As Cat Wetherill and Jan Blake, leading storytellers, took to the stage at the Storytelling for Children session held at the Hay Festival on Friday, the enthusiasm of the not-so-young people waiting to go back to being children was palpable.

No sooner had Ms. Blake launched into her imitation of a chicken (Tuklaka, Tuklaka…) that the crowd was giggling. “Well, let's bring in more chickens,” she said and soon enough, there was more giggling as the crowd joined in, flapping their hands, dipping their necks, and shouting loud and clear “Tuklaka Tuklaka…” When asked if a chicken could carry a fox, river and fire in its basket, the crowd chorused, “Yes, yes, Tuklaka chicken can.”

Shortly afterwards, as Ms. Wetherill's high-pitched braying echoed in the hall, the audience watched the magical donkey scare away a thousand horses in a jiffy. As Cat spoke about the luscious strawberries and the juicy apples that the donkey ate, a few children present in the front row licked their lips and looked at their parents. Half-open mouths and childish giggles were what they got in return. The audience were lured by the wish-granting witch and noise-hating gods.

As Ms. Blake thanked the ‘children' at the end, she said another session would be held at the venue at 10 a.m. on Saturday, this time for children who missed out on the fun because they had school on Friday. (Entry to the Hay Festival is free).

Ms. Blake said storytelling was an excellent medium to bring back children to literature. After a session, children often asked questions about the sources of the stories, and an opportunity arose to introduce them to literature.

Speaking toThe Hindu, Ms. Blake said there was a lack of diversity in storytelling. Often, storytellers forgot to establish a connection with the story and hence, failed to involve the audience.

“If my storytelling has helped one person among the audience to bring a small change in his/her life, I am happy,” Ms. Blake said.

Ms. Blake has been performing worldwide since 1986, specialising in stories from Africa, the Caribbean, and Arabia.

For Ms. Wetherill, the stories come alive through the audience. She runs her own company - Cat & Company - that imparts training and conducts workshops for children. She has also written three children's novels.

Keywords: Hay Festival