Brixen International Festival 2014

Working as a storyteller can be a quite surprisingly solitary occupation. True, there is always the audience, but that alone is at best a very one-sided communication.
For the first few years after stumbling into this artform, I had virtually no contact with other storytellers, much less the opportunity of seeing anyone perform.

So although storytelling festivals may give the audience a great opportunity to hear more tellers, for me they are an important chance to meet and learn from others.

In November 2014 I was delighted to be able to spend the whole week at the 5th International Storytelling Festival in Brixen, South Tyrol, where 34 storytellers and musicians from seven countries were performing.

An additional charm was the small cathedral town itself, just over the border from Austria. Its architecture is marked by its long rule as a bishop’s city.

The festival was the chance to meet and hear again some favourite tellers. I have often enjoyed listening to my good friend Martin Ellrodt, but this was the first time I could actually see his beautiful silk parachute backdrop!

And there were many other tellers I already knew:

as well as tellers I had not met before:



Many years ago the chance discovery of the Storytell listserv not only put me in touch with a worldwide community of tellers, it also revealed that many others had experienced similar isolation.

And Storytell listserv members also get around. Suzanne Whitby was able to come down from Innsbruck …

… and at last I had the chance to meet Storytell’s other Richard M (Marsh, of Dublin) in the flesh!

Festival director Leni Leitgeb (here telling a saga from the Dolomites) reckons the total number attending the week’s events to be over 2000.

For me, the festival was a great occasion, and there were great audiences to perform for!

As storytellers, we know that tales are waiting for us everywhere. And that happened one morning when I strolled through the town and noticed this figure on the corner of a house next to a shoe shop. The shopkeeper (here standing outside his shop) looked as if he could tell me the story – and so he did.

The corner house used to be an inn called Der Wilde Mann. The young Mozart and his father stayed here when performing for the Prince Bishop.
It is in the middle of the town where three roads meet: the road to Pustertal, the road to Bozen and the road to the Brenner Pass. Naturally many wagon-drivers would stay there on their journey. (The shopkeeper pointed out the guard stones on the corners to prevent the wagon wheels damaging the buildings – one stone can be seen in the picture.)

The innkeeper erected this three-headed Wild Man on the house to advertise his inn.

After some years a story grew about these three heads. For these were heads which would spit out gold!

Of course, as befits a bishop’s city, they could only do this when all the church bells of the town were pealing.
Moreover, the story went, they would only do this on one particular day of the year.

As you will probably have guessed, that day was Good Friday – the one day of mourning in the ecclesiastical year when, in a good Catholic town, the bells remain silent all day long!


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For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling