Running each March at Cankarjev dom and other venues across Ljubljana and Slovenia, the Storytelling Festival is the largest event of its kind in Slovenia. By opening and developing new platforms of storytelling, encouraging partnerships between storytellers and other artistic genres, developing Slovenian storytelling productions, organising practical trainings and theoretical panels and featuring acclaimed foreign storytellers, the festival seeks to develop, spread and enhance Slovenian practice of storytelling and the audience’s experience of storytelling.
The 21st edition, running between 16 and 24 March 2018, will include events for adults and children, stories told by renowned Slovenian storytellers and two evening performances given by foreign guests – Iranian storyteller from Amsterdam, Sahand Sahebdivani, and Norwegian storyteller from Germany, Ragnhild A. Mørch. The festival will feature a series of lectures on creative approaches to traditional subjects, titled Handling Tradition, and an evening of real-life stories, Sting.

The festival is programmed by its Artistic Director, storyteller Špela Frlic, in cooperation with Alenka Veler, editor of children’s literature at Mladinska knjiga Publishing House.

10% discount on purchases of five and more tickets for evening events at Cankarjev dom. Further information and organised group bookings:
P 01 241 71 61 E kristina.jermancic@cd-cc.si.

Before the Festival

It seems that we are living in an age when stories have again won the battle against information, at least for the time being. Stories are our tools of persuasion, manipulation, a vehicle of teaching, lying, explaining, selling. We keep telling stories for fear of being overlooked, misunderstood or understood all too well. Storytelling as a means of artistic, educational communication lives on stage, in schools, in museums. In the theatre, narration has epically merged with drama, the storyteller has stepped onto the stage with monumental novels and a sense of the world’s fragmentariness. Indeed, our minds are whirling with stories. Early last year, when I had learnt that I would be curating the 2018 festival, I thus did not ponder on the programme but the true motives for going ahead with a festival of storytelling.

When in his notable 1936 essay, The Storyteller, Walter Benjamin lamented the disappearance of the institution of storyteller, he expressed his regret for a special form of community, whose emergence was encouraged by this institution of storyteller. He deplored the disappearance of a community of listeners, a collective resulting from the luxury of spare time, being gathered in one room, compelling subjects and the awareness that the secret of collective discovery of humanhood lies in orally, and thus most directly, shared experience.
In a time predominated by visual images listening is not the easiest of tasks. It means calming your fevered mind, turning in on the self and letting imagination follow the course charted by the storyteller. An art stripped of concrete visuality, storytelling exists in the domain of the imaginary, conceivable: demanding from the listener to respond through his experience to the experience just related by the storyteller. And demanding from the storyteller to first formulate his opinion on the story, ascertain how he relates to it, and then whether he can establish a true relationship with his story. This is the pivotal moment that decides whether the story – and every storyteller knows how fragile words can be – will appeal to the people gathered in the auditorium or not. This mode of thinking about a storytelling event challenges the hierarchy between the narrator and the listener, between the performer and his audience. I still believe one of the finest descriptions of the relationship between a storyteller and his public is the one declaring that when we listen to a story we are in the company of the narrator. We look into one another’s eyes and hence the auditorium must be sufficiently, but not too brightly, illuminated. Storytelling is a form that involves risk-taking. The darkened hall does not only obscure the performers but safeguards the audience from being seen as they are, having their thoughts and feelings unveiled.

Whether we believe that folk stories are wellsprings of eternal wisdom or eternal stereotypes, which need to be seen in harsh spotlight for their spell to be broken, I side with Angela Carter who claims that: folk stories from the oral tradition are the most vital connection we have with the imaginations of the ordinary men and women whose labour created our world. And stories are still what they have always been: material lent to us to contemplate our own, present-day reality. As the art of any storyteller who has ever crossed social and cultural barriers (and history abounds in them) with a folk story, our storytelling must be re-imagined in this process, tailored and made appealing to present-day sensitivities. That is why in future the festival will open up to new creative impulses and establish partnerships between the spoken word and other artistic genres, in the desire to witness something new, interesting, genuine.

Thus, Walter Benjamin’s fear that the storyteller’s days are numbered was unreasonable, and he most probably wouldn’t regret that. However, his definition of the institution of a storyteller was clear and precise. According to Benjamin, it consists of two equivalent poles: the narrator who acts as a vehicle for collective memory, who reiterates and preserves material and looks for an audience for the tales that he feels should be heard again and again – stories that communicate truths of paramount importance for the community, and the teller who enters a community from the outside or returns to it richer for the experience of roaming the world. This storyteller brings new stories, which he translates by means of his local metaphors into a language intelligible to the community. He speaks about the unknown with familiar images, thus expanding and pushing the limits of the known world.

Organising a storytelling festival, curating its programme, investing creative energy and reflection means establishing a platform for such invaluable and enriching encounters. In this encounter, the listeners play an integral role. Without an audience a story is but an unarticulated thought.

Špela Frlic



Saturday, 17th of March

A BALKAN ODYSSEY with Sahand Sahebdivani

What happens when an Iranian storyteller sets out on a journey across Central and Eastern Europe? What stories does he come across? Can Prince Marko and Nasreddin Hodja feature in the same story? As he travels, the storyteller’s narrative becomes a medley of all the countries he’s been to, involving kings and sultans as well as his own life story. Join Sahand Sahebdivani on this exciting adventure, an eventful voyage blending folk tales and real-life stories of the Balkans.

Sahand Sahebdivani
A prominent Dutch storyteller, Sahand Sahebdivani runs the Mezrab Storytelling School in Amsterdam with Raphael Rodan. He was born in Iran and moved to the Netherlands with his family at the age of three. Everything that his family was left with in its adoptive country were stories that grew to become an important part of Sahand’s storytelling repertoire. Sahebdivani’s signature style of storytelling blends traditional stories from his family legacy and personal narratives, ranging from conventional storytelling to theatre performance. He has toured the world with his band, his story shows and storytelling workshops. My Father Held a Gun, a show devised in cooperation with storyteller Raphael Rodan, won the 2017 Amsterdam Fringe Festival Gold Award.


Friday, 23rd of March

HORIZON with Ragnhild A. Mørch

Bølgende blå og blåne bak blåne. On land my Great-aunt, in the fjord her island: my childhood paradise. The dark sea sparkles and shines like the milky way – endlessly, massively – whilst the Norwegian resistance grows and fights the German occupation. When the doorbell rang on the 18th of March 1944, he went to open the door. And didn’t return. Performance storytelling about blind happiness, German poetry and the power of forgiveness.

Ragnhild A. Mørch trained in directing, physical theatre, dramaturgy and storytelling, and has worked in live arts since 1996. Her projects include storytelling for BBC’s Music Live event, direction of large scale outdoor performances in Norway and England, drama teaching and play writing.
Since 2005 she is a full time storyteller and focuses on storytelling as performance art both as a performer and as a teacher. She is Artistic Manager of the training course “Storytelling in Art and Education” at the University of Arts Berlin and teaches storytelling as a tool to opera singers on Master level. She has performed at international festivals in Europe and North America and her repertoire spans from fairytales to myths; historic events to urban legends; autobiographical stories to tall tales. In 2016 she received a personal grant from the Cultural Senate in Berlin to research into her family history and to develop the performance “Horizon”. She tells stories in German, Norwegian and/or English.