Clemma is part of our Storytelling Group and also works as a trainee administrator. She helps with the enquiries, bookings and general office administration. Clemma says she joined Openstorytellers to get experience and to do something useful. Her favourite stories are ones about her cats Whiskey & Charlie.
Robin has worked with Openstorytellers for many years and is one of the founding members of the charity. He produces the artwork we use to promote our events and stories. Robin also does graphic facilitation helping people follow and understand meetings and discussions. Robin says he joined Openstorytellers as he has always loved stories and would like a career as a storyteller. He has a love of myths and legends so it's no surprise his favourite stories include King Arthur and Aladdin.
Katie is our Information Officer and she does lots of research and evaluation for our events. She is a key member of the Storytelling Group and is a great performer as she loves to act. After vounteering with us on our Storyhaing project in Somerset, Katie was keen to do more and joined our team in 2011. Very often the stories we tell have meanings and Katie particularly likes Cinderella as it's a fairy tale about a girl who learns she can do anything.
Tim joined Openstorytellers in 2011 and is one of our storytellers. He also has the role of researcher and he looks into the history and meaning of our stories, making sure they are relevant to problems we may face today. Tim also keeps us up to date with all the latest disability awareness issues. He joined Openstorytellers as he enjoys meeting people and storytelling. Tim describes Openstorytellers as "a good bunch of people, one big happy family".
Suzie became part of Openstorytellers in 2012 but she has been telling stories with us for many years. She is part of our storytelling group and also works one day a week helping to run the charity office. Suzie loves creating writing and says she joined Openstorytellers as "It was my dream to tell stories because I love writing stories". Her favourite story is Harry Potter because there is magical world and gives her lots of ideas for her own books.
Chair of Trustees
Tracy is a practicing Specialist Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) working with adults with learning disabilities. She specialises in supporting those people who can be challenging, people with autistic spectrum condition, and eating and drinking difficulties. She worked as a Specialist SLT in London before moving to the South West, where she worked in Somerset (Mendip) and now BANES. Tracy enjoys sharing stories. She lives on the edge of Bath and have a cat called Gatsby and a very large and naughty puppy called Charlie.
Ruth has worked as a volunteer with Openstorytellers since 2011 and recently became a Trustee.
She worked in Education for over forty years in a wide variety of mainstream secondary schools around the country: as an English Teacher, Head of Department, Senior Teacher and then as Deputy Head in Tower Hamlets - line managing the Special Needs and English as an Additional Language Departments, and as the Lead for Child Protection. Her last post was as Senior Lecturer in English Education on the PGCE course at Middlesex University.
Her MA is in “Emotional Factors in Learning and Teaching” through the Tavistock Clinic in London.
Her interest in listening to, telling and sharing story has been a major part of her life and work, and has been continued in her work at Openstorytellers.
She now sings, plays the piano, gardens, and is passionate about her pottery and clay modelling classes
Sue Paxton has shown an interest in Openstorytellers for some time as her sister has benefited from going to the Work Skills groups for many years. Sue joined as a trustee in July 2017.
Sue has a daughter with a disability and in 2013 opened The Pod Youth Club in Frome, so that children with disabilities could access a full staffed leisure provision outside of school and make friends whilst their family benefit from respite. Sue is now the Charity Manager of The Pod which also runs The Zone, a Young Carers club and Pod Plus a social club for 18 to 30s. Prior to Sue's work with the Pod she has previous experience in event management and was also the Project Leader for a housing association that supported adults with mental health difficulties.
"I am delighted to have been invited to join Openstorytellers as a Trustee and I am very much looking forward to establishing links between The Pod and Openstorytellers that will offer more opportunities and choice for young people and adults with disabilities"
Sue lives in Frome and can be seen walking her very noisy dog Molly! She enjoys Running, plays Badminton and when there is time to relax she loves to bury herself in a good book!
Nicola Grove founded Openstorytellers with colleagues in 2009 as a follow on from a Lottery funded project. She started life as a teacher, morphed into a speech and language therapist and is now a storyteller, researcher and trainer, and honorary Senior Lecturer at the Tizard Centre, University of Kent. Her doctoral research was on sign language use by young people with special needs, and she developed a range of curriculum resources for accessing literature (real books as opposed to simplified versions). She is the author of several books and papers on narrative and disability. www.drnicolagrove.com
Bill Palmer is the Director of the School for Experiential Education with branches in the UK and Spain. He developed an approach to physical therapy for chronic conditions and disability that emphasises a person's abilities rather focusing on their problems. He teaches postgraduate courses on this system in ten countries worldwide. In Frome he was the co-founder of Elderventure, a group that works with older people to help them maintain self-esteem and to support each other as they become older. He also was chair and co-founder of Fair Housing for Frome, a CIC whose aim is to make sure everyone in Frome has access to affordable housing. His interest as an Openstorytellers trustee is to support strategies and initiatives to create new income streams through development of social enterprises and training packages.
I am a Member of the Religious Society of Friends, (Quakers), the mother of two now adult children (and one grandchild). Before I came to live in Frome from London in 2012 I was for many years a teacher of a number of subjects, at many types of school, from primary through to secondary and finally to University (London Metropolitan).
I have authored 3 books, 1) Making Sense of Economics (with Ross Chapman, Fontana 1974); Holding the Reins (Parents, children and nannies in their search for domestic salvation, Fontana 1989) and Green Parenting (Macdonald Optima 1990). I was an elected member on Haringey Council from 2010-2014; a trustee of the Mount Community Association (Frome, 2014-16), and also, before that, responsible for the Muswell Hill Junior Friends of the Earth in association with a number of other people.
I am also on the central body of a charity called Music Camp Limited which supports musical activities in Bucks. My very first training was as a secretary; I have a degree in Economics, an PGCE in Social Studies, an MSc in transport planning (my research speciality was social transport issues). My non-work passion now is mostly music - at one time I taught music, particularly cello, in schools.
Gill qualified as a social worker and worked with children and adults with learning difficulties for 30 years.
At RNIB Multiple Disability Team and SeeAbility she provided information on eye care for adults with learning difficulties. She has written numerous leaflets and articles, and ran the Access to Eye Care Campaign. She worked with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the College of Optometry to help members develop strategies to ensure that people with learning difficulties were not denied quality eye care.
Gill’s role at RNIB also included trying to improve services for blind and partially sighted people with learning difficulties and/or complex needs.
Since leaving SeeAbility in 2008, she has worked as a supporter at People First and in a children’s eye clinic.
She has a special interest in accessible information.
Nick Hennessey came to storytelling whilst undertaking field research for a PhD in Cultural Geography. At this time he became a professional singer, songwriter and storyteller with a particular interest in the relationship between landscape, communities and stories and the re-invention of tradition. As an artist he has continued to do research and perform internationally. In 2000 he won the World Championship in epic-singing performing the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic in Espoo, near Helsinki. He regularly returns to perform Kalevala in English for Finnish audiences. In 2009 he presented a program on BBC Radio 4 on the relationship between Kalevala and modern Finnish national identity. In the UK, he was commissioned in 2007 by the Plymouth Theatre Royal to write “The Crossroads” a short play based on the ballad Tam Lin for the celebrated Playhouse Festival. The play has subsequently been performed at Plymouth, York Theatre Royal, and Polka Children’s Theatre in London. Nick has performed at venues from the South Bank and the Albert Hall to rural village halls, and extensively at folk, storytelling, and literature festivals throughout the UK and internationally (Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Canada and two national tours of Japan). He has produced three solo albums of his music the most recent of which, “A Rare Hunger” released on Harbourtown Records, received critical acclaim with airtime plays on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction and numerous stations in the US. Find out more about Nick Hennesey
Taffy Thomas trained as a Literature and Drama teacher at Dudley College of Education. After teaching for several years in Wolverhampton he founded and directed the legendary folk theatre company, Magic Lantern, illustrating traditional stories and songs with shadow puppets and circus skills. He founded and directed the community arts company, Charivari, with their popular touring unit, the Fabulous Salami Brothers, which he fronted and performed in. After a major stroke at the age of 36 Taffy turned back to story telling as self-imposed speech therapy, which turned into a new career. Taffy has a repertoire of more than 300 stories, collected mainly from traditional oral sources, which he is happy to tell in almost any situation. This repertoire was built by meeting and working with virtually all the great traditional storytellers who were alive in Britain. See 'Ancestral Voices'. He is now the most experienced English storyteller, having performed in many countries on four continents. He is currently artistic director of Tales in Trust, the Northern Centre for Storytelling, based at The Storyteller's Garden in Grasmere. In the 2001 New Year Honours List he was awarded the MBE for services to storytelling and charity and performed a new collaboration for the Blue Peter Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. Taffy is a patron of the Society for Storytelling. In October 2009 Taffy accepted the honorary position of first Laureate for Storytelling which ran for two years from January 2010 to January 2012. Find out more about Taffy Thomas
Emma comes from a commercial background, having worked for a large retailer for over twelve years. She is an experienced regional manager and brings with her a wealth of general experience from human resources and health and safety to financial management. Since moving to Frome in 2006, Emma retrained as a web designer, working with her husband running a small agency. Over the years Emma has worked with many charities, fundraising, volunteering and campaigning. She joined Openstorytellers in 2010 and plays an important role 'behind the scenes'.
Office: 01373 454 099
Charlotte started her career as an Assistant Stage Manager for a touring Educational Theatre Company in Berkshire. She went on to work as a Community Arts Development worker for Hampshire, qualifying as a Youth and Community worker at Reading University in 1985. In 1992 she moved to Frome where she worked for The Bath Area Play Project as a Project Worker for Children with Disabilities and then as a Family Support Worker for the Disabilities team at Frome Social Services. Her next role was for NCH Family Centre where she ran The ARC Service - emotional support for young people, and headed the local young carers project. She has also worked for Frome YMCA and Breaking the Cycle, both projects supporting local young people. Over the past 7 years she has taught Performing Arts, Storytelling, Employability and IT to Adults with Learning difficulties for Somerset Skills and Learning. She finally joined Openstorytellers in August 2014 to run the Work Skills Group.
Office: 01373 454 099
Storysharing Project Manager and Senior Trainer
Jane Harwood is a musician and arts leader whose work is motivated by the relationship between creativity and our need to communicate. She aims to share this with others by enabling participation and engagement – through narrative, music, storysharing, and increasingly, the use of new media. Jane delivers the Storysharer projects for Openstorytellers. She also helps to run ‘Count Me In’, a music organisation which has involved hundreds of people with learning disabilities, and Strata Collective, who work with landscape, narrative and GPS systems.
Office: 01373 454 099
Jem first performed in the theatre in the sixties and from the seventies as a professional musician. For the last ten years he has also worked as a professional storyteller, weaving his stories with music, which he often plays on reproductions of ancient and prehistoric instruments that he has made. He has worked with people with learning difficulties for nearly 25 years. He is a qualified as a counsellor, creative therapist and adult educator.
Office: 01373 454 099
Ben has recently started working for Open Storytellers. Ben has a musical background and plays a wide variety of instruments from banjo to autoharp. He has many years’ experience working with people with additional needs as a teaching assistant, a personal carer and on music projects, including ‘Count Us In’ with Jane Harwood. He runs Loops Music Project who aim to make music creation accessible to all through the use of music technology, including Wii remotes and hands free devices.
Office: 01373 454 099
Projects and Events Manager
Jade has been working with people with learning disabilities since 2007 in a variety of contexts. Having started out volunteering at an art group for people with complex needs, Jade then worked as a support worker, a group leader at an educational charity delivering arts and textiles, independent living skills, literacy and business enterprise sessions, and then as a project manager at a local Mencap charity. Jade has studied in the arts, gaining an MA in Participatory and Community Arts in 2015. She also runs an online craft shop selling homeware and accessories made by people working in supported environments. Jade enjoys working behind the scenes at Openstorytellers, as well as collaborating on projects with our members.
Kay began as an Early Years Teacher specialising in art. She taught in a variety of schools before becoming an Education Officer for the Somerset Wildlife Trust, organising events (and becoming a pond dipping expert). After having a family she returned to work as a Teaching Assistant supporting children with Special Needs. She writes children’s short stories and a never ending novel. These stories have been shared at children’s Story Times at her local library, where she worked as a Library Assistant. She also sang her heart out delivering Baby Bounce and Rhyme sessions and sensory stories to adults and children with Special Needs. She became the Support Assistant for Open Storytellers, after being a volunteer, in March 2016.
Group Leader & Storysharing Leader
I have recently started working as a group support worker for openstorytellers after spending the previous 8 years as a learning support assistant for children with special education needs, and also have experience of home care and support work for other groups of people with learning difficulties. I am competent in basic British sign language and believe it is a valuable tool for helping people with communication difficulties. I also used to teach baby signing in the local area to help parents aid communication with their children.
Office: 01373 454 099
Group Leader, Trainer & Storysharing Leader
After completing a degree in English literature and working as a chef, Lara worked with people with learning disabilities in environmental and community projects. Following this, Lara trained to become a Speech and Language Therapist and worked in the community with children with special and learning needs. Following a break to have a family, Lara worked with a Bristol-based charity supporting adults affected by stroke, before moving to Frome and taking on the role of Office Group Leader at Openstorytellers in Autumn 2013. Community, sharing, food and story are the things that Lara values most and she appreciates enabling all people to access, communicate and understand their personal stories and the richness of stories from history and myth.
Office: 01373 454 099