The Ottawa StoryTellers have grown from an initial group of seven founding members to a flourishing organization with over a hundred members. As is customary among storytelling groups, our members include both professional and non-professional tellers as well as listeners, all on an equal footing. In 1999 Ottawa StoryTellers was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization and was granted charitable status.
The group's initial activity was the organization of a monthly Story Swap, an open stage at which anyone who wished could come and tell and/or listen to stories. Another activity undertaken from the beginning and continuing today is assisting our members in finding storytelling opportunities ("gigs") in the community, both paid and volunteer, and putting interested members of the public in touch with tellers available to perform at events.
In 1994 the first series of "Epic Tales" was organized at Raspustin's Café, to provide a forum for the telling of longer traditional stories. Tellers have been mostly members of the Ottawa StoryTellers, with some from "away". This series, which is unique in Canada, continued under the title "Stories from the Ages" for 13 years. In 2012, OST presented Homer’s Odyssey with eighteen tellers enthralling audiences with a twelve-hour telling of the tale of the hero’s return from the Trojan War. In 2014, the OST audience was equally supportive of a twelve-hour NAC 4th Stage performance of The Iliad.
In 1988 the first Ottawa StoryTelling Festival was organized. An annual event until 2008, the festival featured both local and non-local tellers. Storytelling for children under 12 has been an important part of OST’s programming since 1988, and we continue to offer an annual Children’s Storytelling Festival. Since 2015, this event enjoyed has enjoyed very successful presentations with many local artists presenting stories at no charge for families and children at Nepean Centrepointe Library. The yearly Children’s Storytelling Festival helps ensure that OST fulfills its mandate to bring storytelling to all ages.
In 1998, OST teamed up with the Billings Estate National Historical Site to present Halloween Ghost Walks. In subsequent years, OST researched stories from the Billings’ family history to create evenings of history, mystery, and fun. In 2015, OST offered a Travelling Tent show that began at the Billings Estate and then moved to other city museum sites across the National Capital Region. The Tent show proved very popular, and in May and June of 2016, OST toured Fun, Fire and Smallpox! throughout the National Capital Region. OST also enjoys a partnership with the Bytown Museum, offering historical storytelling at the Bytown in the summer months.
From 2001-2017, OST presented its professional Signature Series (formerly called Speaking Out) at the Fourth Stage at the National Arts Centre. These concerts feature some of our most accomplished storytellers and continue today in performance venues at Arts Court in downtown Ottawa.
In July, 2003, the Ottawa StoryTellers hosted the 4-day National Conference of the Storytellers of Canada / Conteurs du Canada for the first time in Ottawa. SC-CC was once again hosted by OST at the Grassroots Festival in 2019.
The (un)told series, original stories, told live, was created in 2012. In 2013, OST took part in Ottawa’s Nuit Blanche, and followed up with performances inspired by visual artists at Nuit Blanche 2014.
Workshops continue to be an important part of OST’s ongoing commitment to professional development. Every year we offer an introductory storytelling workshop, and occasional workshops in skill development such as voice, movement, or advanced-level performance coaching.