John Row
John Row
Enchanting Storyteller, Fiction Writer and Poet.

All About John Row

John Row has been visiting schools, colleges, prisons, museums, festivals and arts centres in the UK, USA and mainland Europe for over 35 years.

He has created characters for re-cycling and public information road shows and scripted films and plays in prisons.

He is currently ‘Witern in Residence’ at HMP Blundeston

As a compere, he has worked on children’s festivals and in circuses.

John’s School Visits

John has appeared in hundreds of schools across the UK , Austria, the USA, Malaysia, Germany and Algeria since 1976.

He works with all age groups, from pre-school to adult.

As a qualified teacher, he understands how schools operate and employs a flexible approach adapting to the needs of the school.
He has a presentation specifically designed for key stage one and material suitable for key stages two and three.
With younger children he links his stories to the birds and animals they might find in the countries the stories originate from.
With older pupils he places stories in a historical context.
All performances and workshops are interactive and he encourages pupils to participate.
John’s performances and workshops touch on many aspects of the national curriculum especially speaking and listening.
He can place the emphasis of each session on either stories or poems depending on the needs of the school.
He uses anecdotes to bring the art of writing alive and builds stories with students in a way that allows children of all abilities to participate.
John’s experience of storytelling in the teaching of English as an additional language is invaluable in classrooms where children may be experiencing language difficulties.

John carries full public liability insurance and a current enhanced CRB check.

Storytelling for All Ages

John is able to tailor his set for any age group and fit it into any venue. He performs regularly to family audiences.
Customers have included The British Council, Center Parcs, Chelmsford Council, Essex County Council, Cambridge Council, Suffolk County Council Library Service and museums in Colchester, Ipswich and Chester.

He encourages listeners to repeat the stories to other people.

His repertoire includes wonder tales like ‘Grandfather All Know’, ‘Mossycoat’, ‘Kate Crackernuts’ and ‘The Golden Ram’ as well as humorous children’s stories like ‘Lazy Jack’ and ‘The Old Woman and the Pig’.
A veteran performer at village and community days, John collects his own audiences and holds them spellbound with his stories. Listeners return year after year to hear him perform at festivals. He has appeared at storytelling and poetry festivals in England and Texas.

Watch John now (The Ribbon Maiden)

English as a Second Language

John presents a workshop entitled “The Uses of Storytelling in the teaching of English as a Second Language” at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, to visiting teachers and students. He has also told stories to students and school children learning English in Germany and Mexico.


John is a familiar figure at literature, music and children’s festivals worldwide. He has told stories at Cambridge Children’s Festival, Glastonbury, Guilfest, Cropready, Cambridge Folk Festival, Keerville Folk Festival (Texas), George West Storyfest (Texas), Austin International Poetry Festival, Folk East, Algiers Book Fair and Strawberry Fair, as well as numerous village, town and city open air events.

John looks after the storytelling tent on the Kids Field at Glastonbury and the story telling area at Cambridge Folk Festival.


John has been running arts projects in prisons and young offender institutions since 1989. In 1999 he was appointed “Storyteller in Residence” at H.M.P. Wayland through the ‘Writers in Prisons Network’ and became Britain’s first prison storyteller in residence.

John can offer prisons:

1. Storytelling workshops leading to recording + producing cd’s for “Storybook Dads” schemes.

2. ‘Play in 5 Days’, where offenders work across five days to create + produce a play.

3. Performance poetry workshops

Arts Projects

John has worked on a number of community arts projects involving a range of art forms.

He most recently worked with photographer Bob Clayden on a series of projects in Southend as part of ‘Being Here’, a scheme administered by Momentum Arts. During the three years of the project John and Bob worked with young people on Southend High Street to produce ‘Clockin it’, a street newspaper that developed into a shiny magazine and later into a four by four version called ‘Clockin it, the Big Book.’

Over one hundred and fifty young people were involved with the production for this piece.

John and Bob also produced a DVD entitled ‘Ball and Wheels’ with young people in Shoebury as well as helping them design and produce a mobile performance space, ‘Band Box’.


Text-Collecting involves standing around on street corners, in parks, shop doorways, doctors’ surgeries, libraries and special events and collecting the memories and visions of passers-by.

The text is written in felt tip on flip charts so everyone can see what has been written and agree it is what they said.

The material is then left in its unedited form or converted into a poem. It is then displayed in a public place to be added to or put on a poster or leaflet. It is entirely up to the client.

Recent collections have included a project with Pembrokeshire Library Service organised by the county arts development officer, collecting Favourite Moments in Tenby and a day outside a run-down youth club in St. Albans entitled “If I Ruled This Acre”.

Past projects have included ‘Sunday Memories’, which celebrate the opening of Suffolk’s Libraries on Sundays, ‘Ganges Memories’, collected as part of the centenary celebrations for HMS Ganges, projects for Adult Learners Week and the Time Travelling project with Suffolk Record’s Office. Downham Market, Chelmsford, Alrewas and March and Sandwell are among the towns and villages where memory collecting projects have taken place.

Friction Arts in Birmingham used ‘If I Ruled’, a vision-collecting technique in their leaflet ‘Your Streets, Your Voices’. This was part of their project ‘Neighbour Hood Watch’ addressing gun and gang crime in some parts of Birmingham. John worked with Ed Henderson an Afro-American poet from Chicago on this.

Text-Collecting was also used as part of the ‘Clockin’ It’ project in Southend when John worked with photographer Bob Clayton on ‘Being Here’ for Momentum Arts.

John’s Books

**John signs all copies of his book purchased by students on the day of his visit.**

Out of The Hat: Stories From Many Lands Retold by John Row

out of the hat

You are sitting by a fire with all of your friends listening to the storyteller in a time before texting, internet, television, radio, or even books.

The storyteller carries you to magical islands and enchanted forests where you meet brave princesses, valiant brothers, loveable tricksters and wicked kings.

Join enchanting storyteller and poet John Row as he retells these fantastic tales from countries around the world.

Then release their power:
Read them out loud.
Tell them to a someone else
and send them on their way-
round and round the world forever…

To purchase John’s book, click here.

Recommendations & Reviews

‘Just a quick note as you must be pretty tired! Thank you so much for the sessions you did for the children today. They enjoyed it so much and the class teachers were amazed, you held them spellbound throughout!’ Melanie Richards, Rabbsfarm Primary School

‘We had an amazing time with John, he was brilliant. The children learnt so much and had a great time, I think this was the best one yet actually, thank you.’ Jason Stainer

‘After running a literacy workshop at Vicarage Primary 6 months previously John ran an Able Writers’ Day as he was leaving, four lads from Vicarage Primary School who had been in John’s reluctant writers session last term came up as he was leaving and told him they were in the top literacy group now. – feedback like this makes it all worthwhile!’

‘Our school is for young people from the age of 2-19 with severe learning difficulties and John worked with all ages and abilities. His adaptability and skills in engaging all the youngsters were greatly appreciated and his visit was hugely enjoyed. John was not phased by anything and I would recommend his services to any other special schools who get the opportunity to invite John in. Many Thanks’ Daniel Martin, Deputy Head
George Hastwell School

‘Absolute professional – John packed our day with poetry performance and poetry writing workshops. John worked with our Year 7 and delighted every child in the audience. Pupils were engaged right from the start and a real buzz was in the air. I certainly think our Year 7 will remember today for a long time. Poetry was made fun today!’ V B Dewhurst, Head of Library QEGS

‘I just want to say thank you for recommending John. He was excellent and the children really enjoyed his stories. He was very willing to fit in with our timetable and was very adaptable. Also, it was lovely that he was able to include our smallest children in his day (age 3). I hope they entertained him as much as he did them! I look forward to contacting you for our Book Week again next year.’ Beverly

‘I have just said goodbye to John Row. The children and staff have had a wonderful day with him, yes you were right he is a character but so interesting. Thank you also for the efficient service you provided, I shall certainly be using your agency and passing on your name to other interested heads.’ Geraldine Mappley, Head Teacher

‘I just wanted to send you a quick email to say how much the children loved having John in our school yesterday. He was a great success and very popular. I have heard nothing but fantastic things about him and I would recommend him to anyone. I am sadly (but excitedly) moving on to East Bergholt Primary School in September and I have every intention of having John in once I am established. He has made my Share a Story Week a very memorable event and I can’t thank him enough. Please pass my thanks on to John and I look forward to speaking to him again soon.’Andrew

“John Row’s visit was a wonderful climax to our Book Week. Dressed in character he quickly brought the stories to life and engaged the pupils from the first minute. His workshops and presentation to Key stage 2 were of high quality, pupil centred and will certainly help our children be more creative in their writing. Many thanks Authors Abroad and we look forward to working with you again!” – Gilbard Honey-Jones, Headmaster, the British School of Kuala Lumpur

“Just a brief note to say how brilliant John Row was today. A real hero himself performing for all 7 lessons and keeping them all thoroughly involved. Very interesting and enjoyable. He was a very good performer and will be a hard act to follow! Thank you for the hard work that went into the organisation.” Sue Rowlatt, Head of English, St. George’s College, Weybridge, UK

Outside the children’s tent [at the Cropredy Festival] was a crowd of kids (up to the age of at least 58) sitting rapt before John Row, a storyteller with a big black hat, a long white beard and eyes as blue as in any story. He was bewitching. As he unwound his tales, layers of stress and bluster fell away and left a crowd of children at a parent’s knee. Later, Row told me about the bardic tradition and his work in prisons: he’s the most famous storyteller-in-residence at HMP Wayland after Jeffrey Archer, but, unlike Archer, the Storybook Dads scheme he takes part in is proven to reduce reoffending.” – Katy Guest, The Week In Books: Once upon a time in a field at a festival, The Independent

If you would like us to put you in touch with any of the schools that John has recently visited, please don’t hesitate to ask us for contact details.

To Make a Booking

To make an enquiry about John, or any of the other authors, poets & illustrators listed on this website, please phone Trevor Wilson on +44 (0) 1535 656015, or email him at

Further information on John Row is available on his website: