For out of olde feldes, as men seyeth,
Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere,
And out of olde bokes, in good feyth,
Cometh al this newe science that men lere.
(Geoffrey Chaucer, Pariliament of Fowls, ll. 22-25).
My storytelling weaves medieval narratives together with English folk song. Often moving, occasionally political, frequently feminist, just a little queer and regularly funny, my stories underline the relevance and vibrancy of medieval narratives for today’s world.
I’ve told stories in some gorgeous and unusual venues, including two Cathedrals, at Swansea Waterfront Museum, at academic conferences and a folk festival in California.
I currently have the following shows available:
The Bayeux Tapestry: the Full Yarn is a telling of the whole Bayeux Tapestry – and its marginalia – in one hour. (60 minutes)
Broken Shells is a retelling of Chaucer’s ‘Man of Law’s Tale’. A woman has the bad luck to be put in a rudderless boat and set adrift. A tale of love, fear, passion, violence and the queer, cold seas which roil and coil between nations. (60 minutes)
Unruly Woman – An indecorous assortment of medieval tales from around Europe about women who gain the upper hand – or, occasionally, the upper arse. (90 minutes)
Nine Day’s Wonder: The tall tale of Will Kempe’s audacious dance from London to Norwich in 1599. Never afraid to upstage his peers, Kempe set out on his journey to raise money and publicity after falling out with Shakespeare’s company. The ultimate battle of Wills.
New for 2020: Mappa Mundi: Explore the medieval world via the Hereford Mappa Mundi (c. 1300). This incredible map is full of stories, including the exploits of heroes, the tales of Alexander the Great,
saints and giants, mermaids, devils and grisly acts of cannibalism. Look out for the monsters lurking at the edges of the map…
The shows are available for £250 plus expenses. This is negotiable for story clubs and charities.
Contact me at email@example.com (delete the obvious) for more information.
New for 2020: Mappa Mundi
‘Here, I found beasts like minotaurs, useful for war’.
Let the twelve winds blow you to the far corners of the Earth; meet mermaids and mandrakes; and follow the trail of Adam’s burnt footprints all the way back to Eden.
Storyteller Daisy Black takes you on a tour around the medieval map of the world. A show full of marvels, including saints and giants, heroes and devils, grisly cannibals and Norwegian skiers. Weaving together medieval maps and travel writing with oral storytelling, this show is your passport to see the world through fourteenth-century eyes.
Just watch out for the monsters lurking at the edges of the map.
The Bayeux Tapestry: The Full Yarn
The beasts of battle gather in the tapestry borders.
Ravens, wolves, eagles. All creatures – common, fantastic, wild, domestic –
hold their stitched breath
as the battle gathers
Until at last, William and Harold face each other over some few feet of linen.
The embroidered King wants to finish his church at Westminster. The English Earl and Norman Duke want the English throne. The hawk wants to be out in the fields, hunting for mice.
Storyteller and academic Daisy Black provides a hawk’s eye view of the Bayeux Tapestry, where kings battle, oaths are broken and wheels of cheese are stolen by crafty foxes.
Interweaving the fables of the Bayeux Tapestry’s margins and human narratives with Anglo-Saxon poetry and English folk song, this one-woman show stitches together a vivid, epic and moving account of the events leading up to 1066.
Seventy metres of history in a single hour!
This story lasts for 60 minutes and is suitable for ages 8 and up.
Feedback from the world premiere at Canterbury Cathedral, Kent:
‘Informative and funny’.
‘A wonderful mixture of folk song, embodied performance, comedy, history – utterly mesmerising and enchanting’.
‘It skilfully wove together analysis of history, gestures, clothing, folklore and song to create an immersive and riveting show’.
‘As a Normanist, even I felt some sympathy for the Anglo-Saxons’.
Broken Shells: A Medieval Sea Story
In a little room in Rome, a bride sits at her window. The deep windowsill is covered with litter – a scrap of dried seaweed, the jagged edge of a pink scallop, scattered grains of sand. Her eyes are fixed on the ocean outside.
She has always loved the sea.
But now the day has come. Yesterday, she wept. She wept to be sent away from friends who care for her, sent to be a foreigner in strange land and bound to a man she doesn’t know.
She wept because, of course, everyone knows that all husbands are good.
And the waves rush up, and the stars rotate, and the waves pull back again.
Storyteller and academic Daisy Black brings to life Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale – a tale of love, fear, passion, violence and the queer, cold seas which roil and coil between nations.
Custance, who has beauty without pride, youth without foolishness and strength without tyranny, finds herself cast adrift at sea. Forced to endure hostile lands and people, and carve paths for herself among strange cultures, the strongest of Chaucer’s heroines strings her strength across the oceans, telling us what it is to love and to survive.
Set among the eddies and currents of medieval romance, classical mythology and English folk song, this one-woman show tells a haunting, visceral, occasionally funny tale that will whirl round your senses, lace your tongue with salt and take you across the sapphire-worked seas to walk with the creatures at the far edges of the map.
This story lasts for 60 minutes and is suitable for ages 13 and up.
Feedback from the world premiere at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea:
‘Daisy Black‘s retelling of the Constance legend, she skilfully drew out the painful feminist narrative of a woman tossed from shore to shore by the demands of patriarchy, but who survived, and survived, and survived’.
‘A remarkable solo performance’.
‘A riveting retelling of the Man of Law’s Tale.’
It is impossible
That any clerk speak well of women.
Who painted the lion, tell me, who?
By God, if women had written stories
As clerks have in their studies
They would have written more of men’s wickedness
Than all the mark of Adam might redress.
(Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath’s Prologue).
Storyteller and academic Daisy Black presents indecorous assortment of medieval tales from around Europe about women who gain the upper hand – or, occasionally, the upper arse.
These are stories of sex, of disguise and deception, of arse-kissing, and of women finding creative, naughty and cunning ways to overcome the restrictions placed upon them by their gender and class.
Interlacing medieval fabliaux and romance with bawdy folk songs, this one-woman performance pays homage to literature’s original ‘nasty women’.
The performance lasts for one hour and is suitable for ages 16 and up.
In the works: Nine Days’ Wonder
The tall tale of Will Kempe’s audacious dance of over 125 miles from London to Norwich in 1599.
Star of the London stage, Will Kempe is the sort of man who felt no shame going about town introducing himself as:
‘Cavaliero Kemp, head-master of Morrice-dauncers, high Head-borough of heighs, and only tricker of your Trill lilles, and best belshangles’.
Never afraid to upstage his peers, Kempe began his journey to raise money and publicity after he fell out with Shakespeare’s company. From the grotty dive of London’s South Bank to the muddy potholes of the fens, Will was joined by an assortment of locals, including an unfit butcher and a country lass who kept up with him for a full mile.
Tripping lightly through history with physical comedy and extracts from Shakespeare, this show pays homage to a man who followed the beat of a slightly different drum to everyone else.
This story show is designed so that it can be interwoven with Morris dance performances or contemporary and theme-appropriate dances taught to the audience. Please contact Daisy if you wish to organise a special dance performance of the show.
The performance lasts between one and two hours depending on its format, and is suitable for ages 10 and up.
Past Performances and Workshops
1st February: ‘Chain Reaction’ at Wolverhampton Literature Festival, Bantock House, Wolverhampton.
1st February: ‘Mappa Mundi’ premiere at Wolverhampton Literature Festival, Bantock House, Wolverhampton.
12th December: ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the University of Wolverhampton’s Christmas Lecture, Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton.
19th November 2019: ‘Broken Shells’ at the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton.
30th October 2019: ‘Broken Shells’ at Darlington U3A.
6th August 2019: ‘The Bayeux Tapestry: The Full Yarn’ at Ironbridge Gorge Museum.
2nd August 2019: ‘The Bayeux Tapestry: The Full Yarn’ at Pinewoods English Folk Week, Massachusetts.
26th July 2019: ‘The Bayeux Tapestry: The Full Yarn’ at Montague, Massachusetts.
16th July 2019: Story at Sheffield Story Forge’s ‘Summer Pudding’ 10th anniversary evening.
10th July 2019: ‘The Bayeux Tapestry: The Full Yarn’ at Beeston Tales.
3rd July 2019: ‘The Bayeux Tapestry: The Full Yarn’ at Leeds International Medieval Congress.
1st July 2019: ‘Storytelling for Medievalists’ workshop at Leeds International Medieval Congress.
8th June 2019: ‘Nine Days’ Wonder’ draft version premiered at at Stonesfield Folk Dance Weekend.
9th May 2019: Opening stories at the Wolverhampton ArtsFest launch party.
27th March 2019: ‘Unruly Woman’ at Flixton Trad Club, Manchester.
8th March 2019: ‘Myth Off’ at Leeds Lit Fest (Leeds Storytelling Takeover).
3rd February 2019: ‘Unruly Woman’ at Wolverhampton Literature Festival.
2nd February 2019: ‘The Bayeux Tapestry: The Full Yarn’ at Wolverhampton Literature Festival.
5th December 2018: ‘Unruly Woman’ at the University of London.
26th September 2018: ‘The Bayeux Tapestry: The Full Yarn’ in front of the English Bayeux Tapestry at Reading Museum.
11th September 2018: ‘Unruly Woman’ at Stafford Knot Storytelling Club.
3rd August 2018: ‘Broken Shells’ at Sidmouth Folk Week.
18th July 2018: ‘Unruly Woman’ at Amherst Early Music Festival, New London, Connecticut, USA.
9th July 2018: ‘Unruly Woman’ at Durham University (College of St Hild and St Bede< MEMSA Conference).
6th July 2018: ‘Unruly Woman’ at the 18th International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter, University of Wolverhampton, Telford.
18th June 18 2018: ‘Unruly Woman’ Wolverhampton ArtsFest, the Arena Theatre.
6th March 2018: ‘Broken Shells’ at Sheffield Story Forge, The Fat Cat, Sheffield.
January 27th 2018: ‘Broken Shells’ at Wolverhampton Literature Festival, Bantock House, Wolverhampton
January 8th 2018: ‘Unruly Woman’ premiere at the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford
23rd August 2017: ‘Broken Shells’ performed at Hey Days English Dance and Music Folk Festival, California.
30th June 2017: ‘Broken Shells’ performed at Manchester Cathedral.
13th January 2017: ‘The Bayeux Tapestry: The Full Yarn’ premiered at the 2017 Gender and Medieval Studies Conference at Canterbury Christ Church University.
1st July 2016: ‘Broken Shells’ premiered at Swansea University’s Women at Sea Symposium at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.