Tag Archives: Anthony Nanson

Ballads, Fire Springs and Awen

Ballad Tales, while published by The History Press features a number of Awen authors and Fire Springs members, so we’re giving it a shout out here on the blog.

The contributors are…

Fiona Eadie, Kevan Manwaring (Awen and Fire Springs), David Phelps,  Chantelle Smith (Fire Springs), Richard Selby (Awen and Fire Springs), Pete Castle, Malcolm Green, Simon Heywood, Alan M. Kent, Eric Maddern, Laura Kinnear, Karola Renard (Awen), Kirsty Hartsiotis (Fire Springs, and Awen, backstage) Nimue Brown (Awen backstage), Mark Hassall,  Chrissy Derbyshire (Awen)  David Metcalfe (Fire Springs), Anthony Nanson (Awen and Fire Springs). the book has a forward from Candia McKormack and the cover art is by Andy Kinnear.

Kevan Manwaring said “This fantastic launch event was the culmination of two years’ work – from my initial vision to publication by The History Press. It was great to celebrate the mutual achievement of all those involved with such high calibre performances from our ‘bardic dozen’ present. To see their respective contributions brought alive through storytelling, singing and exegesis was exciting. Any who didn’t make it really missed out on an excellent evening. We hope this will be the first of several such Ballad Tales revue shows.”

You can read a longer post from Kevan about the journey elading to the book – It Takes A Village To Raise A Story.

The next one will be:
Bath Storytelling Circle Ballad Tales special
Monday 19 June
8pm, free entry
upstairs at The Raven, Quiet St, Bath

Here’s a photo from the book launch…

Left to right… Candia McKormack, David Metcalfe, Mark Hassall, Karola Renard, Andy Kinnear, Laura Kinnear, Kevan Manwaring, Chantelle Smith, Kirsty Hartsiotis, Anthony Nanson, Fiona Eadie, Nimue Brown.


Reviews for Words of Re-Enchantment

This book brings together the best of Anthony Nanson’s incisive writings about the ways that story can re-enchant our lives and the world we live in. Grounded in his practice as a storyteller, the essays range from the myths of Arthur, Arcadia, and the voyage west, to true tales of the past, science-fiction visions of the future, and the big questions of politics and spirituality such stories raise.


“Anthony’s account of this scene gave me goosebumps. It put me in mind of the rare occasions I’ve experienced the pagan gods speak through somebody. It illustrates the potential within our diverse religious traditions to draw upon the words of radical and prophetic figures to illuminate and critique our current political situation and also our responsibility as storytellers for our divinities.” Lorna Smithers reviewing for Gods and Radicals  read the full review here.

“As a writer and poet this book spoke to the core of my own approach. It talks about the need for our society to reconnect with nature and magic through storytelling. It is intelligently written, inspiring and convincing.” Stardancer, Amazon.

“This is a deeply philosophical book, asking what it means to be human, to be alive in this time and place, what it means to face up to the challenges and responsibilities of our moment in history. Given the subject matter, it’s a surprisingly upbeat and encouraging book. What I especially like about it, is that it offers meaningful ways forward to anyone who reads it.” Nimue Brown. Full review here.

More about the book here – https://www.awenpublications.co.uk/product-page/words-of-re-enchantment-writings-on-storytelling-myth-and-ecological-desire

On the cover: Words of Re-Enchantment

Anthony Nanson’s Words of Re-enchantment brings together his writings on myth, storytelling and the ecobardic arts, and we wanted a cover image that spoke of the discovery of enchantment out in the natural world. The image on cover the dates from a trip we took a few years ago to Turkey, and the walk to discover this place was, indeed, one of enchantment.

Anthony and I have spent a lot of time in Greece, and during that time we got into a rhythm of visiting the kind of sites we like best – mythological ones. We have a huge atlas of mythological sites in Greece, with differing categories of what you might see there, from huge sites like Delphi to places where it might just be an open hilltop where some god pursued some nymph! But although the land mass that makes up modern Turkey is intimately connected, historically and mythologically to the world of Ancient Greece, we didn’t know very much about it, and reeled around from tourist spot to tourist spot feeling slightly dazed.

Eventually, and still very much on the tourist trail, we came to Olympos. Now, Anthony has climbed all nine and a half thousand feet of Mount Olympus in Greece, so we were excited to be near another one. There are, apparently, over twenty Mount Olympuses  in the Med, all, presumably the local highest mountain, where, logically, the gods lived. This one had an ancient city at its feet, also called Olympos, but it’s no longer a thriving port. Instead, it lurks, romantic, seemingly forgotten by time and smothered by nature, along the winding Ulupınar Stream along a path that takes you down to the sea.

The image on the cover comes from a necropolis, a city of the dead, part of the family complex belonging to Marcus Aurelius Archepolis, and, like everything else, it has been taken back by nature. Olympos is a managed and maintained archaeological site, but the archaeologists have allowed us the magic of discovery, of seeing an enchanted place. When we were in the heat of summer, it was lush and green, and thick with flowers; the waters rippled, birds sang, and the white stone rose up out of this jungle.

One of the other tombs, for Captain Eudemos, has this beautiful poem on it:

The ship sailed into the last harbour and anchored to leave more,
As there was no longer any hope from the wind or daylight,
After the light carried by the dawn had left Captain Eudemos,
There buried the ship with a life as short as a day, like a broken wave.

Mount Olympos is famous, too, for the fire in its head, making this image doubly fitting for a bardic book. That night Anthony was taken up see the fire that never dies on the mountain, at Yanartaş, the ancient Mount Chimaera, where flame leaps all day and night from the rock, much as we hope the fire leaps in the head of the ecobard!

Images and text copyright Kirsty Hartsiotis

Find out more about Words of Re-Enchantment here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/words_of_re-enchantment.html

A Dream of Metamorphic Writing

by Anthony Nanson

I dreamt last night that the university made me teach a module on ‘Metamorphic Writing’. It meant a bit of bluffery with the students because I’d no idea what metamorphic writing was. Then came the follow-up the next semester – ‘Metamorphic Project’ – the only module they were offering me to teach. I was a tad shirty with the management for expecting me to teach a topic without giving any guidance what it was. But suddenly I realised: ‘metamorphic writing’ is writing with a mission, writing that seeks to facilitate some kind transformation in the reader. It was exactly the kind of thing my co-editors and I sought to accomplish via storytelling in Storytelling for a Greener World, whose insights I’ve longed to apply in the academy. Now I was all keen to teach ‘Metamorphic Project’ and gearing up to write a email to my boss to make sure I hadn’t blown my chances of doing so —

And then I woke up – and realised that this metamorphic mission is not so very different from Awen’s ecobardic mission. It concerns writing that has commitment. It’s a bit more muscular, though, in its intentions towards the reader. Alarm bells ring. Are we talking here about propaganda, about manipulation, about the kind of language games that an inhuman state – or nexus of state and big business – can use to mould the unthinking worker-consumers it desires? No. We thrashed this all out in writing Storytelling for a Greener World. The name of the game is not to manipulate people to believe or to do what you want. It is to open up spaces in people’s hearts where they discover for themselves the emergent pathways of transformation that they need and that will make them a blessing to the world.

One of the things that may have fed into my dream was reading the biography of Nikos Kazantzakis by his wife Helen. Kazantzakis was on a mission all his life, a mission that was political and spiritual as well as literary. The right hated him because they thought he was a communist. The communists distrusted him because he kept speaking of the spiritual. He believed there has to be a political struggle, and he contributed to that, he even served in government, but he became convinced that the political struggle is always doomed unless it’s accompanied by the transformation of the human heart. The Greek word for a transformation of being is ‘metamorphosis’; that’s the word translated as ‘transfiguration’ in the New Testament. Kazantzakis poured his life’s energy into literature not to make money – he was always broke – but to facilitate metamorphosis. He was a metamorphic writer.

That’s my dream of what I want to do too. That’s my dream for Awen. The world has got very scary this past year. Some people are thinking what do I need to do to prosper in conditions of right-wing supremacy. Some people are thinking what do we need to do to fight it. What, then, are writers going to do? Write violent power fantasies that make lots of money? Write something ironic that makes them feel smug? How about a ‘metamorphic turn’ in literature? And while we’re at it, how about a university module in Metamorphic Writing instead of just teaching the students how to be winners in a competitive world? But the foundation, of course, must be the writer’s own commitment to their own ongoing transformation of being.

Books by Anthony Nanson

Anthony Nanson is the author of both fiction and non-fiction titles. Awen has published one of each.

Exotic Excursions is a collection of short stories  charting the territory between travel writing and magic realism to confront the exotic and the enigmatic. Here are epiphanies of solitude, twilight and initiation.

Order the book here or buy it from Amazon.





Words of Re-enchantment: Writings on Storytelling, Myth, and Ecological Desire is a collection of essays exploring the role of the modern storyteller. This book brings together the best of Anthony Nanson’s incisive writings about the ways that story can re-enchant our lives and the world we live in.

Order the book here or buy it from Amazon.


In addition to his Awen titles, Anthony is the author of Gloucestershire Folk Tales – part of a county by county series on local folklore published by The History Press.

From the intrigue and romance of town and abbey to the faery magic of the wild, here are thirty of the county’s most enchanting tales, brought imaginatively to life by a dynamic local storyteller.
Order the book here or buy if from Amazon.
Anthony’s epic novel Deep Time is published by Hawthorn Press.
Zoologist Dr Brendan Merlie has wasted his best years in futile pursuit of imaginary creatures. He’s now leading a survey of an ecological hotspot in a forgotten corner of Central Africa.
Buy Deep Time from Amazon
Anthony is also the author of Storytelling and Ecology, one of the editors and contributors to Storytelling for a Greener World, a contributor to An Ecobardic Manifesto and co-author of Gloucestershire Ghost Tales.

Return of the Long Woman


By Anthony Nanson

It was in the course of a hair-raising and not entirely successful hike along the coast of the Gower Peninsula in search of the Paviland Cave that Kevan Manwaring first told me about his idea for a novel about an eccentric antiquarian by the name of Isambard Kerne. The character was inspired by the likes of William Buckland, who discovered in Paviland Cave the remains of what he believed to have been a Roman prostitute, and Robert Kirk, the Scottish folklorist who’s said to have been spirited away to Fairyland. In fact it was Kerne’s wife, Maud, who turned out to be the eponymous protagonist of The Long Woman. Having vanished from our world during the Battle of Mons in 1914, Isambard is present in the novel primarily through his journals, which Maud reads while revisiting the places in the English – and Breton – landscape which fascinated him.

I read the first draft of The Long Woman during my sojourn in Arcadia in 2003. Like many other readers since then, I loved the novel’s celebration of sacred landscape and its exploration of the boundary between the world we know and the other world we may detect or imagine beyond the veil of mortality. The story includes guest appearances by real historical figures who engaged in different ways with the ways between the worlds: Alfred Watkins, the student of ley lines; Dion Fortune, the occult novelist and denizen of Glastonbury; and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the time (1923) of his fascination with the Cottingley Fairies. Esoteric also meets literary in Maud’s encounter with the expatriate literary scene centred on the Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris.

Some readers of The Long Woman and its four sequels, which together make up The Windsmith Elegy, have characterised these books as ‘bardic fantasy’. This seems an apt description, since they contain the supernatural dimension that is definitive of fantasy and are at the same time informed by the author’s extensive study of British bardic tradition, not only as a scholar but also as a very active participant in the bardic arts of storytelling and performed poetry. I hope the books will find many new readers as Awen now publishes new editions of them, beginning of course with The Long Woman and dressed once again in Steve Hambidge’s stunning cover designs.

You can find The Long Woman on Amazon

Review for Words of Re-Enchantment

Words of Re-Enchantment, by Anthony Nanson,

Reviewed by Paul Cudby

A mine of thought provoking essays for those interested in the importance of story-telling in changing how we relate to the natural world. This book is a collection of articles and papers by the author on the theme of the value of story-telling from an eco-spiritual perspective. As such it is perfect for readers such as myself who wish to take their first steps into a subject about which they recognise the importance but with which they are largely unfamiliar.

It consists of three sections, Myth, Storytelling and Ecobardic with the latter collection having perhaps a more academic slant. As you might expect from an experienced storyteller and teacher of creative writing, each chapter carries well presented and thought-provoking insights which I found deeply inspirational. The lengthy bibliography reveals quite how well researched this collection of essays are, yet Nanson writes in a way which, while clearly an expert in this field, does not read as an academic text book and manages to remain accessible throughout.

To give some insight into the subject matter and the challenge that Nanson recognises he faces, the following comes from the chapter titled, ‘How Can Storytelling Re-enchant the Natural World: ‘By re-enchanting nature, storytelling may aspire – alongside diverse other efforts – to help foster a collective sensibility that constrains the exploitation of the earth’s resources and seeks the mutual flourishing of humankind and nature. However, this lofty ambition flies against the biological instinct of human nature to pursue short-term self-interest above all else.’ Nanson’s ideals and ambitions are well-earthed in the reality of 21st century climate change and the difficulties faced by the global population in changing the habits of generations to exploit rather than value the planet and her resources, but he puts forth a strong case for the role story-telling has in changing hearts and minds through revealing a world which transcends a simple materialist understanding.

If I were to make any criticism, and it a small one, it is that some editorial culling would have been useful in the ‘Storytelling’ section in which there are two or three very short articles, (a couple of pages each) which are essentially reviews of productions and performances that the author has watched. Having not seen them myself they seemed rather superfluous to the general tone of the collection but, given that they amount to no more than a handful of pages, these do not detract from the overall flow of the book.

Nanson clearly writes from a spiritually well-read and experiential perspective. He remains objective and open-minded, including writing in positive terms about Christ which comes as a refreshing change in an eco-spiritual context. He writes from the perspective of one who has engaged with a wide range of spiritualities and is well-informed and writes clearly and inspiringly about these other approaches. In short, an excellent book which clearly argues the case for story-telling as a neglected yet positive force for change in re-enchanting humanity with the natural world of which it is a part.

Paul Cudby is the author of The Shaken Path,  coming soon from Christian Alternative.

You can find out more about Words of Re-Enchantment here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/words_of_re-enchantment.html