Hugh & Chris receive award, Feb 6th 2006

 

Hugh Lupton is one of Britain’s leading storytellers.

 

Hugh Lupton’s interest in traditional music, in street theatre, in live poetry, and in myth, resulted in him becoming a professional storyteller in 1981 (there were perhaps half a dozen in Britain at the time), working largely in schools.  

In 1985 he formed the Company of Storytellers with Ben Haggarty and Pomme Clayton with a view to taking storytelling to adult audiences (until that point it had been perceived as an art-form for children).

For twelve years the Company toured Britain, running workshops, performing at Arts Centres and theatres, organising festivals, and working in education. They were deeply involved with the National Oracy Project. Their work was instrumental in stimulating a nation-wide revival of interest in storytelling. Their performances included The Three Snake Leaves, an exploration of the dark face of the Grimms stories, commissioned by the South Bank Centre for their German Romantic Festival in 1994, described by the Independent as ‘a wonderful, intricate piece about storytelling and the possibilities of redemption.’ And I Become Part of It an imagined mythology for Mesolithic Britain (commissioned by the Arts Council, Eastern Arts and East Midland Arts) reviewed in the Times Educational Supplement: ‘The Company held a Purcell Room audience spell-bound for two hours… the stories - dwelling on the perennial themes of hunger, love, renewal, transformation, sex and death – overlapped and complemented each other, seeming in the end to all be part of one story.’ Hugh Lupton has also, over the last twenty years, worked in collaboration with singer and composer Helen Chadwick, with musician/songwriter Chris Wood, with percussionist Rick Wilson, and with artist Liz McGowan, widening and challenging the possibilities of the form. His celebrated The Horses (with Chris Wood) was reviewed in the Times: “In this ‘funeral oration that never happened’, folksong frames the two stories that weave a whole life around you, bringing the hard world of the late 19th Century farm back to life. You hear the voice of the farmer ‘husky with the early morning’, on the day that the horses were stolen. You hear the horseman speaking ‘more in song than in words’ as he calls them, ‘the sweet high whistle’ that turned the working team on the plough, ‘the secret trill that urged the geldings on, with loaded wagons up Royston Hill’. You feel the warm rubbly breath, the hard curve of the nose-bone, smell the must of the stables, the sweet harness soap, and, as you journey deeper into the world of imagination, the tears start slowly to well up inside you and spill’.

Hugh and Chris have also toured widely with their exploration of the life of John Clare: On Common Ground.

Simon Kovesi wrote in the Independent: This novelisation of a year in the life of the poet John Clare is a testament to a lifetime’s groundbreaking commitment to folk culture. Lupton knows Clare… as well as anyone and reconstructs Clare’s times with a rare conviction. The context, landscape, language and texture of Clare’s life are re-imagined in enchanting and accurate detail.

 

 

 

 

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His work with Daniel Morden on the Greek epics (The Iliad, the Odyssey, Metamorphoses and Icarus) has received wide acclaim. Their ‘Iliad’ was reviewed in the Times: “… I went to the Barbican the other day to listen to two of Britain’s finest storytellers – Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden – recounting the Iliad, the tale of that great quarrel from which all western literature springs. The seats were uncomfortable… but the hours flew by. These two men had to do no more than tap into the ancient power of the spoken word to hold an entire audience in their thrall. A veil of typescript fell from my eyes.
I saw Helen in all her intoxicating beauty standing amid the bloody chunks of a slaughtered stallion. I saw Achilles aglitter in gold armour before his black ranks of Myrmidons. I saw banquets and voyages, armies and oceans, battling heroes and ravening gods – all conjured out of thin air by a voice. Film is often thought to be a threat to literature. But the images that billowed and faded in that darkened auditorium were quite different from those that unspool across a screen. I could put my hands in front of my face and the pictures would not vanish. They were inside me. They belonged to me. They were part of the history of the whole of human life.”
The National Theatre commissioned their Icarus.
Hugh Lupton’s annual week-long workshops on Myth and Landscape (co-run with Eric Maddern) at the Ty Newydd writers centre in North Wales have explored much of the Anglo-Celtic mythological repertoire, and have inspired a generation of tellers.
He has toured Africa and South America for the British Council and regularly performs in Europe and the USA. He has published several collections of folk-tales including the award winning Tales of Wisdom and Wonder described by the Independent as ‘Lucid and haunting… a book to treasure.’ He has appeared on radio and television (most recently Late Junction and England in Ribbons on radio 3, Something Understood, Telling the World and Midweek on radio 4, King Arthur on the Discovery Channel and Beowulf for the Open University on BBC 2). He has continued with his involvement in education throughout his career.
In 2005 Hugh Lupton had work commissioned by the National Theatre and BBC radio 3’s Late Junction. His song ‘One in a Million’ (co-written with Chris Wood) won the BBC folk awards ‘Song of the Year’ 2006.  
Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden were awarded the 2006 Classical Association prize for ‘the most significant contribution to the public understanding of the classics’.
2007 saw two new commissions. The Liberty Tree, performed with Nick Hennessey, commissioned by the Festival at the Edge, exploring Robin Hood and the English radical tradition. And Christmas Champions, performed with Chris Wood and the English Acoustic Collective, commissioned by the Sage Gateshead, exploring the English Mummers Plays.
In 2009 the Bath Literature Festival commissioned The Homing Stone, working again with the English Acoustic Collective, Hugh Lupton told the story of his great uncle Arthur Ransome’s extraordinary escape from Moscow in 1919.
In 2010 his first novel The Ballad of John Clare was published by Dedalus books. John Burnside wrote in the Times: …it is to Lupton’s great credit that, in this engaging and lyrical novel, he brings the relationship between emotional and psychological life and the environment into play at every turn. This vision transforms a bitter-sweet love story that takes place ‘seven generations ago’ into a study of the politics of land use, revealing the true nature of British agriculture as systematic exploitation of land and people whose tragic consequences, as Lupton notes in an afterword ‘we are reaping the full harvest of today’.
Simon Kovesi wrote in the Independent: This novelisation of a year in the life of the poet John Clare is a testament to a lifetime’s groundbreaking commitment to folk culture. Lupton knows Clare… as well as anyone and reconstructs Clare’s times with a rare conviction. The context, landscape, language and texture of Clare’s life are re-imagined in enchanting and accurate detail.
In 2011 he wrote and performed in A Mighty Water an updated Mystery Play for the Bergh Apton Festival in Norfolk & was commissioned, with Horse’s Brawl, to devise a piece celebrating the 950th anniversary of the vision of Lady Richeldis of Walsingham.
2012 saw a revived Three Snake Leaves with the Company of Storytellers (Hugh, Ben Haggarty & Sally Pomme Clayton) augmented by two outstanding musicians – Dylan Fowler and Jill Stevens…. & a new commission from the Getty Trust in Los Angeles for Aphrodite and the Gods of Love a cycle of songs and stories devised by Hugh and singer/composer Helen Chadwick. He also wrote Norfolk Folktales for the History Press, Ronald Hutton described it as: The best collection of regional tales I’ve ever read. It was published in May 2013 & launched at Salthouse Church with stone-carver Teucer Wilson as part of a shared exhibition entitled Engrained Voices.
In 2014 he was commissioned to write and narrate a cycle of updated Mystery Plays for a community production at Bergh Apton, Norfolk, based on the Medieval Legend of the Rood. This was performed over three weekends in May/June as a four hour processional performance with a community cast of over seventy people. He has also devised two pieces to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The first Sam Sweeney’s Fiddle: Made in the Great War toured in September. The Guardian reviewed it:
…a wondrously fresh and slightly quirky take on an old theme…. Buying an apparently brand-new violin in Oxford as an 18-year-old student in 2007, Sweeney got it home to discover an inscription indicating the instrument was “Made in the Great War” by Richard S Howard in Leeds in 1915. His subsequent quest to discover the history of the violin – and its maker – drives a show which, in the hands of narrator Hugh Lupton  is charming, enlightening, warm and ultimately shocking. With Lupton charting Richard Howard’s journey from husband, father, music-hall performer and luthier to its horrific denouement on the front line in Flanders. Sweeney – all braces and shorn hair – plays the fiddle at the heart of the tale alongside concertina wizard Rob Harbron and fellow Bellowheader Paul Sartin, who recreates the clipped enunciation of wartime singers with startling accuracy. Between them, they weave a rich variety of moods around Lupton’s impossibly engaging storytelling… an unusually potent show.
WORK IN EDUCATION

1* Hugh Lupton has worked as a freelance storyteller in East Anglia since 1981, making thousands of school visits as a performer, running workshops for children of all ages (from reception to sixth form) and for teachers.
2* He has worked with student teachers, librarians, youth clubs, prisoners and interested adults.
3* He has had a number of residencies in schools and he teaches (annually) residential courses on “Storytelling and the Mythological Landscape” for the Taliesin Trust in North Wales, he has worked with English Heritage telling stories in Historic Sites and regularly performs in museums.
4* He has told stories on schools television (“English Time”) and has contributed to the Collins English Programme.
5* With the ‘Company of Storytellers’ he helped pioneer the National Oracy Project.
6* Hugh Lupton is a qualified teacher.
7* He is working with the Cambridge Schools Classics Project on a retelling of the Homeric epics ‘The Odyssey’ and ‘The Iliad’ and Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ for Key-stages Two and Three.
8*  He has wide experience in using story as a way of teaching English as a foreign language. He has made regular visits to Germany, working in schools and with teachers. He has also made several visits to Denmark running storytelling courses for teachers.
9* He has written five collections of folk tales for children for Barefoot Books (one of them Tales of Wisdom & Wonder has sold 100,000 copies world-wide) and five retellings from Classical myth
10* He has a repertoire of hundreds of stories, ranging from hour-long epic tales to light-hearted cumulative stories for children who have just started school. A session with Hugh is a mixture of talk, riddles, jokes, stories and music, pitched to the age and inclination of the children he is working with.
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