AT a time when entertainment is making a return to in-person events, a North Yorkshire rurally-based storytelling festival with a radical vision to make arts accessible for all, is gearing up for its second online event after unprecedented success last year.

The question driving this year's Yorkshire Festival of Story (YFOS) programme is: “If once upon a time starts now, how do we get to happy ever after?” Audiences worldwide are invited to join the conversation with interactive discussions, performances and masterclasses.

The Settle-based festival started on November 12 and runs until November 28

It will rely on public donations to ensure it can reach those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, as well as rural community groups in the Yorkshire Dales where Settle Stories, the organisation behind YFOS, is based.

The event, which used to be a face-to-face event, saw a more than threefold increase in attendances last year and feedback suggests attendees want it to stay online.

The festival is staying online to enable audiences of all backgrounds including those with disabilities and mental health challenges to access the performances.

This year, New York-based award-winning storyteller Laura Simms will present Rejoice Regardless, a show that uses mythic tales to provide a means of recovering in these demanding times.

African storyteller Sola Story will explore the notion of “happy ever after” through his telling of the Epic of Mil Baraka.

In panel discussions Dame Marina Warner will investigate how fairytales help us navigate a better future with experts including fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes and Professor Cristina Bacchilega from the University of Hawai’i-Manoa.

The Festival Guest Director is well-known poet and prize-winning children’s author, Kevin Crossley-Holland, best known for the Arthur trilogy, for which he won the Guardian Prize.

He was also part of last year’s festival and believes it offers something unique.

He explains: "There really is nothing like this festival. Last year we reached a global audience and built a strong online community.

"As a small rural arts organisation nestled in the Yorkshire Dales, it’s an honour to digitally bring such a variety of content to audiences which ordinarily may not be able to access the arts.

"Also, being able to offer audiences the space to explore what ‘happy ever after’ could look like in the intimacy of their homes, feels timely and special."

Settle Stories credits part of last year’s success to the events being live and available for a time limited period. The festival welcomed local Yorkshire audiences, but 79 per cent of the audience were new to the Yorkshire Festival of Story.

Key to this accomplishment was online community building. In November the festival will once again offer audiences the opportunity to interact through live Q&As, get up on their feet in lively masterclasses and join festival organisers and special guests live on the festival living room sofa.

Artistic Director and CEO Sita Brand comments: “I can’t wait to welcome everyone back! I’m so excited to be looking at how we can use epic, myth and fairytale to explore how we all want the world to look next. What’s more the festival is entirely free again.

"Given the difficult times we still find ourselves in, it’s important we can do this to ensure it’s as accessible as possible especially to those who wouldn’t have been able to travel to Settle for the festival, whether due to a disability, cost or geography.”

There is also the Children’s Fairy Tale Competition which will be judged by popular author Michael Morpurgo.

Winners be announced during the festival and will create a lasting legacy by planting the first trees in the organisation’s Story Wood in Langcliffe near Settle.

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