Jan Blake was born in Manchester of Jamaican parentage. She has an international reputation for dynamic, witty, exciting storytelling. Specialising in stories from Africa and the Caribbean Jan is currently one of Europe’s leading female storytellers. She has featured at all the major storytelling festivals in the country, performs, runs storytelling workshops and teaches and performs all over Europe. Jan has worked as an artist in residence at various theatres throughout Britain and in doing so has developed close links with theatres such as The Southbank Centre, The Royal National Theatre, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The National Concert Hall of Ireland, The Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, Battersea Arts Centre, & The Unicorn Theatre for Children. She is committed to passing on skills that can help storytellers develop their expertise. Jan works with a range of audiences, in a range of venues, from schools to the corporate boardroom, performing teaching and training. She designs storytelling and visual arts programmes for delivery in schools and the community and is also a Storytelling consultant at the National Theatre. Jan is currently involved in a four year global Educational Storytelling project The Storytellers’ Olympiad, with The Company of Common Sense.
Jan’s Storytelling History
Jan Blake’s career as a storyteller began in London 1986 with Common Lore Storytellers and Musicians. In January 1987 Ben Haggerty of ‘The Company of Storytellers’ introduced her to the international storytelling circuit, when she performed at the 2nd International Storytelling Festival at Waterman’s Arts Centre, London. Since then she has gone on to become one of Europe’s leading female storytellers, specialising in West African and Caribbean folktales. Jan has toured Arts Centres, theatres and festivals the length and breadth of Europe. She has also worked extensively in London primary schools and Universities, running storytelling workshops and training for children, students and teachers alike. Jan is constantly in demand in Europe as a teacher and performer. Her warm and inspirational approach to teaching often makes her the first choice for storytelling workshops for experienced and apprentice storytellers alike. Jan has been resident artist at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, The Southbank Centre and the National Theatre and is a regular performer with the Apples and Snakes Live Poetry/storytelling Project. In May 1997, in association with Spread the Word Literature Development Unit and Battersea Arts Centre, Jan launched a new monthly storytelling club ‘Kiss and Tell’. Also in March 1998, in association with the Natural History Museum Education Department, Jan helped to develop the ‘Myth & Monsters’ Education project, preparing teachers notes on storytelling in the classroom and telling stories at the Natural History Museum on a regular basis. It was also at this time that she launched the Akua Storytelling Project, her own storytelling company and school for, new storytellers in the UK Theatre From 1998-2008 Jan was resident storyteller at the National. She and continues this association as an occasional performer and storytelling consultant to the education department. Her highly successful children’s show Revenge of the Story Spirits was performed in collaboration with the Unicorn Theatre for Children at the Pleasance Theatre in the spring of 2000. Jan continues to develop new performance pieces for the Akua Storytelling project in collaboration with master musicians Kouame & Raymond Sereba, which have been performed at storytelling festivals and venues here. throughout Europe
In 1998 Jan launched The Akua Storytelling Project, her own Storytelling Company and school for new storytellers in the UK. Between 2001 and 2008 she was the resident storyteller/consultant at the Royal National Theatre, devising educational projects to run alongside the National Theatre’s annual storytelling festival WORD ALIVE! This involves training people to deliver the scheme of storytelling work in primary schools, as well as performing herself in the festival each year. Jan also devised the inspirational textile and storytelling project Bedtime Stories which is an ongoing programme in Westminster schools. This involves collecting folktales and retelling them as embroidered pieces which are then stitched together to create a wall hanging. The children also have an opportunity to develop their storytelling skills for a storytelling performance in school.
As well as being a featured storyteller with Apples & Snakes, Jan is also an associate of the CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary School Education), taking part in several of their literacy projects including Animating Literacy, The Power of Reading as well as being MC/presenter for their many children Poetry Anthology performances at the South Bank Centre. Her most recent festivals and bookfairs include: The Jonesborough Stoytelling Festival, Tennessee; The Norwegian Storytelling Festival, with renowned Ivoirien musician Kouame Sereba; The Fabula Storytelling Festival, Sweden; The Toronto Storytelling Festival; Beyond The Border North; The Vancouver Storytelling Festival; The Baltic Bookfair, Festival at the Edge; The Big Chill; Interpedagocia; Gratz; The Bristol Storytelling Festival; Imagine Literature Festival at the SBC, The Zwolle International Storytelling Festival; Netherlands, The Moscow Bookfair.
In July 2009 Jan performed a version of the Malian Epic Sundiata with Ivoirien musicians Kouame & Raymond Sereba at FATE (Festival at the Edge) storytelling festival and in October she will appear at the Montreal Storytelling Festival. Jan is a regular contributor to Radio 4 on the BBC as a storyteller and commentator on African and Caribbean folklore, and has recently worked with presenter and broadcaster Adrian Chiles, on developing his storytelling skills for his Monday morning programme. Now and then, Jan has worked as an actress and, as Jan Alphonse, has worked extensively in both theatre and TV over the past 20 years, working with The Oxford Stage Company, Octogan Theatre, The Sheffield Crucible, Victoria Wood, Michelle Collins & Dawn French in BBC television dramas. Jan’s first children’s book “Give Me My Yam” was published by Walker Books for their ‘Reading Together’ series during National Book Week April 1998. “Give me my Yam” is now enjoying its 8th reprint.
"Give me my yam!" ISBN 10 0744548853 /ISBN-13: 978-0744548853