Skip to content

Guelph Guild of Storytellers embrace technology to help spread the words

Performances take place the first Wednesday of the month
20211111 Tales From the Hill on Zoom AD
Guest storyteller, Sarah Abusarar, performing during an event for Tales From the Hill on Zoom.

If the pandemic has shown the Guelph Guild of Storytellers anything, it’s that there is a growing interest and audience for their craft, made possible by technology.

“What’s interesting and kind of exciting is across the country, storytelling, there is a kind of dynamic engagement with it now that it’s on Zoom, tellers especially, which is interesting, and listeners too," said Sya VanGeest, a member of the GGST, "it’s actually kind of grown.”

Video sharing platforms has allowed guild members to continue telling stories at out of town events and through the guild’s own events, like Tales From the Hill on Zoom. Another by product of using Zoom is the guild can also invite guests from all over, said VanGeest.

“Last month, we had two tellers from Ottawa for instance, and they were fabulous tellers, and to have them come to the museum for an evening of telling, becomes a little problematic,” said VanGeest, who also organized this year’s Tales from the Hill.

“We wouldn’t have those tellers from out of town if it wasn’t for Zoom.”

Normally an in-person event at the Guelph Civic Museum, Tales from the Hill on Zoom has gone online with performances happening every first Wednesday of the month.

During the last event, guild storytellers Brian Holstein, Sya VanGeest and Beve Matson told stories along with three guest storytellers, Sarah Abusarar and June Brown. VanGeest explains the theme for this event was ‘Remembering.’ 

“It could be historical, it could be real life, it could be folk tale, and that evening, Remembering, was especially wonderful because it was that combination, it was a wonderful blend," said VanGeest about the stories shared that evening.

“It was a really beautiful event, we got some lovely, lovely comments and I put those on the website.”

Tales From the Hill is one of two major events run by the guild. Earlier this year, the guild held VirtualiTEA and Tales, which was also held online. By having online events, VanGeest explains audience members can enjoy the stories within the comfort of their own homes.

“What we’re debating now and wrestling with is once it opens up a little bit more, is there a way we can do a combination, but that’s a little tricky without the right combination setup.”

While technology has allowed more storytellers to collaborate and reach larger audiences, VanGeest does describe some limitations for storytellers, like audience participation and limited mobility to help tell a story.

“Storytelling is very much responding to your audience, and that’s the drawback, you can’t do that on Zoom,” said VanGeest. “The other drawback with the electronic version is that you’re only using the upper part of your body and your face, whereas the storyteller, you’re using your hands, you’re moving around, you might crouch lower, you might get the audience to respond out loud.”

Despite this, the guild is seeing an average audience size of around 25 people for Tales from the Hill and lots of positive feedback about the event. 

“It’s very good, we’re very pleased about it,” said VanGeest about the number of people attending each event. “It’s a lovely size but we are aiming to have it grow a bit."

When it comes to the organization, VanGeest mentions the guild extends a ‘warm welcome’ to all new storytellers who are interested in joining them.

The next performance for Tales from the Hill on Zoom will take place on Dec. 1. During the event, four guild storytellers sharing stories based on the theme of ‘Tradition.’ For more information about Tales From the Hill, or to register for the next online event, go to