Putting on events for adult audiences in the Exeter area, Artemis Storytelling brings some of the best performers from across the UK to intimate venues. The roster includes a range of storytelling styles across a programme of six shows a year. We spoke to organiser and host Katy Cawkwell.
What do you do?
Artemis Storytelling curates high-quality events that feature solo, often dramatic performances bringing myth, legend, and wondertale to life. These are not stories for children: they are sometimes dark, sometimes rude, sometimes hilarious, sometimes uplifting tales that speak of love and death, the human and the other-than-human, compassion, retribution and transformation.
And what keeps you doing it?
I programme the storytellers and the work that I want to hear, so these are my favourite evenings out. As the storyteller walks on stage, all the organisational headaches and hours spent putting up posters falls away and I lose myself in the story. It is also deeply satisfying to witness the audience’s response, especially when those new to storytelling stumble across one of our events and find themselves caught up in a whole other world!
How did Artemis Storytelling come about?
I moved to Exeter in 2015 and realised that although there were plenty of informal storytelling opportunities in the area, the city wasn’t regularly hosting the best of UK performance storytelling. I have been working as a storyteller myself for 20 years and have heard a lot of great storytelling over this period, so I was keen to bring some of that to Exeter and raise the profile of the artform here. I ran a series of gigs in Topsham in spring 2016 (Martin Shaw, Ben Haggarty and I did an evening each) and was encouraged by enthusiastic sell-out audiences to continue.
Who do you work with and why?
One of the unexpected joys has been making connections with the people who run the venues like the generous, supportive owners of the Bridge Inn in Topsham, who let us use their beautiful Maltings space, and the fantastic team at Cygnet Theatre in Exeter, who have gone out of their way to make our first evening there such a success. I’ve had many moments of help from regular audience members, and Lily at Topsham Bookshop too, and am so grateful for their continued support.
Talk us through a favourite project.
One particularly memorable evening was the inimitable Nell Phoenix weaving together alternative Red Riding Hood tales to a packed house that sighed and laughed and blushed along with her every word – we even made space for an impromptu but brilliant audience contribution to the evening. Sally Pomme Clayton’s recent Eros and Psyche show at the Cygnet used the theatre space to great effect, and it was encouraging to see new faces in the audience discovering how enthralling and intelligent storytelling can be.
What does the next year look like for you?
I’m keen to develop the relationship with Cygnet, as their intimate studio theatre is the perfect space for performance storytellers, so I’ve booked two of the most exciting UK storytellers (Clare Muireann Murphy and Xanthe Gresham Knight) for March and May, and am doing my very best to draw in a good crowd for these one-off evenings.
One thing that would make your life easier?
I decided early on that I needed to make this work without funding, as I know from experience how draining and dispiriting the application process can be. However, this limits me to booking solo artists. Were more money to fall from the sky, I would spend it on programming more shows with two or more performers, often with a musical element as well as the spoken word.
Also, the thing about marketing that grinds me down is having to copy and paste my event details into many, many different websites in the hope that they might reach just one or two more audience members…
In what ways are you helping to put Exeter on the cultural map, nationally or internationally?
Within the beautiful little community of those passionate about good-quality storytelling, I feel I’ve now established a space for it to flourish in Exeter and also, importantly, to pay the performers a decent fee for the hours and years of work that go into making these shows. I’ve also been able to co-promote touring shows from Adverse Camber and Devil’s Violin, the two highest-profile producers of storytelling and music in the UK.
What if ….?
…I had more time! As I run Artemis Storytelling alongside my own storytelling career, I haven’t had the capacity to explore what festivals or city-wide projects might be in the pipeline where I could perhaps include an Artemis event as part of these programmes: advance notice of these kind of things might lead to some exciting new partnerships.
How do we find out more?
To join the email list: eepurl.com/cNiSYP
Artemis Storytelling’s next event is on 1 March 2019: Others from the Other Side, told by Clare Muireann Murphy, at the Cygnet Theatre, Friars' Gate, Exeter EX2 4AZ.