When England's leading Storyteller dons this unique piece of textile art,
the magic begins . .

The Tale CoatThe Idea
For almost 30 years Taffy Thomas the Storyteller has taken his art to the public at large: as a street theatre performer and puppeteer with his company Magic Lantern (England's unique travelling show), and latterly as the leading storyteller in the north in pubs, schools, at festivals and on his 'Stop Me and Hear One' tricycle. In the 1980's he conceived the idea of a Tale Coat. Telling stories in an old white lab coat, members of his audience were presented with fabric paints and invited to paint images from the tale on the coat. Taffy always mused on the potential of one professional visual artist being presented with this same creative challenge. Whilst Storyteller in Residence at the Gateshead Garden Festival in 1990, Taffy met Paddy Killer, simply the finest textile artist in Britain. Now the collaboration of these two artists - Taffy, the Storyteller, and Paddy, the Visual Artist - has been brought to fruition in the creation of the Tale Coat, thanks to funding from Northern Arts and the Arts Council of Great Britain through the National Lottery.

The Tale Coat in Performance
The Tale Coat is a unique working piece of art. The Coat can be displayed on a tailor's dummy and then donned by the storyteller for performance when members of the audience will be invited to treat it almost as a jukebox by pointing to an image on the coat and saying, "We'd like to hear that story."

A Tale-Coat Story
"The master story-teller travelled the length and breadth of the country. People would come from miles around to hear him tell his tales. He was so famous that someone had made him a special story-telling chair from which he delivered his words of wisdom; and the chair was so grand that some thought it was a throne. He was so famous that someone else had made him a tale-coat. This was not a piece of smart formal wear, but a lovely coat on which were embroidered scenes from his stories.
One day he was telling stories to some children. In turn they came forward and studied the tale-coat, found interesting pictures, and asked for the story to be told. All day they were spellbound with the wonderful tales. Eventually, there was just one little girl left. She had been late arriving, so she was the last to choose. She studied the tale-coat carefully, but then burst into tears.
"What's the matter?" asked the story-teller.
"There isn't a story here for me." she said. "It's because I was late; where I looked on the coat there was just an empty space."
"Why were you late?" asked the story-teller in a kindly way.
"I fell asleep," said the little girl, "And when I was asleep I had the most amazing dream."
"What was it about?" he asked.
"It was very confusing," she said. "It was about the old days and about the future. It was about here and it was about far-away places. It was about love and hate, war and peace, youth and age, life and death. It was about all those things, but somehow I don't really know what it was about."
Then the master story-teller reached behind his famous chair and took from his bag a small paper waistcoat and some crayons which he gave to the girl. "Take these," he said. "On the waistcoat draw the story of today. But leave lots of space. For I can tell you too are a story-teller, and in time your jacket will have many stories shown upon it. But take care how you draw, for as you have proved today with my tale coat, there must always be room for one more."
Mike O'Connor
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