Press Resources

This page contains information of use to anyone writing articles about or promoting Shonaleigh’s events.

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Please note that the Shonaleigh web site and email addresses changed on 1st August 2017.
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About Shonaleigh

Shonaleigh is a storyteller who was brought up in the Drut’syla tradition by her Bubbe (Grandmother).

You hear people talking about the storytelling revival, but in Jewish culture it never died. From the age of four I lived and breathed the tales of my childhood, unaware that there was anything unusual. I thought this was quite normal and that all storytellers had this background … It was quite routine for me to fall asleep at night listening to songs and stories in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Dutch and Turkish – a wonderful colourful mix,” she says.

A dedicated and committed storyteller, who has actively worked to expand and share her tradition, she has a repertoire of over three thousand stories which can be adapted as appropriate for the theme and audience with whom she is working.

She has performed in venues from church halls to London’s Albert Hall, from forests to the Barbican, and at festivals in the U.K., on the Continent, USA and New Zealand. She also does a great deal of work in schools and among community groups, helping people, particularly teenagers and the immigrant community, find their voice.

Shonaleigh was the UK’s Deputy National Storytelling Laureate from 2010-12, has completed commissions for the British Library, the British Museum and Hay-on-Wye Literature Festival, and is a regular contributor to BBC arts programs.

Her 2012 appointment as Artistic Director of Phrase Arts, where she helped promote storytelling within communities, has led to her work with the European Court of Human Rights.

She was Teller In Residence at the International Storytelling Center in Tennessee.

Shonaleigh is now based at the International School of Storytelling in East Sussex, UK.

Images of Shonaleigh by Howard Barlow

These images are Copyright © Howard Barlow Photography. All rights reserved. They are made available for use in articles or publicity in connection with Shonaleigh’s activities.

Images of Shonaleigh by Antoinette Burchill

These images are Copyright © Antoinette Burchill. All rights reserved. They are made available for use in articles or publicity in connection with Shonaleigh’s activities.

Told by Shonaleigh

An ancient warlord is looking for three objects that will give him possession of all the kingdoms of the world.

The Sapphire Staff given to Adam at the begining of the world, that can make the waters of the world part. A Snakeskin Cloak that smells of the Apples of the Garden of Eden and the Book Of All Things which contains the song of the sun and the thoughts of the rain.

Only two can stop him … a young man who’s Grandfather was cursed to be half eagle half man … and a young woman who holds the last secret of Eve’s three beautiful daughters!

Told by Shonaleigh

Among the stories of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel there are many tales of wonder, wit and wisdom. But one of the strangest has to be the story of the Golem of Prague.
In the time of the Emperor Rudolf II, the Jewish community of Prague suffered great persecution. Each Passover, the Jewish Quarter lived in fear of pogroms, the pretext for these being the notorious blood-libel – the slanderous rumour that Jews used the blood of Christian children to bake the matzos, the unleavened Passover bread.
The Emperor could not, or would not, protect the community. So the Maharal made a Golem, a man-made man, from the clay of the Vltava river, to protect the community in times of trouble: a Golem upon whose forehead was written the Hebrew word emet, meaning truth; a Golem who had the unutterable Name of the Most High on a parchment placed upon his tongue – giving him just life enough to obey his human creator, but no other sense of right or wrong.
Each night Rabbi Loew removed the Name of the Most High from the Golem’s tongue, and he slept.
But one night – so some stories say – Rabbi Loew forgot to remove the Name …
My bubbe would often say that every Jewish child was told the story of the Golem of Prague. She would always finish by telling me: He sleeps beneath the leaves – until we need him. When I was a little girl I would spend hours kicking up the leaves in the forest, hoping to find him. What little girl doesn’t need a knight in clay armour? But I never found him.
Years later, I realized that I had probably mistaken her point. I had always thought my bubbe had meant leaves from trees, but for her the leaves were pages of books and scrolls. For according to one legend the Golem sleeps in the attic of the synagogue in Prague, where the old books were stored. She had been telling me that the Golem lies asleep beneath old words.
And so I think he may. Here is the full story of the Golem of Prague.

Told by Shonaleigh

Of all the journeys one takes, it is the ones we fear the most that we gain from.

Nobody entering the Opal Forest emerges unscathed; they stagger into the light and for a moment it is the real world that seems as a dream. The scholar becomes a hero, the wise man is driven mad, the fool becomes a warrior without reason, and the innocent are older than they should be. The happiness of a single moment can last a lifetime; a landscape of sorrow can last beyond the grave: the key is knowing which forest to get lost in, which mountain to climb, which battle to walk away from.

Trust is important“, she said.

Can I trust you?” he replied.

Can you afford not to? This is not sad; it is a change, a letting go, from which something else may begin“, she said,

Whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace, I will offer it up as a burnt offering“.

“This thing of beauty
Held within a hand and heart
Will betray us all”.

The Opal Forest is the third tale in the Gem Cycle from the Drut’syla tradition. Originally told over several nights, it is told now within a single evening.

Told by Shonaleigh

A day comes when everything changes.

What should have been the happy ending is the beginning of a nightmare. A blessing has become a curse and the curse is the only way to survive.

When her world is torn apart Reisal has to watch as her family disappears and she herself becomes nothing more than a pawn of the powerful; Zekal Ben Yakov has to watch as his son sets out on a quest with only half a puzzle and a sack of questions.

The only thing that can save them all is a firewolf, an icefish, a snow tear and a goat-horn bee.

Told by Shonaleigh

A King and his Queen long for a child. There is only one way to fulfil this wish: the King must pluck a fruit from the strange and wonderful Ruby Tree, planted by Elijah himself and guarded by a shape-shifting witch.

This haunting story has been preserved in Jewish tradition for centuries, carrying echoes of Rapunzel, Snow White and the Twelve Brothers.

Our tales may travel, but the themes within them cross cultures, and wherever they go, they speak to us of our longings and failings, the hopes of generations yet to be born, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Told by Shonaleigh

In the next episode of Shonaleigh’s acclaimed Gem cycle, Prince Rahab’s kingdom is threatened.

The power which, from the beginning of time, has held destructive waters in check depends on the inscription of an unutterable name, and the name is being erased.

Rahab and his Queen must make a sacrifice to save the kingdom, but the prince has been imprisoned by a woman who has been done a terrible wrong, and the queen is on a quest to find him.

Not to be missed, it’s a world first!.

Told by Shonaleigh

Out towards to East there is a vast forest of cedars, trees so old they remember a time before the heavens stopped speaking to the earth.
Beneath those trees there runs a river, that becomes a stream, that trickles into a pool. Beside that pool there is a rock. And on that rock there sits a girl, so pale, she seems exposed too often to the moon. The girl is speaking to a scorpion, repeating the same words over and over, exhausted by their repetition:
“It was a jar … not a box … ”
And so begins a journey that never seems to end …

Told by Shonaleigh and Simon Heywood

The forgotten story of the sixteen thousand who refused to kill.

Out of the Silence is a storytelling performance by Simon Heywood and Shonaleigh Cumbers, drawing on first-hand accounts of the lives of the conscientious objectors of the First World War and bringing their experiences to life in a moving, compassionate, sometimes humorous, always heartfelt and ultimately life-affirming account of the hardships and trials of the men who refused to fight, while at the same time linking their experience with the origins of the modern peace movement in the UK and their relevance to us today.

With stories told by Shonaleigh

In the winter of 1968 three Hull trawlers sank in Arctic waters. The loss of 58 men devastated the close-knit fishing community of Hessle Road. For the first time in their history the fishermen’s wives took action. They marched, campaigned and drew the world’s attention to their cause- the reform of an industry that was killing their men.

A powerful multi-media production with spoken word & song, image, film and compelling storytelling portraying the Hull 1968 Trawler Tragedy and the fishermen’s wives national campaign for improved safety at sea.

‘Turning the Tide’ vividly recreates a period when Hull women refused to suffer in silence, stepped out from the shadows, and shone a bright light on the closed male world of fishing. The event is devised & directed by Rupert Creed and features singing duo Hissyfit and acclaimed storyteller Shonaleigh.