Local Tales for Local People by Nimue Brown

Anthony Nanson and Kirsty Hartsiotis are probably best known locally as story tellers, and you can find them most months at Stroud Out Loud, run in Mr Twitchett’s Cafe at the Subcription Rooms.They’ve both been selected to read at Stroud Short Stories evenings (but not on the same night!) and last year Anthony published his first novel Deep Time with Hawthorn Press.  

That’s a very short introduction to a very creative pair of people. Kirsty and Anthony have also brought their skills to local folk stories, breathing life and coherence into a range of Gloucestershire tales, and enlivening them with illustrations (that one is all Kirsty).

Gloucestershire Folk Tales was published back in 2012, and put together by Anthony Nanson, (although I have been told that Kirsty had considerable influence on one of the stories!). Gloucestershire Ghost Tales came out last year and was written jointly. Those of us who follow them on facebook have enjoyed, vicariously, some months of ghost hunting as they toured the area looking at locations and probable settings for the stories they had collected. Enigmatic photos were shared. 

One of the things to be said for both books is the care and attention that has gone into placing stories physically in the landscape. It’s also clear that they’ve paid a lot of attention to historical detail where that’s known and relevant.

The tales in both books are fairly short, each one delivered with a story teller’s flare. It’s not a complete set of tales for the area, but a selection of the most engaging, most tellable stories. They have also favoured the more imaginative tales and stayed out of stories that are more history than legend. Both books are a great expression of just how rich and interesting local mythic history is, and how much story we have in our immediate landscape. While both books cover Gloucestershire as a whole, there’s plenty of Stroud-specific material.

I have greatly enjoyed reading both books – I got through them in about an evening each, and many of the tales have stayed with me. I’ve since been moved to go and look for Woeful Dane’s Bottom, (how could anyone resist?) and it was good to be reminded that in terms of myth and history alike, Gloucestershire has always had a lot going on.

Kirsty is also responsible for a Suffolk folk tales collection, and a Wiltshire set, while other authors have covered the rest of the UK. If you’re interested in tales that are ‘not from around here’ then there’s plenty on offer. Although arguably anything The History Press does counts as local, given they’re based at Brimscombe Port.

Nimue Brown lives in Stroud, writes fiction and non-fiction, has a compulsive blogging habit and can be found online at www.druidlife.wordpress.com