Forest Folktales explore grisly tales of love and adventure

Its towering pine trees illuminated in green and purple, fairy lights twinkling in the treetops, the Faraway Forest teemed with groups of storytellers who had congregated to share grisly tales of love and adventure. Though it may have seemed so to attendees, Index on Censorship’s Forest Folktales: Uncensored did not take place in a mystical fairyland, but rather at this year’s Latitude Festival, an annual event that brings together visual artists, musicians, dancers, poets, comedians, and chefs in the picturesque woods of Henham Park, in Suffolk.

Since 2006, Latitude festival has hosted some of the world’s most famous musicians and artists, along with obscure and up-and-coming creatives. Its stages have boasted names ranging from the Killers to alt-J to Mumford and Sons. This year, Latitude was held from 18 to 21 July. It comprised nine music venues of different sizes; nine different performance arenas for a variety of theatrical, comedic, and artistic performances (including the Faraway Forest); and a multitude of diverse food and drink options. 

Forest Folktales: Uncensored, Index’s contribution to the festival, was staged over three days. Folktales, folk music, and other oral history traditions are essential for passing cultural heritage onto future generations. Yet over the years, many folktales have been censored or revised to be age appropriate for younger audiences. The original folktales — which are often gory and sexual — erode over time. In staging performances of uncensored folk tales in all their subversive glory, Index hopes to resist centuries of editorial censorship and honour the cultures that live on in the performance of folktales and folk songs. 

On Friday, 19 July, Index hosted Jade Cuttle, Scarlett Curtis, and Jemima Foxtrot. Cuttle is a poet, writer, and singer songwriter, and is currently deputy editor of poetry at Ambit magazine. She read aloud two folktales: The Dauntless girl, an English folktale about a fearless young girl’s inadvertent murder of a gravedigger, and Tailypo, a North American folktale about an old man’s demise at the hands of a demonic creature whose tail he has eaten. 

Curtis is a writer and blogger, most known for editing the award-winning collection of essays, Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and other lies. She read exerpts of two stories from The Bloody Chamber by the English feminist author Angela Carter, the Snow Child and Bluebeard, which deal with gender violence and sexuality in a classic folktale style. The Snow Child tells of a girl who is magically conjured in the image of a Count’s ideal woman, who is then tricked by the Count’s wife into pricking her finger on a rosebush. Bluebeard tells of  young wife who, upon being forbidden by her absent husband from exploring one room in his castle, finds that the room contains torture instruments and the embalmed corpse of his previous wife.

Foxtrot, a writer and performance artist, is also director of the theater group Unruly Mess. She closed out the evening with a folktale and folk song: the Irish song Weila Weila, popularised by the Dubliners, which tells the story of a mother who is hanged for murdering her baby with a penknife; and the Welsh story the Erl-King, which tells of a father whose young son is killed by a supernatural being only his son can see.

The second night of Forest Folktales: Uncensored, Saturday, 20 July, saw the return of Foxtrot, again performing Weila Weila, as well as Angela Carter’s story The Werewolf, about a child who, upon being attacked by a wolf, slices off the wolf’s paw — only to discover that the paw has transformed into the hand of her beloved grandmother. She was joined by Max Porter, a novelist and the former editorial director of Granta and Portobello Books, and the poet Zaffar Kunial. Porter performed the Dauntless Girl and Tailypo, and Kunial performed Carter’s the Snow Child. 

On the final evening, Sunday, 21 July, Index’s own Helen Galliano and Anna Millward performed various uncensored folk tales, including a special Icelandic fairy tale translated by Millward, concluding the weekend. 

Index at Latitude: Forest Folktales

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”107818″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship, the campaigning free-speech nonprofit, is excited to be mounting its Forest Folktales at Latitude Festival 19-21 July in Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk.

As dusk falls and the witching hour approaches, gather in the Faraway Forest for sordid, uncensored folktales as you have never heard them before: Gryla the mountain-troll in Iceland who eats naughty children and killed her first husband, Rapunzel’s sordid late-night tumbles with her prince or Cinderella’s step-sisters chopping off their own toes. Folk stories from around the world have been censored and edited by collectors for years in a bid to remove “taboo” material

Join Index on Censorship for this late-night edition of folktales for grown ups in all their forbidden, filthy and uncensored glory with readers including Scarlett Curtis, Max Porter, Jade Cuttle and Jemima Foxtrot.

See the full line-up here:

– ENDS –

Listings Info:

All talks and performances take place in the Faraway Forest 19-21 July.

  • Performing on Friday night at 8:30pm at the Tree of Life:
    • Jade Cuttle, Scarlett Curtis, Jemima Foxtrot + Index on Censorship storytellers
  • Performing on the Saturday night at 8:30pm at the Tree of Life:
    • Max Porter, Jemima Foxtrot + Index on Censorship storytellers
  • Performing on Sunday at 5pm at the Clearing: Index on Censorship storytellers

For more information:


Sean Gallagher [email protected]

Notes for Editors:

Index on Censorship is a non-profit organisation that defends free expression and fights censorship of artists, writers, journalists and campaigners worldwide through advocacy, events and an award-winning quarterly magazine. Index believes that everyone has the right to free expression – no matter what their views. Index on Censorship has published some of the greatest names in literature including Samuel Beckett, Nadine Gordimer, Mario Vargas Llosa, Arthur Miller and Kurt Vonnegut. Patrons include Margaret Atwood, Simon Callow and Steeve Coogan.


Twitter: @IndexCensorship

Latitude Festival is an annual music festival that takes place in Henham Park, near Southwold, Suffolk, England. It was first held in July 2006. Immerse yourself in all of the magical areas coming to Latitude Festival this summer. Not only can you delight your ears with music from across the genres at one of our seven music stages, you can also embark on a cultural safari across the arts taking in comedy, theatre, dance and more, have fun for all of the family in our kids, teens and family area, and care for your wellbeing with pamper sessions and outdoor swimming. Whatever your passion there’s something for everyone in Henham Park.


Twitter: @LatitudeFest


Scarlett Curtis is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She is the curator of the Sunday Times Bestseller and National Book Award winning Feminists Don’t Wear Pink & other lies; a collection of essays by 52 women on what feminism means to them, published by Penguin in 2018. She is contributing editor at The Sunday Times Style and has had work published in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times and Vogue. In 2017 Scarlett co-founded The Pink Protest; a feminist activist collective committed to helping young people take action online and IRL. To date they have been a part of campaigns that have changed two laws; a bill to help end period poverty and a bill to get FGM into the Children’s Act. 

In 2014 she worked for 18 months as social media director of the UN’s campaign ‘The Global Goals’ and is a passionate activist. From 2017 – 2018 she wrote  a weekly column for The Sunday Times Style newspaper titled The Generation Z Hit List.

Follow Scarlett Curtis on Twitter at @scarcurtis and Instagram at @pinkprotest and @scarcurtis.

Jade Cuttle is a poet, writer, and folk singer-songwriter. She is currently deputy poetry editor at Ambit Magazine and is completing her MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of East Anglia. In addition to performing her poetry across multiple BBC platforms and writing for BBC podcasts, Jade has been awarded with numerous awards. Her poem ‘Miracle of Mould’ for BBC Radio 3 was written for End Hunger UK in order to raise awareness about food insecurity. 

In 2017, she also released her debut album of poem-songs ‘Leaves and Lovers’, which focuses on the resilience and quiet wisdom of nature. Her second album is set to be released this year. Her passion for nature has also led to her leading nature-focused workshops with the public and with schoolchildren, most notably her Poetry of Trees workshop. 

You can follow her on Twitter at @JadeCuttle and on Instagram at @jadecuttle.

Jemima Foxtrot is a writer, theatre-maker, performer, and musician. Her first collection of poetry, All Damn Day, was published in 2016, and she is currently touring three original theatre pieces: Kiss Me, Help! I hate you, Above the Mealy-Mouthed Sea, and Rear View. In the past, she was commissioned by the Tate Britain, the BBC, the Tate Modern, Latitude Festival, and more. 

Mirror, her feminist poem-turned-film focusing on self-acceptance, was commissioned by BBC Arts as part of their Women who Spit series. Jemima is also a founding member of Unholy Mess, a theatre company that aims to tell important stories of human experience that are often overlooked or under-represented in art. Unholy Mess draws on performance poetry, live singing and physical theatre and tours internationally. 

Follow Jemima on Twitter at @jemimafoxtrot and on Instagram at @jemima.foxtrot

In 2015, Max Porter published his first book, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, which British Council Literature called “one of the eeriest, most exuberant and rapturously received fictional debuts in recent British writing”. Porter himself called it “a multi-voice fable … a short book which moves between prose, poetry, play script, fairytale and essay”, and the book captured “the domestic tenderness of single fatherhood and the way that literature helps us cope with life” by mixing “dark comedy and poignant beauty”. Porter draws on his own experience of parental loss for his book.

Porter is based in London, where he is the editorial director of Granta and Portobello Books.  [/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1563188427946-203d2eec-312c-0″ taxonomies=”5692″][/vc_column][/vc_row]