Toronto Public Library Celebrates The Toronto Storytelling Festival 2017

March 24, 2017 | Diana L.

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This Saturday, Toronto Public Library (TPL)'s very own storytellers will help kick off the 38th annual Toronto Storytelling Festival with free Storyfire events in four branches throughout the city. 

Toronto Storytelling Festival 2017Image courtesy of Toronto Storytelling Festival

The Toronto Storytelling Festival celebrates the art of voice and story from March 24 to April 2, 2017 with award-winning Canadian and international storytellers leading concerts, storytalks, and workshops in different Toronto venues. 

Some of the visiting storytellers will also be at various Toronto Public Library branches as part of the Storytellers From Away events on Thursday March 30, 2017. TPL welcomes: 

Kung Jaadee

Kung Jaadee, from Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, who brings stories of a time when the animals taught us how to be true k'ongee angaa, dear people. They were our sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. We understood them because they already knew the secrets of life. 
Riverdale Branch, 10:00 am to 11:00 am


Heidi Dahlsveen

Heidi Dahlsveen, from Norway, is one of the pioneers of the European storytelling movement. Her performances of re-imagined Norse mythology are shared in festivals throughout Europe. This is her first visit to the Toronto Storytelling Festival.
S. Walter Stewart Branch, 10:00 am to 11:00 am


  Andy Jones

Andy Jones, from Newfoundland, Canada, brings prize-winning re-tellings of traditional Jack tales stories from Newfoundland.
Don Mills Branch, 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm


Charlotte Blake Alston

Charlotte Blake Alston, from Philadelphia, USA, a renowned African-American storyteller brings traditional and contemporary stories from African and African American oral and cultural traditions.
Palmerston Branch, 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm


Karima Amin

Karima Amin, from Buffalo, New York, USA, shares African-American folktales. Karima is a co-founder of "Spin-A-Story Tellers of WNY" and "Tradition Keepers: Black Storytellers of WNY." She is also a member of the "National Storytelling Network" and the "National Association of Black Storytellers."
Jane/Sheppard Branch, 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm


Stephanie Beneteau

Stéphanie Bénéteau, from Québec, Canada, brings stories from Arthurian traditions and Greek myth, and stories about strong women, which she tells in a lively, expressive and compelling style all her own.

Stéphanie a conté professionnellement dans des centaines d'écoles, salles de spectacles, bibliothèques et Maisons de la cuture au Québec, en Ontario et en Europe.

Story will be presented in French.

Pape/Danforth Branch, 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm

Dan YashinskyPhoto credit: Aaron Fisher

I also got a chance to catch up with Dan Yashinsky, Canadian storyteller, author, community organizer, and founder of the Toronto Storytelling Festival to give us a sneak preview of this year's festival: 

It's been 38 years since you first founded the Toronto Storytelling Festival! How has it evolved through the years?

The festival grew out of gathering called 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling, which I founded in l978. It's still going strong. The festival was a way to celebrate the wealth of local storytelling talent in Toronto. Every year, it seemed to get bigger and more international. From one venue, we grew to having events all over town. For 2017, we're partnering with many great cultural and community organizations in the city, including Toronto Public Library, Aga Khan Museum, Baycrest Health Sciences, Royal Ontario Museum, Harbourfront Centre, Japan Foundation, Bata Shoe Museum, and more. This has enabled the festival to grow our audience and bring the art of storytelling to a wide range of neighbourhoods and listeners.

Who is new to the festival this year? 

We're excited to be featuring storytellers from Haida Gwaii, Norway, England, the US, Québec, and Newfoundland. Heidi Dahlsveen is a pioneer of Norwegian storytelling. She's coming for the first time, bringing her feminist remixes of Norse myth. Kung Jaadee is coming from Haida Gwaii with stories of Raven. And a special theme this year explores the ways humans can learn to listen in new ways to new and hard-to-hear voices. The biologist Katherine Payne is coming from the bio-acoustics lab at Cornell to share her experiences with whales, elephants, and lions. Sculptor/musician Michael Pestel will tell stories and play music based on his explorations of bird-song around the world. Alan Shain brings his hilarious and poignant sense of comedy to his stories of living with cerebral palsy. All of these presenters are helping to open our ears to new ways of listening.

What are some storytelling events you're looking forward to?

The whole program is wonderful. I think the sessions featuring Kung Jaadee, Michael Pestel, and Katherine Payne will be fun and moving. At Harbourfront Centre, on April 2, there will be great family storytelling - not to be missed (especially the Teddy Bear picnic and the investigation of the spaceship that's heading our way). And the performances in ten branches of Toronto Public Library are all excellent.

Other than attending a storytelling event, what are some other ways people can take part in the festival? 

A really interesting part of the festival is the three-day Storytellers' Camp. It runs in the middle of the festivities, and is a great opportunity to explore the art and traditions of storytelling in more depth. The faculty include our national and international performers, and it's a real immersion in the art form. At Camp, you learn about storytelling not only as a performing art, but also as it connects to social justice, environmental activism, dance, voice, puppetry, disability awareness, and First Nations oral traditions.

Thank you Dan! 

Can't get to Duffern/St.Clair, Morningside, Richview, or the Yorkville Branch for the Storyfire event this Saturday? There's also the York Woods Branch that will be live streaming the event from Richview! 

For more information about the Toronto Storytelling Festival, visit