Simon Heywood

storyteller, songwriter, composer, folklorist

Longer Stories

Out of the Silence

The Story of the Conscientious Objectors

Of the millions conscripted in 1916, sixteen thousand claimed the new right to conscientious objection. As the world collapsed into a world a war, the “conchies” embarked on a bitter and courageous war against war itself. Their stand split families and communities. They suffered ridicule, torture and imprisonment. They played cat-and-mouse with the state. Some were forced to the front; others went willingly, or toiled at home. Some went mad; some died. As the strains of war brought government after government to the brink of collapse, and beyond, they dreamed and planned for a world without war. Many survived the war to embark on lives of public service. We reap the benefits of this legacy today. Their memory has been neglected, and they are still dismissed as cranks. But the one thing every objector had to learn was how to tell his own story. Drawing on first-hand accounts, letters, diaries and memoirs, Out of the Silence brings the voices of the conscientious objectors out of the silence, with original songs composed and sung by Shonaleigh.

Commissioned by the 2014 Beyond the Border International Storytelling Festival.

To download a touring pack, click here.

Strange Majesty

Legends of Vortigern and the Forgotten Kings of Britain

_ … they rode there, helmed_
With a strange majesty that the heathen horde
Remembered after all were overwhelmed …

A green poster on the wall of a childhood home beckons into a lost labyrinth of heroes and villains, courage and cowardice, glory and crime, and triumph, tragedy and treason, stretching down the generations of the kings of Albion, from Brutus to Belin, Locrin to Lear, Arthur, Merlin and Vortigern.

In association with The Legend of Vortigern, History Press, 2013.

To download a touring pack, click here.

Darkest England

Tales from England’s green, unpleasant land

When the green field comes off like a lid,
revealing what was much better hid …

An evening of lesser-known stories from the dark side of the English storytelling tradition. Advisory: may contain extreme peril and violence, black dogs, dead moons, flying children, rose trees, Charles Dickens’ least favourite bedtime story, and a man from the Cambridgeshire drug squad.

To download a touring pack, click here.

Robin Hood

A belly-laughing, tear-jerking fast-forward through the earliest and most authentic Robin Hood stories, with personal observations on attempting to shoot an eighty-pound longbow. “Masterful – authentic, academic, well-researched, funny, informative and moving” (Michael Dacre).

To download a touring pack, click here.

Gilgamesh

An epic from the dawn of history, adapted and performed by Tim Ralphs and me. Written on clay tablets around 600 BC in ancient Nineveh by a man called Sini-leqe-unnini, then buried, forgotten for two thousand years, dug up and translated by dusty old Victorians, one of whom got so overwhelmed with it, he did a streak through the British Museum in 1857. Featuring the irrepressible tyrant, the wise wild man, the sultry whore-priestess (even wiser), the beast with the face of dead men’s guts, the holy queen of love and terror, the man who lived for ever but didn’t want to, the secret of endless life, the elixir of eternal youth, the worms of fleshly corruption, and a supporting cast of seventy thousand partied-out Sumerians. Commissioned for Huddersfield Literature Festival 2010 and premiered here.

To download a touring pack, click here.

The Tower of Bagel

A music and storytelling show with traditional Jewish storyteller Shonaleigh. In medieval Odessa, a humble Jewish baker, Lemuel, takes in a foundling. But the boy has no tongue. His lifelong silence holds many secrets – secrets which begin to come to light as the boy grows to manhood. In time, Lemuel is catapulted from the private worries of fatherhood into the deadly limelight of courtly intrigue. Before he teases out the tangled knot of riddles which his stepson has inherited from his mysterious past, Lemuel’s search for answers will send him on a lonely odyssey halfway around the world, from Ireland to Isfahan, amid an ocean of voices and a cacophony of clashing languages, following half-remembered catches of song, casually-repeated words of wisdom, hints of laughter, and seeds of music and story, looking for his lost apprentice and tracking – of course – the slow emergence of a cutting-edge recipe for a new kind of savoury bread roll.

To download a touring pack, click here.

Jack and Not the Beanstalk

Lesser-known stories from the vast cycle of Jack tales, stretching across the English-speaking world from Scotland to Virginia, including the famous Ten-Minute Bible which got Jack back up out of Hell.

Myths of Mercia

A song and storytelling performance of the little-known legends of the English West Midlands, with Katrice Horsley, premiered in Birmingham, October 2009. Some great and exclusive new songs, based on E. M. Rudland’s Ballads of Old Birmingham (1911), including Hymn to Selly Oak. Also performed to great acclaim at Festival at the Edge 2010.

The Twisting Field

A nine-song cycle based on the birth-story of the mythical Irish hero Lugh Lamfhada, The Twisting Field has been in solo performance since 2001. It was reworked as a collaborative piece with Amy Douglas, Nick Hennessey and Shonaleigh and toured nationally with Adverse Camber Productions in 2006-7.

The Middle Yard

A sequel to The Twisting Field, following the career of the hero Lugh, based on the medieval Irish tale of the fate of the Sons of Tuireann, devised and performed with Nick Hennessey for Adverse Camber Productions, and touring nationally in 2008-9.

Read more about The Middle Yard at Adverse Camber Productions.