Leon Conrad
Leon Conrad

All About Leon Conrad

Leon Conrad is a storyteller, riddle-maker, performance poet and inspirational educationalist. He loves engaging with people, bringing out the best in them and encouraging them to follow their dreams, while empowering them with cool problem-solving techniques based on the best of our embodied ways of thinking, while having a few laughs along the way.

“I’m interested in doing what no one else has done. What can we achieve together?”

Leon is author of Aesop the Storyteller, a versified collection of 12 Aesopic fables. He is co-author of Odyssey: Dynamic Learning System, an innovative teaching tool designed to put inspiration at the heart of learning and is currently working on a series of books of cultural riddles in ‘The Treasure Trove Series’. The first, ‘History Riddles’ was published in 2015.

He was born in London, but grew up among the souks and bazaars of Egypt. At school there, he had his first experience of storytelling which had a more lasting effect than most of the other stuff that went on there. That and the experience of standing in a choir as a youngster and being unable to sing because of the unspeakable beauty of a contralto soloist’s voice awakened his realisation of his vocation – a vocation (literally a ‘calling’) to become a musician, linguist, voice teacher, storyteller and performance poet.

Leon has been called a modern polymath – he speaks several languages (English, French, Italian, Russian and Arabic, with a working knowledge of Spanish and German). His first degree was in music and worked as Assistant Musical Director in charge of school workshops for Opera Brava and taught musical theatre in performing arts colleges for before leaving to set up his own company training singers and speakers in effective voice use. He developed his storytelling skills through workshops and performance practice. He went back to academia to tell the stories of everyday objects on an MA course in the History of design and material culture run jointly by the V&A and the Royal College of Arts. His research focused on the history of English embroidered book bindings of the 17th Century. He has published an extensive body of work on the history of embroidery and historic needlework techniques and was the first person in 350 years to correctly decode how embroiderers worked the complex needlework stitch known as Plaited Braid Stitch.

Above all, he is inspired by what he sees as the integrated approach to the classical liberal arts, an approach which sees the stuff we can’t see and touch as being as important if not more so than the stuff we can. Leon never tires of learning. His latest life-changing learning experience was exploring the ways in which words (logic) and numbers (mathematics and algebra) are connected on the level of the way in which we’re hard-wired to think over an 18-month period with George Spencer-Brown, author of Laws of Form, who was aged 92 at the time. Since then he has been working on the application of Spencer-Brown’s calculus of indications to the analysis of sentence types and story structures. Think you’re bad at words and good at maths, or vice versa? Think again – and you’ll find they’re both connected – inspirationally … something Leon is very good at communicating.

Leon particularly enjoys working with ‘low’ and ‘high’ achievers, and uses a range of techniques including stories, koans, paradoxes and clean language interventions to bring out the best in both groups.

Leon is co-founder of The Academy of Oratory, and an associate trainer with The Negotiation Lab, through which he offers courses in effective communication, persuasion, collaboration and negotiation skills courses for sixth-formers which use the Odyssey Grid approach.

In 2009 he was poet-in-residence at the first Edinburgh Food Festival and was invited to be poet-in-residence at the Pleasance Dome during the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010.

In 2012, Leon co-curated a series of radio programmes on the art of storytelling with Giles Abbott called The Talking Shop. He has appeared on Breakfast Television and on the radio as a poetry reader and expert in communication skills. And to find out how music and words connect and how the connection can help you think more effectively, check out his TEDx talk about Aristotle’s Categories.

Let Leon help you bring great thoughts to life in your students by exploring some of the educational experiences he offers …

Leon’s School Visits

For Junior Schools

Storytelling interventions

Storytelling assemblies – generalist or themed, followed by …

Classroom visits using Aesopic fables to inspire dialectic debate around great ideas at a level suitable for primary children 20-40 minutes.

Storytelling and creative writing – 20-40 minute sessions for classroom groups. Topics could include personification, using simple story structures, imaginative idea generation, similes and metaphors, among a whole host of other possibilities.

Odyssey Grid sessions

As outlined in Odyssey: Dynamic Learning System (a book written mainly for teachers and educationalists), Odyssey GridTM Journeys encourage students to make cross-curricular connections between existing knowledge and ways of thinking and the way knowledge and thought patterns are packaged in different subjects.

Existing programmes which feature intriguing entry points, riddles, clues and problem-solving challenges include Creative Writing, Collaboration, Problem-solving, Linking Words and Numbers and Building Cross-curricular Connections.

Building Cross-curricular Connections uses an Odyssey GridTM to tease out elements of a familiar story covered in the syllabus presented as a riddle which then connects to other subjects and draws on existing knowledge in random ways – it is the randomness of the experience – the voyage into the unknown – that adds excitement and cements deep learning connections, builds confidence and sparks off imaginative approaches to learning.

Sessions can be delivered over a lesson, a ½-day immersive programme, or as whole-day learning experiences to classroom or year groups.

Bespoke Odyssey GridTM sessions can be designed to support particular learning aims and objectives.

Support sessions in the design of an Odyssey GridTM to be used in schools by teachers at assemblies, in classes as a reward scheme, across year groups are also available, as are training sessions in the facilitation of Odyssey Journeys.

A large wall area or display board for temporary display of the Odyssey GridTM is required for these sessions.

For Senior Schools

Storytelling interventions

Storytelling assemblies – generalist or themed, followed by …

Classroom visits using Dilemma Tales to inspire dialectic debate around great ideas at a level suitable for secondary children over 40-60 minute sessions.

Telling an academic story – Leon shows how linking and applying traditional story structures which students are familiar with and already have ‘in their bones’ to the treatment of abstract ideas as characters can help improve the quality and structure of thinking and academic writing. Great for structuring essays, revision technique and exam technique. 60-minute to 90-minute sessions for classroom or year groups.

Grammar stories – Leon brings the dynamic forces behind the way language works to life. Stories are selected to address particular topics which students may be finding difficult – adverbs and adverbial phrases are a common sticking point. Leon shows how a simple distinction Aristotle first identified over 2,300 years ago that’s still being used today can unpack this to reveal a simple relational structure that makes it simple to identify adverbs and adverbial phrases. Other topics can include types of verbs, nouns, adjectives and those pesky little words that describe things we can’t point to, but that are so important in describing the patterns in which we think. We call them ‘conjunctions, prepositions, logical operators, articles, demonstratives’. Aristotle has one simple name for them. Find out what it was and how it makes understanding the rules of grammar much easier by booking a Grammar Story intervention. 20-minute to 90-minute sessions for classroom or year groups, depending on elements to be covered. Can be delivered as individual sessions, or a series of 6.

Storytelling and creative writing – 20-40 minute sessions for classroom groups. Topics could include personification, using simple story structures, imaginative idea generation, similes and metaphors, among a whole host of other possibilities.

Odyssey Grid sessions

Creative Thinking sessions: Odyssey GridTM interventions to improve the quality and extent of students’ thinking, using a variety of approaches, including classical approaches to the art of thinking such as Aristotle’s 10 Categories, or Cicero’s 16 logical topics of invention (both of which go far further and deeper than de Bono’s techniques), Boundary Logic and the importance of paradox – all packaged in the entertaining forms of intriguing entry points that open up to riddles, stories and easy-to-remember and easy-to-follow ways of presenting these classic ideas that bring them to life and challenge students to implement them in practical ways.

Sessions can be delivered as deep-dive sessions over a lesson, or as ½-day immersive programmes. They work best as a series of 7-9 sessions, or as 2 whole-day learning experiences separated over a term, delivered to classroom or year groups. The sessions can be introduced via a storytelling assembly.

Mathematical Minds: Small-step scaffolding-based interventions for reluctant mathematicians or adventurous leaps into the unknown can both be tackled with this Odyssey GridTM session which approaches numeracy and numerical thinking challenges from non-conventional angles, including storytelling, riddles, problem-solving, drawing from the history of mathematics and the stories of Archimedes, Cardano, Euler, Edward Kasner and Grace Hopper, to name but a few.

Sessions can be delivered as deep-dive sessions over a lesson, or as ½-day immersive programmes to classroom or year groups alongside a storytelling assembly.

Bespoke Odyssey GridTM sessions can be designed to support particular learning aims and objectives.

Support sessions in the design of an Odyssey GridTM to be used in schools by teachers at assemblies, in classes as a reward scheme, across year groups are also available, as are training sessions in the facilitation of Odyssey Journeys.

Building Cross-curricular Connections uses an Odyssey GridTM to tease out elements of a familiar story covered in the syllabus presented as a riddle which then connects to other subjects and draws on existing knowledge in random ways – it is the randomness of the experience – the voyage into the unknown – that adds excitement and cements deep learning connections, builds confidence and sparks off imaginative approaches to learning.

A large wall area or display board for temporary display of the Odyssey GridTM is required for these sessions.

For sixth-formers

1-day to 3-day courses in Effective Communication, Persuasion, Collaboration and Negotiation Skills in partnership with The Negotiation Lab using Harvard Business School case studies using the Odyssey GridTM approach.

For ‘low’ achievers across all age groups

Bring out the best in you – a series of 4-6 sessions for small groups. Students think in individual ways – the difference in achievement in Leon’s view is their ability to build bridges between the ways in which they think and the ways in which other people think. These sessions introduce ways of looking at word-based and number-based subjects that create bridges between individual ways of thinking about these subjects and other ways of thinking about them, using a variety of techniques, including clean language, maieutic (Socratic) questioning, stories, Zen koans and paradoxes and a variety of classical and modern approaches which help students make connections and build bridges to help them achieve their full potential as learners.

Reviews and Recommendations

Feedback on sixth-form level courses

“Leon has a unique training style that fully engages a wide range of diverse participants. He uses his distinctive personality and charm to coax the best performance from even the most diffident of participants in their sessions. He creates a fun learning environment and demonstrates an impressive knowledge of his subject matter which is conveyed through his enthusiastic presentation of his training material and the effective way that he answers questions from participants.” Michael O’Neil Bedward, Teaching Fellow, King’s Worldwide, Pre-University Summer School, King’s College London.

Feedback on storytelling performances

Under The Arabian Moon

Audience feedback

“You are definitely very talented at this!”

“The storytelling was good … kept my interest … even though I am not familiar with the tales. The ambience was excellent.”

“The music was great … very Arabic … I loved the mixture of shadow theatre and narration … it’s a great way of bringing back the ancient art of storytelling.”

“The use of shadow and music was brilliant. Both devices were used perfectly, without seeming like overkill. The interplay between light and shadow is reflective of the Arabian Nights. I liked Conrad’s use of Arabic during the show. I really enjoyed the use of rhyme and rhythm.”

“Yesterday was a triumph.  I always know when I have really been entranced by a performance because I wake up in the morning and can’t stop reliving the experience.  That is the case today.  I thought the concept of the storytelling, shadowing and music worked so well and I congratulate you on coming up with the idea.”

Press feedback

“Well executed and staged … Leon Conrad was very capable of holding the audience fully engaged with his delivery, different and fun to listen to… similar in style to how the stories would likely have been told around a campfire at night in the desert.” Ian Reuben – Missfit Mondays, The Troy Bar, Hoxton, London – 

Aesop The Storyteller

Audience feedback

“Wonderful. Magical. Spiritual. Completely captivating from start to finish. Magic is what life is all about and MAGIC, to audiences in general and children in particular, is what Mr Conrad delivers in spades.” G. Logan, London 

“Leon is everything you’d want in a storyteller: kindly, genuine, compelling, and someone who’s not afraid to look their audience straight in the eyes and give them what they don’t yet know they need.” LJG Flute

“Go and discover this sparkling jewel … totally entrancing … completely enthralling … storytelling as it should be … truly excellent.”

“This one man show is amongst the best I have seen at the fringe over the years. Mr Conrad has written a thing of great beauty – I have never found verse more attractive, immediate or thought-provoking. It’s the following afternoon and I am still considering its message.” John Stirling, Scotland 

“I left your show inspired … after the show, the kids wanted to know more about Aesop and I can’t think of a greater compliment. Your performance was outstanding … and here, weeks later, I still didn’t want to let the moment pass without letting you know your hard work had a ripple effect in this world.”

Press feedback

“An engaging hour of story-theatre-performance. Scenes change quickly, there’s a lot of humour and quick wit … Leon Conrad brings Aesop to life with an ease that belies the difficulty of sustaining over an hour of theatre, comedy, poetry and storytelling … with such natural flair for the craft that one is drawn into the scenes through his charisma alone. He delivers some splendidly-written poetry, filled with wit, humour, rhyme and rhythm … as storytelling, it’s a masterclass.” Paul Levy, Fringe Review

To Make a Booking

To make an enquiry about Leon Conrad, 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 trevor@caboodlebooks.co.uk