Saturday, 24 December 2022

Story Calendar Day 24 - Story Ceilidh


The final door on the Story Calendar reveals a whole storybook of tales from Scotland, Nigeria and Syria, created with New Scots families during our Story Ceilidh project. The highlight of the project was undoubtedly the performance of all these stories at the Beacon Arts Centre in September this year. 

Everyone at the event was given a free copy of the beautifully illustrated publication, which was also distributed at a Visit Scotland's Parliamentary reception to celebrate Scotland's Year of Stories 2022. You can read the book below or download via ISSUU - and if you happen to find a hard copy out in the wild, grab it quick as it's well on the way to being a collectors item!

2022 was a glorious year of stories and community after two years of distance and silence, I don't think I have ever enjoyed myself so much. So that's a high bar for 2023 - which starts with finishing one book and then hopefully starting another. 

Enjoy your well earned winter break when it comes - and take care.

Friday, 23 December 2022

Story Calendar Day 23 - Going Galoshans


Today I'm sharing my two page adaptation of Greenock's Galoshans Play, with art by Zu Dominiak. It was produced for a performance of the play at the Beacon Arts Centre as part of the always epic Galoshans Festival.

Here in Greenock, Galoshans is a Halloween tradition, elsewhere in Scotland, the play is performed at Christmas and New Years, similar to mumming plays that are found elsewhere. The Galoshans Play is a resurrection drama, celebrating death and rebirth, so it honestly maybe makes more sense around Christmas and midwinter, but I like to think that just means Inverclyde gets two bites at the cherry.

Thursday, 22 December 2022

Story Calendar Day 22 - Why Read Comics?


You might have noticed quite a few comics in my Story Calendar, which isn't all that surprising given my work with Magic Torch Comics CIC - but in November, Children In Scotland magazine interviewed me about the work we do in schools literacy and it gave myself and artist Norrie Millar a nice opportunity to explore and summarise some of the things. that make comics reading so great.

Wednesday, 21 December 2022

Story Calendar Day 21 - Christmas Spirits


I'm cheating ever so slightly with today's story...

The best thing about the Year of Stories in 2022, was that sense of reconnection with people. And this is a story from two years back, when it felt hard to imagine those times. It's a midwinter tale, somewhere between the darkness and the light, and it features somewhere from my current work in I'm going to allow it...

Christmas Spirits

Melchior’s Migratory Midwinter Market was established 923AD by order of Wenceslas himself. Being a migratory market, it drifts across countries, between centuries, providing the most remarkable selection of stalls and entertainment to anyone who is able to find their way inside.  You may have seen a sign pointing towards it while in a hurry on Christmas Eve, or caught the unusual scent of its legendary basilisk burgers and candied stars as you shuffled through the slush at the sales. Always just a street or two further away than you can reach.
On the solstice day, at the moment of midwinter, the market makes itself exclusively available to a particular type of customer, those who have their own seasonal responsibilities and so often find it more difficult to find gifts for friends and family.

At Melchior’s, on that day, you might see Grandfather Frost buying woollen hats, the Yule Goat carrying bales of golden straw or the Jolasveinar stocking up on Sherwood’s best wild boar.
And on this particularly bleak midwinter, you would have seen a small girl and a tall figure in a hooded robe making their way through the market, looking for someone.
“There he is,” said the girl, “I told you this is where he would be.”
The hooded figure looked over to ‘The Wild Hunt’, one of several taverns dotted around the market. The taverns tables were no more than roughly chopped logs, tied together with ivy, and in the corner, at the biggest table of all, behind a mountainous pile of mugs, flagons and bottles of all colours and sizes, sat a large man with a bushy red beard and a long green coat.
“Looks like he’s been for awhile,” said the girl.
“Hard to tell,” said the hooded figure, “he can put it away at the best of times.”
The two walked over to the table, and sat down beside the bearded man.
“There’s such a thing as too much plenty you know,” said the hooded figure. He gestured to the bar for two more drinks. 
“And another mead for me,” said the man.
“How many have you had?” asked the girl.
“One for each of my brothers before me…almost. I’m struggling to hit two thousand.”
“Well everyone has their limits,” said the hooded figure, “presumably even you.”
The barmaid brought over a wooden mug filled with gold flecked hot chocolate for the girl, a tiny porcelain cup of thick black coffee for the hooded figure, and a huge silver goblet of warmed mead for the man.
“If you’ve come to change my mind, you can forget it,” said the man, “I’m not doing it.”
The girl tried her best twinkling smile, “But it’s…”
“And don’t say it’s Christmas. Because it isn’t Christmas is it? It’s nothing like Christmas.”
The man picked up the goblet of mead and drank it down in one gulp before burping loudly.
“One thousand nine hundred and eighty three,” he said, raising his hand to the bar for another.
“This isn’t like you,” said the girl gently.
The man shook his head, “I know. I know it isn’t. I don’t like feeling like this. And I’ve tried, but...”
“Try harder,” said the hooded figure.
The girl shushed him, “That isn’t helpful.”
The hooded figure shrugged awkwardly. 

For a moment, they sat without speaking, listening to the syncopated carols of the steam powered brass band. The girl took a big slurp of her chocolate and then wiped her mouth, smearing sparkling chocolate all across her face. “Look. I think maybe, we just have a different job this year,” she said. “It’s not about making people change their ways. Lots of people have done that already.”
“She’s right,” said the hooded figure, “It’s been a bumper year for personal reflection.”
“…so what are we for?” asked the man. “What do we show them?”
“Hope,” said the hooded figure. “Christmas Past reminds them of those glorious times together with family, I show them the better days ahead. And you show them that even this year, even now, that people are still doing their best to find happiness.”
“If anyone can find that, it’s you,” said the girl. “Remember that one Christmas we haunted a ships Captain and we visited a treasure island where you dug up chocolate doubloons?”
Christmas Future chuckled, “Or when you convinced Prospero to invite the whole town to a big fancy dress Christmas party in his abbey? And I did all the decorations.”
The man stroked his beard, a smile playing around his lips, “That was fun.”
“So maybe there are less parties this year to take folk to,” said Christmas Past. “And empty chairs at the table. It’s different. Harder than it’s been for a long time, for longer than most folks now can remember. But that can’t steal away the Christmases you’ve had, keep you from imagining how next Christmas will be different…”
“Or stop you being here, in Christmas Present…”
The girl beamed, and nudged Christmas Future in the ribs, “See! I told you we could do it.”
Christmas Present smiled, “Thank you”. He blinked, looking at the mess of bottles and mugs stacked in front of him. “Deary me.”
Christmas Present lifted his holly wreath crown, and placed it carefully back on his head.
“There’s a stall over there does hangover cures,” said Christmas Future, “Back in a minute.”
The three ghosts helped tidy up the tavern table, Christmas Present bought Past and Future some coal fudge and then they all made their way to the edge of the market.
“Can we maybe do just one old style haunting as well…” he asked, “there is just one person who doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson yet this year.”
“Oh I wouldn’t worry about him,” said the Ghost of Christmas Future. “He’s had more than enough opportunity for epiphanies.”
“Yes,” said Christmas Past, “I used to think everyone was worth trying to save. Now…I’m not so sure. Let’s just focus on the positives.”
“Fair enough,” said Christmas Present. “Hey, what about that time we took that banker up those weird mountains in Antarctica. What a laugh!”
The three friends left the market, and wandered back out into the snow to prepare for their Christmas visits. There was more to do than usual this year.
The moment of midwinter passed, and slowly, ever so slowly, the lighter days began.

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

Story Calendar Day 20 - North Ayrshire Community Campfire


A final selection of stories collected during the Scottish Book Trust's Community Campfires project.

There's ghosts, fairgrounds, and a few thoughts from me on the power of stories and finding your voice.

Monday, 19 December 2022

Story Calendar Day 19 - Over The Wall


'Over The Wall' is the second of the two Antonine Wall comics created as part of the Rediscovering the Antonine Wall project. 

This one was created by pupils of Drumchapel High School, who were very clear that they wanted their comic to reflect the diversity of the school and also to have minimal text - with the text that was used being in a dyslexia friendly font. This comic also tells one longer story rather than the short tales from 'Antonine!'

You can read and download the comic via ISSUU or read below. Art is by Katherine Hemmings.

Sunday, 18 December 2022

Story Calendar Day 18 - Oor Stories


As part of Scotland's Year of Stories, Inverclyde Libraries ran the 'Oor Stories' project. I worked with young people in summer workshops and in Notre Dame High School Communications and Language Unit, to create two different comic stories. The tales explored Inverclyde myths and legends from mermaids and warlocks, to the tales of the mysterious menagerie which was once kept beneath Newark Castle. Two different comics in two very different styles were produced, Volume One and Volume Two, you can read and download them via ISSUU - or flick through Volume One below.