Before schooling was widely available, for most people the classroom was at the fireside, the field and the country lane, where the bards told their tales.

Many such folk tales exist to convey life-lessons in an entertaining way. These stories are not the pontifications of ancient philosophers: they are the gleanings of countless storytellers, everyday men and women with hard-won life experiences and pockets full of folklore. The tales reflect the times and places of their origin, but have been handed down from generation to generation, evolving to meet changing times. Some are amusing; some are thought-provoking; all have been polished and honed for so long that their message slips, almost imperceptibly, into the mind.

Fools and Wise Men retells these stories for new generations – repaying our debts to the bards of old.

Many of us know the tale of the irascible samurai and the inscrutable sage who disarms his antagonist with a single sentence. It’s a common and successful formula for a ‘wisdom tale’. But historically there have been few samurai in Southampton, and sadly the gurus of Gateshead are not well-known. But for over 1000 years, in this country, storytellers have been creating, stealing, adapting, and cherishing stories that pass on lessons from life in a completely sage-free environment. Not the mystical wisdom of the ancients, but down-to-earth lessons from life, learned in the school of hard knocks. Not heavy handed moralising, but entertaining tales that subtly plant seeds of practical wisdom in the mind.

Mike O’Connor has re-evaluated the way we look at stories, the way we select stories, and the way we tell them. In this concert he invites us to relax and enjoy a selection of such tales from the British Isles. They are witty, hilarious, thought provoking and completely engaging.

Bio Mike O’Connor lives in St Ervan, Cornwall. He is a musicologist and musician, a folklorist and storyteller, and he specialises in the culture of his adopted home. As a result he is known for the songs and folk-music of TV’s ‘Poldark’. As well as many academic works, Mike is the author of ‘Cornish Folk Tales’, Cornish Folk Tales for Children’, ‘Isles of Scilly Folk Tales’ and ‘Fools and Wise Men – Folk Tales of Wisdom.’

Telling since the first days of the revival, his past major performances include ‘Imravoe’, ‘Tristan and Iseult’, ‘Return to Lyonesse’ and ‘Odysseus Dreaming’. He has performed at folk and storytelling festivals all over the country, most recently at the Festival at the Edge and Sidmouth International Folk Festival.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day