On a small patch of green beside the library in this close community on the hill, once a year we tell stories in a marquee while the sun blazes, the rain beats and the wind howls.
I’ve been attending the Stannington Story Festival as an author for three years now. The library here, a hut shaped and solid stone building, was once council run, but following a series of blunt cuts that saw many libraries in Sheffield face closure, members of the community came together and took over the running of the library themselves. Communities have done this in many areas and volunteer run libraries are now exciting and vibrant places to be. The people involved volunteer their time and they raise funds to keep this building full of books and open, and without them it would certainly be closed.
The story festival is another way to raise funds for the library and to raise its profile, but it’s also a community event that brings families, local residents, and lovers of words and yarns, together to hear stories being told in the big cream coloured marquee.
Local storytellers, traders, brewers, theatre groups, choirs and folk singers, all come together on the green once a year and share tales of history, landscapes, lives and loves.
The library has a small book stall under a cloth gazebo and the marque drapes twinkling fairy lights like a splash of running water. Inside the library choirs warm up their vocals and children huddle around the jam packed shelves.
This year there’s a chalk sculpture from Stoneface that tells us wisdom from the legend of the green man ‘With a loving heart and open mind seek and you will find’. There’s stories of teddy bears and wildlife and readings from poetry and short stories, and a vocal coach who tells us how words and stories form relationships with music that create something as close to magic as we can ever experience.
The afternoon slips towards the evening, the wind picks up some breath and the cars in the lane behind us tail away and disperse. The Peacock, the pub that leans with the bend in the road, beckons us for beer and warmth and to recap and regroup after the day. And the small green beside the library slopes and eases into sleep now the people have gone. The marquee is taken down and packed up for another year, the fairy lights rest till Christmas time and the gazebo waits till barbeques are fired up again in the spring. The grass grows and is trimmed and listens and absorbs the stories of everyone who walks on it. And each blade sways in the breeze and lets the seasons spread over it, until next year, when the stories come again.
Samantha Priestley is the author of the Folded Word short-fiction chapbooks Dreamers (2014) and Orange Balloon (2016). She’s a novelist, playwright, and essayist who spins words into gold from her home in Sheffield, UK.
To read the first page of Orange Balloon, see a sample illustration, or purchase direct, please visit our shop: