The DS8 festival will be at the Chapter  in Cardiff on June 14. Our friend storyteller David Ambrose is putting together an evening of varied stories and has included three true stories on the bill. If you can get along it should be interesting to see how they sit alongside more traditional tales. I believe the event will run in an upstairs room from 7pm – see the chapter website for more details.

Sorry to say our break continues a while longer …

all the best Steve



We started the evening with Betty’s story. Several decades ago Betty, a lifelong artist, saw a mid-life crisis looming. She was running a small badge shop had a young son and for the first time lacked the urge to create anything. On cue a student wandered into the shop and placed a pile of psychology books on the counter. As he looked at badges Betty looked at the books. He had just dropped out of his degree and as Betty seemed interested in the subject he gave her the books and headed off to the pub. Taking it as an omen she contacted Cardiff university and in no time found herself interviewed and accepted onto a degree in Social Psychology. Betty never looked back and the crisis never got a look in.

As a young woman in the 60s Jill was unsure of what direction to take into work. All advice pointed to secretarial college so off she went. Armed with shorthand and typing she headed to London where she encountered the best and the worst of the swinging sixties and became increasingly bored and frustrated in her work. Eventually she ended up at a law firm where someone recognised her potential and encouraged her to study law. Liberated from the drudgery of office work she excelled at her subject and a successful career followed.

Tom told us of his experiences as a silent clown. His story included trips around the globe, much charity work, involvement with a church based group called the Holy Fools and a memorable encounter with Jeremy Beadle which saw the TV star riding an imaginary motorbike whilst sporting ridiculous headgear and jumping over a no doubt awe struck member of the public.

After the break Jordi explained how several years back he had found himself working with the elderly and had taken the opportunity to try to discover the meaning of life. After all, he reasoned, who would know the meaning better than those who have lived it longest? The answers he received formed the basis of his story. For some it seems God was the meaning, others claimed to have no better idea than Jordi, some found meaning in other people and in love. His favourite answer though was Zen like. The meaning of life, he was told, was simply to live it.

Spencer brought the evening to a close with a song about a trip to Dublin with his dad to watch a rugby international. No fan of sports Spencer had agreed to the outing without realising that he would be imprisoned for hours on a coach full of boozed up fans. Rather than watch the match in a pub (no one had actual tickets for the game) Spencer underlined his outsider status by going shopping. The lowlight of the trip was a sightseeing tour of Dublin narrated by a guide who hated the city. A nightmare weekend for Spencer resulted in a highly amusing song for us. You can find more of his music here http://www.myspace.com/spencermcgarry

Once again thanks to all our story tellers and the audience at Kemis.
No date has been set yet for our next night but we will let you know in good time

Steve, Andrew & Maria

Jane began the evening with fond memories of her faithful old Mini Cooper. Although it survived repeated theft, the hot summer of 1976 (even with a boot full of chocolate) and the Cardiff floods of ‘79 it ultimately ended its days in police custody. A fate it probably deserved!

Glynnis told us about her last minute trip to Romania on a charity mission in 1989. The horrors of the suffering and deprivation she witnessed could only be glimpsed. Perhaps the most striking image was of the plane full of passengers on the flight back to the UK acting together to protect a Romanian man and his child who the authorities were trying to arrest before take off.

Nick took us to the break with a story of how his dad and mum got together and his dads’ chivalrous attempts to impress his date by clearing the beach of a rogue pair of underpants, only to discover later that the offensive garments were his own! Nick also encouraged us to think of the romantic opportunities afforded by the beaches in South Wales in the form of his song about Trecco Bay (inspired, he explained, by his dad historic struts along the beaches of South Wales).

After the break, Neil took us on a road trip he took aged 17 with his friend, Colin from Portsmouth to Dover to Calais to Paris and back . The audience were entertained by his stories of hitchhiking, a stay in a converted air raid bunker in Calais, kilos of cheap plums and the ensuing swift visits to the Salon de Convenience, and the return homeward bound to Dover for a late night sweary welcome at the Friendship Hostel.

Griff rounded the night off with his tale of a trip to the South Sea Islands. He told of his discoveries of different culture, different political system, different ways of being and communicating giving us a taste of the unfamiliar yet familiar language along the way. We were eventually taken to a starry, moonlit moment when Griff described how he came to understand what the moon promised that night as well as many years later when he went back to visit his love.

Thanks as always to all the storytellers, to Kemi and her staff and to our audience looking forward to meeting again in 2013.

Andrew and Maria

August is normally a month off for True stories Cardiff but we had a special request from Roxy (Kemi’s right hand woman for many years) who is leaving Cardiff soon to take up a post as a teaching assistant back in her home town. Roxy usually misses all the stories because she is downstairs serving but for once she wanted to experience the show as an audience member. Hope you enjoyed it Roxy and good luck!

We began the evening searching for enough chairs to accommodate the 60 or so people who had decided to kick start their week with some live truth. We failed, so with some audience members perched on ledges Fran told us about the chaotic funeral of her ex-husband Bonga. Bonga it seems was a bit of a lad. A Grangetown legend for his hard partying and boystrous behaviour he had won Fran’s heart after ,or perhaps during, a blood soaked rumble with a Barry gang at the Penarth Sea Scout’s hut back in the 60s. Bonga’s send off included a pedantic priest who kept referring to Paul (Bonga’s real name) until the heckling forced him to relent, a friend throwing himself onto the coffin; children dangling their legs as beer was poured onto the casket, a graveside spliff and a dog running away with the sheet of astroturf used to tidy the mud pile at the graveside. It sounded like the kind of party Bonga would have loved.

Next up Lisa gave a lovely account of the heartache involved in coming to university in Cardiff from a small village in the north. The thought she was leaving home had never occurred to her and when the degree finished she went straight back. The painful realisation that going back is never really an option slowly dawned as she sat by her computer waiting for news from the big city. She was getting to know her parents as friends and spending time with her grandmother but a large part of her heart was now somewhere else. Her description of packing up and leaving home for real brought a tear to the eye of more than one audience member.

Cai brough the first half of the evening to a close with a welsh language song about cat with very definite ideas about what constituted suitable accommodation. Luckily for those non-Welsh speakers in the audience he preceded the song with a charming and funny account of the cat’s house swapping exploits.

After the break we began with Jill telling of her time in Tanzania. Her husband was stationed with the army there in the 1960s and they were unfortunate enough to be caught up in an attempted coup. Her story mixed humour with a genuine sense of peril and some images, notably the three senior officers hiding together in a tiny bathroom had the audience cracked up.

Erin took us back to the early 60s when as a fifth former she developed a crush on tall handsome Howard. He was into Maths, Physics and to her amazement (for three months at least) Erin. The end came on a cold rainy night in Bridgend when, waiting alone on a corner, she realised that Howard had shifted his attention elsewhere, but why? No explanation was sought or offered but awkward encounters in the school corridor confirmed her fears. Life progressed for all concerned and over the years Howard Marks developed an international profile which kept Erin’s question alive. Decades later, his drug millions gone and seven years of hard time under his belt, Howard was promoting a book in Cardiff and Erin got to ask her question. It turned out that he couldn’t remember why he had left her standing in the rain but one thing was for sure he twinkled, he wouldn’t do it again.

Gilly brought the evening to a close with an account of her experiences walking the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James). As an agnostic embarking on a 500 mile pilgrimage it seemed at times to Gilly that her primary quest wasn’t for God but for an effective treatment for sore feet. She described her alter ego and constant companion as the moaning, muttering Mrs Blister whose mantra was “heat and feet don’t mix” The pain and discomfort Gilly suffered provoked much self doubt but this was alleviated by encounters with people too exhausted for small talk who shared their own true stories along the way. Nearing the end of her journey Gilly experienced what she described as a “moment of grace” in a beautifully unadorned church. It was a moment that made perfect sense of her 40 day adventure and on Monday night it felt like we were all there with her.

(by the way for anyone wondering, the verse Gilly recognised on the hostel wall was from Little Gidding by T.S.Eliot

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

Thanks to Gilly, Erin, Jill, Cai, Lisa and Fran for their true stories. Thanks to Kemi and her staff for the great venue and great food and thanks to our audience from listening so carefully and responding with such warmth to the performers.

We are looking at October for the next event but if we have enough people offering to tell stories then September is a possibility. We will let you know in good time. Spread the word and if you would like to tell a story either give steve a ring on 07976 312 055 or email us via the site


Steve, Andrew and Maria.

I was very pleased to be asked to tell my story for a second time and anxious about telling it. Would it stand another telling? What would it be like telling a true tale at a festival of professional story tellers? I knew I had to do it differently. At the first telling I’d organised my story around four colours, it kept me on track. This time I decided to tell it in reverse, I’d start with the last colour and finish with the first. I didn’t know if it would work but I needed an edge to keep it alive. It took me a while to warm up but by the time I’d reached my second colour (green) I felt connected. I looked around and watched people watching me (that was the best part). When I got to my third colour I explained that the telling of this part of my story for the first time had caused me to experience it in a very different way, it switched from being a negative experience to a positive one. An experience is what it is and the memory of it is a changing story. Telling it is such a buzz.

Best wishes


True Stories Told Live Cardiff had a great response at the festival where we performed in a multi-coloured tent called The Peoples Palace. Thanks, in no particular order, to Andrew, Chris, Nahla, Pamela, Suzanne, Wally, Phillip, Norma, Katie, Phil and David for making the trip with us and sharing their unique stories. We have asked contributors to send us their impressions of the event and I will post them as they arrive.

First up is Suzanne :

“When the phone message came that a space had come up to tell, my stomach flipped with excitement and the next hour was spent freshening up my tale, as my nerve levels fluctuated like waves on the shore.

The People’s Palace had been set out to be welcoming yet cosy and the space began to fill up with expectant faces. I had already heard lots of stories at the festival but there was a special something in the air in the venue, a magic that happens when people speak out of their own human experience. Such a wide range of tales unfolded over the session, yet I couldn’t help but smile at the echoing links and feelings between stories that began to be heard. The audience were fantastic and each teller was surrounded by their supportive expectation. I was touched and moved by what I heard, and then it was my turn… once I actually opened my mouth the story began to come alive – I have shared it to among an audience of familiar people before but this was something different- a room of strangers. It felt fresh and the way my story was received good. It was clear from peoples body language and listening that the story was breathing and resonating. What touched me most was the response of one lady as she left, whispering a quiet thank you and planting a gentle kiss on my cheek. I don’t know what her situation was, it’s not my business to know, but it convinces me further of the value of such sharing of true stories. Some kind of alchemy happens and even the ‘poop’ we may have been through turns into something of precious value. Thank you for the opportunity….Keep up the good work!”

cheers and hope to see you at Kemis soon – Steve

True Stories began with Jane’s chilling explanation as to why these days she always has an artificial christmas tree. Many years ago living in Lincolnshire and in search of a real tree Jane followed a series of signs down narrow lanes. Eventually she found herself in a dark car park where a young man, spade in hand, asked her to follow him to choose a tree. Suddenly overcome with fear she declined. He returned with a suitable specimen, she paid and made it home. Time passed but the sense of fear stayed with her. Then one day watching the news on telly she recognised the man from the car park. He was talking about two young girls who had gone missing. The caption on the screen read “Ian Huntley, School Caretaker”.

As the audible gasps subsided in the room Janet began her heart warming story of a chance encounter on a train to Paris that blossomed into love and life on an idyllic farm. Her parents strongly disapproved of the match as did his, both sets believing that their disparate social status (him posh, her not so) would present problems. They were wrong and Janet’s story about her life with Jeremy made a strong case for the wisdom of youth.

Jill’s account of sharing her living space over several decades with a succession of housemates was both hilarious and touching. House rules regarding the cooking of meat (though not sausages in ready meals), excessive drinking, noise and in one case rowdy mothers had us all laughing but the underlying theme was friendship. Sometimes strained, sometimes lost but nearly always worth it.

After the break Paul took us on a druggy road trip with his younger self from Berkley in California to the Canadian border. It’s the 70s, Zappa and the Grateful Dead are on the 8 track and Paul is on the back seat heading north. His companions have offered him a lift in their car which unbeknown to him is stuffed with illicit (yet natural) substances. After a series of comical misadventures the border, with its attendant guards, is approaching fast and two questions arise, (1) have they consumed or ditched all of the cargo? and (2) are they in any fit state to really know? The answers, in reverse order: no and luckily yes.

We closed the evening with singer/songwriter Jake Wilson who performed three pieces from his recent CD “All’s Well” and explained how he was inspired to write them.
Our audience were so blown away by the stark beauty of his songs (which deal with the members of Scott’s doomed expedition to the Antarctic) that Jake set a True Stories precedent by performing an encore. Do have a look at his website and listen to the songs here http://www.jakewilsonmusic.com/

As always thanks to our audience for listening so carefully and thanks to our performers for sharing their true stories with us. We hope to be back at Kemi’s soon but before that we will be at the Beyond The Border international storytelling festival at St Donats on Saturday 30 June and Sunday 1 July. You’ll find us in the Peoples Palace at 2pm (sat) and 2:30 (sun). We have 10 great true Stories most but not all selected from the 60 or so that we have featured over the last 2 years http://www.beyondtheborder.com/
Hope to see you there

Steve, Maria & Andrew