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Taffy Thomas Appointed First Storytelling Laureate

The Guardian (Manchester, UK) , November 2, 2009


The storyteller Taffy Thomas is creating a yarn of his own to add to the 300 traditional tales which make up his repertoire, the legend of a man who started telling stories to cure a stroke and who became the UK's first laureate for storytelling.

Thomas will begin his two-year term in January 2010 during National Storytelling Week, becoming the first to undertake a role dreamed up by Birmingham's poet laureate Adrian Johnson and backed by former children's laureate Michael Rosen and Liverpool poet Brian Patten.

It was only after he suffered a stroke at the age of 36 that Thomas turned to storytelling, as a kind of self-imposed speech therapy. Awarded an MBE for services to storytelling and charity in 2001, Thomas hopes the laureateship will make both children and adults more aware of the power of stories, and of the oral tradition of storytelling.

"Storytelling happens all over the country in schools, at festivals but most importantly it happens in the home. The stories people choose to tell and to listen to are a statement of who they are, of their identity, and it's very important to have that," he said. "It's also very important in terms of literacy. If you can win a heart with words, it is a shorter journey to reading and writing."

He believes there is currently a surge of interest in storytelling, as "people have got fed up with soaking up entertainment and want to be part of the process". "That's why television has done everything it can to make itself interactive, but it's just no substitute for sitting in front of a storyteller and becoming part of that experience," he said.

Subjects Covered: education, personal storytelling, storytelling festivals

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