Spotlight on Taffy Thomas who is our storyteller extraordinaire

Spotlight on Taffy Thomas who is our storytelling festival host at Halsway Manor on 20th – 22nd September – 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.
With Taffy’s head bursting with stories, riddles and folklore, professional storyteller Giles Abbot once commented, “when Taffy goes it will be like a library burning down.”

We are recruiting!! Come and work with u

We are recruiting!! Come and work with us!

Halsway Manor
National Centre for the Folk Arts

Duty Manager – Full Time
Key post with responsibility for ensuring the comfort and safety of guests on residential courses. Duties include overnight cover (3 nights per week on average), bar work, meal service, checking guests in/out and general customer care. Weekend / bank holiday working required. You will have a friendly and capable attitude and previous experience working directly with the public. Training is provided in all aspects of the job.

House Staff – Part Time
Friendly, positive person required to join our House Staff team. Duties include cleaning, housekeeping, meal service and occasional bar work. You will need to be available to work daytime, evening and weekend shifts.

For an informal chat and / or more information about either post contact Paul James, Chief Executive (07825 631769) or Lynne Norman, Operations Manager (01984 618 274).
Halsway Manor, Halsway Lane, near Crowcombe, TA4 4BD

The wonderful Violin Making Workshop at Halsway

A few weeks ago we were delighted to welcome back Neville Gardner and Corrie Schrijver and their wonderful violin making workshop. Neville has been teaching violin making for the last 16 years and these courses are run in response to a huge demand for a good length of continuous time at the workbench. Beginners are always welcome – everyone has to start somewhere and people from all walks of life, with different backgrounds and skills, come together to make their violins. The workshops can be attended as a day visitor or as most people tend to do, since they come from far away places, is stay over for the weekend.

One of the things I noticed as I was taking these photographs was the almost zen-like state everyone was in. The room was well and truly blissful and peaceful!

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Melodeon Player Extraordinaire John Kirkpatrick comes to Halsway Manor

This week we are very excited to be featuring John Kirkpatrick on our blog as it won’t be long before he will be joining us at Halsway for a weekend workshop and a concert in the middle on the saturday night. THere is lots of information out there on John and he has one of the most informative websites I have ever seen! So please, if you would like to know more, do go to and have a look at what he is up to. Below is a bit of info on John taken in part from his biography.

John Kirkpatrick was born in Chiswick in 1947 and grew up in a family where a hearty sing song was always a part of family gathering. John was in school choirs, the Church choir and played recorder and piano, until he joined the Hammersmith Morris Men at the tender age of 12 in 1959. Whilst with the team he took up the melodeon, then the button accordion, then the anglo concertina, and got hooked on the traditional songs that were accompanied with a post-dancing pint.

John has gone on to become one of the most prolific figures on the English folk scene, performing solo, in duos, acoustic groups and electric bands, and has established an enviable reputation as an instrumental virtuoso and session musician, as well as a leading interpreter of English folk music.

John has been a member of many bands, including the Albion Country Band, the Magic Lantern, The Richard Thompson Band, Umps and Dumps, Steeleye Span, Brass Monkey, Trans-Europe Diatonique, and Band of Hope, as well as numerous ceilidh bands.

One of the things I have really enjoyed reading is some of the articles that John has published on a number of different subjects such as The British Button Box as well as responses to some of the articles he has had published. They are most amusing and briliantly written and can be found on his website under writings…

The Melodeon Workshop that John is doing for us is for experienced Melodeon players who can either read music or play by ear. It is an intensive weekend with uptempo tunes for experienced players of all ages. Some music will be supplied in advance and other tunes will be chosen at the event, in response to participants needs. Have a look at the website for further details Melodeon Workshop with John Kirkpatrick and don’t forget that it is for the Two Row G/D melodeon. 

It is not long now until midsummer is upon us

It is not long now until midsummer is upon us! It is always one of those times that sneak up on you, and as soon as it has gone, it seems like we are on the way to midwinter! So in honour of midsummer, come and be uplifted by a magical weekend singing folksongs from Somerset and beyond with two outstanding workshop leaders, Yvette Staelens and James Findlay. The focus will be on sharing delicious harmonies, joyous West Gallery and folksongs for the season.

All songs will be taught aurally and the event is suitable for singers of all ages and abilities. The weekend will feature daily singing workshops, a presentation on Somerset folksong collectors and a Saturday evening concert featuring James Findlay, Yvette Staelens and the Halsway Choir. Come and join our facebook page to keep up with the latest information.