Storytelling: Developing a county-wide Festival

Story book with pirate and pirate ship


‘A little magic can take you a long way’ – said our famous past storytelling resident, Roald Dahl.

In 2023/4 (tbc) Buckinghamshire Culture aims to create magic for our residents through a county-wide Storytelling Festival that offers opportunities to experience and participate in storytelling; firing imaginations and creativity through immersive and engaging events and activities.  This Festival will go beyond the traditional literary festival, bringing together a diverse mix of participatory, immersive and experimental activity and events.  We want to embrace a broad range of arts, music and performance, as well as exploring gaming and technology as ways to unlock creativity and tell stories. 

This is a big idea and a big project, and to do it well, we need to spend some time researching and testing out what works, and building an exciting and inclusive vision and programme for the flagship Festival.  Over the next two years, we want to develop the concept of the Storytelling Festival through creative and cultural activities that uncover hidden stories; delivering engaging, participatory and fun creative activity with, and for, our communities. 

Summer of Stories, 2021

Our pilot Story Project activity in 2021, will focus on story sharing and celebration.  This will take place via an artist-designed Story Stall and Story Postcards designed to develop dialogue and share stories.  Story Stall will tour Buckinghamshire, with a cohort of artists, during Summer 2021.  Story Stall will visit markets, cultural venues and events, and will form part of our planned Open Weekend (22-25 July).  Open Weekend will benefit from additional story-themed activities designed by the Story Stall artists, which also encourage residents to share their stories.  The content and stories that are uncovered through engagement with the Story Stall will inform a creative response by the artists involved – culminating in a pop-up storytelling structure and programme that will visit town centres across Buckinghamshire.   

There are a range of opportunities for people to get involved. 

Story Project and Open Weekend Opportunities

Our Summer of Stories activity will take place from June-October 2021.  It has been designed to be inclusive and accessible, with activity taking place outdoors to maximise engagement and help to mitigate Covid-19 concerns/meet guidelines.

Project Strands:

  • Story Stall: the artist-designed Story Stall will be developed to encourage dialogue and engagement, encouraging the public to share stories via conversation and Story Postcards.  Our lead artist will work with a cohort of Project Artists to tour the Story Stall to markets, cultural venues, town centres and events in June-August. 
  • Story Postcards: these will be distributed widely across Buckinghamshire via the Story Stall itself, and other organisations and partners.  The public will be encouraged to share a story from their life, or relating to Buckinghamshire. We are particularly interested in hearing from groups whose voices are often not heard.
  • Story Schools Pack: story-themed artist-designed activity pack for use at home or in the class room. Range of creative activities designed to engage young people with telling stories. To be released in early July – sign up for news here.
  • Mini Story Postcard Exhibitions: as postcards are collected, we will curate mini exhibitions in Buckinghamshire libraries sharing the stories of our residents. 
  • Pop-up, collective Storytelling structure and programme: inspired and informed by the stories they hear and read, our collective of artists, will then develop a collaborative creative response.  This will take the form of a pop-up Storytelling structure and associated programme of creative activities that allow the public to add to the collective story. 

Opportunities to get involved:

Alongside many opportunities to contribute a story, we are inviting businesses, organisations and groups to get involved in the Summer of Stories, through:

  • Open Weekend, 22-25 July: for Businesses, community groups, shops, charities, cultural organisations etc – this will be a celebration of creativity, culture and stories.  Organisations, groups and businesses across Buckinghamshire are invited to contribute events to create an exciting and varied programme of story-themed activity for people to join in with.  We hope to see workshops, talks, walks, demonstrations, open days and many more things that you can enjoy or have a go at!  Registrations will open online in late May.

Strategic Context

The Storytelling Festival context directly supports the new Buckinghamshire Cultural Strategy, contributing the strategic outcomes of: ‘equality of access to cultural activities and opportunities’, ‘improved health and wellbeing of our population’ and ‘re-vitalised heritage and transformed places.’ 

Our key partner, Buckinghamshire Council, is extremely supportive of this project and working closely with us to shape and build the concept and research and development phase.  This work supports plans for the county’s recovery from Covid-19 – enhancing wellbeing, quality of life and public realm agendas, as well as providing something fun and positive after a very difficult period. 

It is hoped that the festival will both help build, and become part of, the Buckinghamshire DNA and identity, hopefully becoming a biennial festival.  Activity will be programmed across Buckinghamshire, making use of our market towns, villages – encouraging people to return to high streets and centres and increasing dwell time.  Additionally, we will work with our partners in tourism to ensure that we maximise potential for the visitor economy during the Festival period. 

A key theme of this work is around identity and place-making and through sharing, telling and taking part in storytelling, we aim to tell the story for Buckinghamshire and its people.