and it is something I am very passionate about. In the meantime Feb 16th is pirate day at the Salcombe Library, Cliff House please come along for stories, crafts and fun.
This the view I was talking about, very tranquil.
Apart from that, I am busy making gin, yes gin. For those that know me I like to keep busy so when not storytelling, writing and painting, I am distilling with the Salcombe Distillery Co. It is very exciting, quite hard and physical and just a little boozey. However the love of performance hasn't quite deserted me, I have suggested a distillers uniform at the excellent Gin Bar, we are on full show so why not. Bowler hats, leather aprons and waistcoats, it's going to be quite fun to walk to work a couple of times a week. But the summer beckons and soon the festivals will start, and I cannot wait. I hope to see many of you in a field somewhere, I have an exciting big walkabout being built, and lots and lots of original new stories, some written with the help of the kids. It will be amazing. Please do get in touch on this site, thank you to all those that have pledged so far, help me get mobile and I could be coming to you!
26th January 2017
Here is the first blog ever on this new website built by myself, hence the no flashy bits and the screaming slides from one side to the other. But it is all mine and suits my purposes a lot better. This will be a very short blog as I am gearing up with the Crowdfunder project, please read the crowdfunding page, it is a very important project for me, to be able to travel all over this country of ours delivering stories and creative workshops is something I have been working on since I started writing, illustrating and telling stories. There is more information in the crowdfunding site which I am sure you will see ahem! probably a lot! Here is to the future may it be bright and full of tales.
"TOMORROW IS ANOTHER STORY."