Folklorist | Writer | Artist

Parchment, Paper, Pixels

Between 2012 and 2015 I held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the School of European Languages, Culture and Society, University College London.

Originally envisaged as a Digital Humanities project mapping the manuscript transmission of Breton lais, it grew into an interdisciplinary, practice-based exploration of fantastical tales set in forests, from medieval werewolf tales to Slender Man.

The research questions with which I began my fellowship - how scribes shape the development of individual stories within different manuscript copies; the effects of material constraints on tale transmission; and the way in which online material offers new insights into the behaviour of texts moving between medieval manuscripts - continued to evolve as the project took shape. How do folktales adapt and shift with each new teller, how does the physical environment in which stories are told, heard or read affect the stories themselves, and in what ways do audiences contribute to these retellings?

Taking three tales as case studies - the medieval werewolf lai Bisclavret, the Grimms' Little Red Cap, and the internet myth Slender Man - to explore the relationship between story, form and place, public engagement became a major part of the project. I staged a series of events, interventions and installations where audiences could contribute to the storytelling process, from manuscript-themed board games at at the Grant Museum of Zoology to storytelling workshops inviting people to retell Breton lais in genres from news reports to space operas.

In the project's final year, I created two large-scale installations open to the public, immersive fairy tale-themed maze Out Of The Woods? and storytelling intervention The Tale of Bloomsbury, as alternative ways of thinking about story transmission, scribal additions, and the transformation of audiences into new authors of a tale.

The Tale of Bloomsbury would go on to form the basis of my long-running project The Secret Diary of Bloomsbury, while Out Of The Woods? proved an invaluable prototype for my later, more elaborate immersive theatre installations. In particular, my 2017-18 touring show Big Teeth - which invited audiences to discuss Red Riding Hood as a story about gender dynamics, power and intimacy within the context of #MeToo - grew out of my Leverhulme project both in terms of subject matter and practical production knowledge.

During my fellowship I also gained the grounding in audio production which has fed into much of my subsequent work. In the project's final months I began working with arts non-profit Sing London, with whom I worked for two years post-fellowship producing Talking Statues in cities around the world.

Read my Leverhulme Final Report here