How Alex Ultradish became a Storyteller

As an infant I would either sing myself to sleep or tell stories until I did. I would carry the cat around the garden and tell her tales; the neighbour would switch off her radio, preferring to listen to me. At lower school I was always asked to be the narrator, never Mary or even an angel. So it was clear early on that I was good at talking, and especially great at talking to an audience.

As the daughter of a morris dancer and musician, the folk festival world became my favourite habitat. I was asked to join Black Adder Rapper and Step, which was the start of something very special. The team did at least four different styles of dance, each requiring specific footwear. During dance spots as the team would change their shoes, I would stay present and talk to the crowd. My aim was to just keep the audience there until the team were shod and ready to dance again. I was good at improvising, ensuring I spoke just enough and not too long. I could raise a laugh and most of all, I loved doing it. This role of ‘gob’ for the team led onto MCing clog stepping contests and rapper competitions.

Friends had suggested that I should explore storytelling as a career, it would suit my itinerant lifestyle. It wasn't until I was forced to leave teaching due to labyrinthitis that I found myself able to do some workshops in storytelling with Jo Blake Cave. I asked Jo for homework and she told me to find clubs with floor spots and just go for it as I could do the job.

From that point I became a professional storyteller, working at some local events, libraries and festivals.

It was at Sidmouth folk festival that I was chatting with Taffy Thomas MBE & he suggested that he mentor me. My path was set, I went up to Cumbria to join Taffy and some other tellers on a project and came away with a fistful of stories, new friends and great belief that I was now on the way to doing the right job for me. I first told a story with Taffy at a Yoof Club session at Whitby Folk Week, and I get to spend time with him when I come up for the festival which is great.

I was shortlisted as an outstanding newcomer at the British Awards for Storytelling Excellence in 2013, then I took a short break to have my son in 2014 and I now work at bigger festivals, schools and events.

Last year I was able to join the lunchtime story sessions team & it was a blast. I am so happy to be back again this year, I often mention Whitby Folk Week as I feel I grew up coming to this festival.

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