Interviews with Storytellers - Taffy Thomas

Taffy Thomas

Taffy is performing at the Settle Storytelling Festival in October 2011

Tell us something about your background.

I grew up in Somerset. Then went to college in Dudley. After a short teaching career and then a long performing career in folk arts, street theatre, fishing and storytelling.

Where in the world are you?

Grasmere, Cumbria

How long have you been telling stories and where do you perform?

In the 1960s as a teenager, I was lucky to be taken to meet Ruth Tongue of Somerset, who inspired me to tell stories ever since. I perform all over the world, from the Albert Hall to the Village Hall!

Why did you become a storyteller?

I always included storytelling in my performances in folk clubs, festivals and street theatre. After a major stroke at age 36, I was able to use my knowledge of stories as speech therapy, and to reinvent myself as a professional storyteller.

Where do you get your stories from?

Mainly from oral sources (tellers from the tradition and people I meet) but occasionally I pick one up from a book, and sometimes there’s a need to make a new story fed by the motifs and style of the traditional folk tale.

What advice do you have for aspiring storytellers?

Practise telling stories whenever you can, to build a varied repertoire for every situation, and the technique to entertain every audience. To be a professional you have to be consistent, because you need to be good enough even on a bad day!

Who is your favourite storyteller?

My two favourites of all time have been Betsy Whyte and John Campbell, both now sadly departed

What is your favourite story?

I have many favourites, depending on the context. With over 300 stories in the repertoire, my favourites change according to my mood and the audience in front of me.

Who is your favourite folklore/ mythological character and why?

Father Christmas. When I left a gig earlier this year, I heard that 2 seven-year-old boys had had the following conversation:

Boy 1: “Was that Taffy Thomas?”

Boy 2: “Well, he said he was, but I think he was father Christmas, and this is what he does for a summer job!”

How do you relax?

Listening to Test Match Special.