ORDINARY WOMAN EXTRAORDINARY WOMAN
In 1593 a fiercely independent pirate woman set sail from Ireland to London to meet Queen Elizabeth 1st of England. 400 years later an ordinary woman from Belfast came face to face with a member of the British aristocracy.
Two women… two stories… divided by generations… what connects them?
This performance is inspired by the story of Grainne O’Malley, the infamous Irish pirate queen born in Co. Mayo in 1530 and by Janice’s own stories of growing up in troubled times in Belfast. Both grew up in a time of constant clan fighting but Grainne went on to captain her own fleet of ships and become “the most notorious woman on all the western seas”, while Janice went on to become a storyteller!
Ultimately this is a story of how “real” meetings can dissolve the barriers that so often lead to conflict.
Length : 2 halves of 45 mins each. The first half can also stand alone as a historical tale.
“Janice Witherspoon brings the forgotten history of Ireland’s pirate queen to life with a fire true to her spirit, linking it to her own life story in a poignant and awakening telling. A great celebration of the strength of women, past and present”.
Ashley Ramsden, founding director, International School of Storytelling.
“This inspiring performance is unique, with both its epic power and personal integrity to speak directly to some of the most important and challenging questions of our time. Janice is a gripping storyteller, who with great humility and a twinkle in her eye, weaves a profound adventure story full of darkness, striving and hope”.
Roi Gal-or, creative director, International School of Storytelling.
Performances include :
International Storytelling Festival, Forest Row
International School of Storytelling, Emerson College
Lochmaddy Arts Centre, North Uist
Luxford Womens’ Club, Uckfield
Guesthouse Storytellers, Newhaven
Interweaving song, poetry and story, this performance is a celebration of Brigid, goddess and saint and is especially appropriate around St. Brigid’s Day (1st Feb).
It contains stories that tell how she laid her mantle over the earth to bless it and how, every year, she melts the ice so that spring can return.
Mother of poetry, healing and smith-craft, guardian of the sacred wells and goddess of fire and the hearth, her three fold flame can still light our path and inspire us today.
Length : 1 hour 10 mins.
“This telling, with its depth and quiet passion, drew me right in to the mystery of Brigid and awakened me to a part of my culture I knew very little about.”
“Janice takes her listeners on a journey that conveys the essence of the land with a passion and love for the stories that the land holds and offers us rich images, wisdom, humour and warmth”.
Roi Gal-Or, creative director, International School of Storytelling
Biodynamic Garden Festival, Emerson College
Treadwells Bookshop, London
A RIVER IN TIME
This performance is a medley of mythology, history and personal anecdote telling the story of a personal pilgrimage from Tara along the great river Boyne in Co. Meath dipping in and out of the tales of the Tuatha de Danann, catching the Salmon of Knowledge on the way and ending up at the great monument of Newgrange.
Originally devised and performed for the Lifeways Anthroposophical Conference in July 2015.
Length : 50 mins
“As a fellow Celtic soul, accompanying Janice when she tells Irish stories feels like a homecoming for me. The tunes take on a richer sound, bringing new feeling and dimension to the words of her heartfelt, engaging and very human stories, while the stories give substance and depth to the tunes. In this performance the audience was able to completely immerse themselves in the world that was created and have a meaningful, rich personal experience.
Flora Bramwell, accompanying harpist.
All the above performances are accompanied by traditional music where possible.
STORIES SPECIALLY FOR YOU
I can put together a programme of stories for your group or for that special birthday party or celebration. Examples of special programmes I have created include:
How does your garden grow? Sussex Gardeners Group, Highbrook
Life is Odd Lifeways Anthroposophical Family Camp, Forest Row
Whisky Galore The Bent Arms, Lindfield Arts Festival
Extraordinary Women Womens’ Institute, Bexhill-on-Sea, Go-Getters Womens’ Group, Uckfield
Horse Stories Eridge Working Horse Trust; Horsham District Council
Irish Myths Claddach Kirkibost Cultural Centre, N. Uist
Stories & Songs of Love Blue Angel Café, Findhorn
I have also devised programmes more suitable for older people that include a mix of traditional and autobiographical tales and encourage participants to share their own stories and reminiscences. Older people’s groups I have worked with include:
Thursday Club, Forest Row Community Centre
Macular Disease Society, Horsham
Edenbridge Day Centre, Edenbridge
April Club, Haywards Heath
Foresight Group, Haywards Heath
Francis Court Care Home, Copthorne
Link-up Friendship Group, Redhill, Surrey
Beulah Baptist Church, Bexhill-on-Sea
Cameo Group, Purley
STORYTELLING FOR SEASONAL FESTIVALS
Celebrating and honouring the seasons of the year and their associated festivals brings us closer to the rhythms of nature and allows us to fully enjoy the constant change that they bring. Simple ritual can help us ground the deeper meaning of the festival and stories help us engage with it through the imaginative realm.
In my work as a gardener at Findhorn and Emerson College and as storyteller in residence at Old Plawhatch and Tablehurst Community Farms, I have organised and taken part in a wide variety of celebrations with story.
Examples include : Imbolc Festival, Spring Equinox Fire, Mayfair, Midsummer Festival, Raw n Wild Food Festival, Harvest Festival, Celebrate Samhain, Remembering the Ancestors on All Souls’ Day, a Gathering for Advent, Celebrate Solstice. I have also organised special events such as Stories with the Cows and Story Tree Walks.
Please contact me if you would like me to bring stories to your special event or put together a programme for a special time of year.