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Settle Stories Interview

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An interview with Settle Stories founder, Sita Brand

By Marianne Tuckman

I’ve never done a phone interview before. I’ll admit some challenges arose. The volume setting on my battered Nokia is stuck just below audible and when this combined with the loud cries of the kids outside lamenting the loss of their ball over the fence with the whir of ambulances coming from Sita’s end, I was concerned as to how coherent this conversation would be. I shouldn’t have worried. Widely acclaimed storyteller Sita Brand has excellent diction and a surplus of interesting things to say. We discuss the power of narrative, the lure of a good ghost story and why Settle Stories 2014 is not one to be missed.

MT: You’ve worked in theatre in numerous roles but have chosen to focus on storytelling. What makes the latter your favourite?

SB: I love the theatre but I do tend to prefer pieces that are lead by narrative. Storytelling allows me to indulge in fantastic legend. For me the story matters more than anything. I’ve loved hearing stories since I was a tiny child and went on to study an MA in film where I focussed on narrative. There is an immense power in narrative. It can move mountains. We don’t tend to remember facts but stories stay with us and I’m passionate about sharing them! I’m less keen on pieces of theatre that try to be ‘out there’, meaningful and clever. Above all a story needs to move its listener.

MT: The best storytellers are ones who you cannot help but listen to. What qualities would you say are shared among these skilful narrators?

SB: All brilliant storytellers relate to each listener personally. They reach out and touch the soul of every individual in the room.

MT: What type of stories do you enjoy telling most?

SB: Ones with strong and authoritative female characters, tales from South India (Sita grew up in Mumbai), Zen spiritual stories (Sita is a practising Zen Buddhist) and ghost stories.

MT: Why ghost stories?

SB: We like to be scared in a safe space. We like to experience the full intensity of human emotion in an environment where we remain protected. It’s glorious to feel the terrified thrill run down your spine.

MT: As well as an accomplished storyteller, you’re also known as a practising Zen Buddhist. How did you use this combination in the mindfulness workshops you lead in prisons?

SB: I use stories to teach. There’s no use telling people what they ought to do but if you give someone a story they remember it’s powerful teaching method.

MT: Why is Settle Stories 2014 not one to be missed?

SB: Settle Stories has been going since 2010 and it gets better and better each year. This time round we have
– 50 Artists,
– Over 40 events,
– 25% of our events are free,
– Many more outdoor activities,
– Artists from 5 different continents.

MT: What distinguishes you from other storytelling festivals?

SB: We interpret the storytelling genre differently. For example, this year we will hear tales from different strands of science and welcome Jonathan Kay, the improvised fool. We are interested in exploring what we mean by the term ‘storyteller’ and have a workshop on Saturday afternoon which explores this. And of course our location is fantastic. Settle is tucked away in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. I’m excited to welcome the world to Settle and to show Settle to the world!

For more information about the festival please visit: http://www.settlestories.org.uk/ or follow the festival on

Twitter @settlestories

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