A man dressed as an orange Grandfather Smed next to a woman playing a blue Grandmother Smoo. They are holding three alien puppets that look like the heads of mini Gruffalos.

Meet the Team

Staff

Toby Mitchell

Artistic Director and Co-founder

Meet Toby
What’s your story?

As a teenager, I discovered that before I was born, my dad had been a famous jazz musician. Knowing how unpredictable arts careers are, and having left school at 16 to go straight into music, he strongly discouraged me from going straight into the arts myself. So I studied French and German at university – and only later did a Drama MA at Central. But, after co-founding Tall Stories with Olivia, the rest is history. Sorry, Dad!

What do you do at tall stories?

Some of my duties as artistic director include directing and writing shows, choosing new shows, and having random ideas. All of us at Tall Stories have ideas for shows and for how the company works. I have far too many ideas – most odd or frankly unworkable, some good! I also have an overview of marketing and design – and I take most of our publicity photos. Outside of Tall Stories, I’m a board member of Action for Children’s Arts.

What are your favourite stories?

I’ve always loved ‘Alice in Wonderland’ for its mixture of nonsense and warped logic. (I’ve created two shows based on Alice over the years.) I also love ‘Winnie the Pooh’ for its own mix of silliness and philosophy. And then there’s a great book which I consider the American equivalent of ‘Alice’ – ‘The Phantom Tollbooth. As a teenager I loved the brilliant ‘Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, which I still re-read today.

Executive Director

Recruiting

Meet Executive

We are currently recruiting a new Executive Director please click here if you would like more information about the role.

Clare Lewis

Marketing Director

Meet Clare
What’s your story?

Originally from Wales, I moved to London in 2000 to be the Marketing Manager of The Bull Theatre in Barnet where I oversaw the opening of the new artsdepot in North Finchley. After working for the UK Film Council and Jacksons Lane, and the birth of my second child, I moved to education and became a Teaching Assistant. I am now delighted to return to my first love, the arts, and am thrilled to work for such a creative company at a very exciting time in their own story.

What do you do at tall stories?

My role is to shout about all the amazing things Tall Stories do, covering a wide range of activities, shows and projects. As well as promoting Tall Stories’ brand and studio space, it’s my responsibility to reach diverse audiences helping them to engage with the magic of theatre and enjoy tales of, among other things, witches, aliens, mythical creatures and of course, a stroll through the deep dark wood!

What are your favourite stories?

I love stories, whether they’re through lyrics of a song, pages of a book, images on a screen, actors on a stage, brushstrokes on a canvas or fingerprints in clay. The most memorable stories from my childhood are ‘The Secret Garden’, ‘Z for Zachariah’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ but my favourite book of all time is ‘1984’ which I could read again and again!

Marcus Marsh

Producer

Meet Marcus
What’s your story?

I was first introduced to stories through visiting the theatre with my family. After studying theatre in Leeds, I set up a production company – finding new stories to tell and enjoying all parts of production! Alongside working with my company, I have worked as Associate Director at Stockwell Playhouse and Associate Producer at the British Theatre Academy.

What do you do at Tall Stories?

My role involves assisting the running of productions day to day, supporting the cast and company in the lead-up and during the run of shows in any way possible. I am responsible for problem solving when necessary and organising schedules of where people need to be and when!

What are your favourite stories?

My favourite stories are the ones that ignite our imagination alongside educating us about the world we live in! I grew up on stories by Roald Dahl – Esio Trot was a particular favourite as we had a pet tortoise! I then became a fan of Michael Morpurgo and the Harry Potter series.

Fiona Bines

Creative Programmes Coordinator

Meet Fiona
What’s your story?

Growing up I always loved being read to and reading books that whisked me away on adventures that were full of imagination, surprises, and intrigue.  Later, I also discovered the joys of experiencing stories through seeing live theatre and being part of the theatre making process itself.  I went on to study Musical Theatre at the BRIT School, had director training at the Young Vic, assistant directed, facilitated workshops, and worked Front of House in theatres.  Through my years working in theatre, I started to see the many ways that theatre can evolve and mean different things to different people in different contexts. So, I went to Central to study the Drama, Applied Theatre and Education degree.

What do you do at Tall Stories?

I run the Tall Stories Studio which involves organising the studio schedule, studios hires and our community and artist development projects. I am working to make the studio a versatile storytelling hub that has a place in the Islington local community, an exciting creative programme, and a diverse and inclusive practice.

What are your favourite stories?

My favourite stories are in the fantasy genre. I have special memories of ‘The Hobbit’ being read to me as a child. My most recent favourite book series that I have read is ‘The Witcher’ and one I have just begun is the ‘Rivers of London’.

Finley Adams

Production Coordinator

Meet Finley
What’s your story? 

Growing up in Staffordshire I always wanted to pursue a career in storytelling and so moved to London to study Acting at Arts Ed and later RADA. I then went on to work at The Orange Tree Theatre where I helped facilitate the youth theatre. Watching the way theatre and stories has an influence on young people and builds their imaginations fueled my ambition to be involved in family theatre. I moved into the world of casting for a while and now I’m here at Tall Stories with an incredible team bringing theatre and stories to families around the world.

What do you do at Tall Stories? 

I help with day to day production support and ensure things are running smoothly. This can vary from planning and tour logistics to organisation and lots of problem solving. I’m here to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in whilst also making everyone a brew when needed. 

What are your favourite stories? 

The first story I fell in love with was ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton because of its magical world full of fabulously odd beings. ‘Winnie The Pooh’ closely followed with its beautiful stories of friendship and wisdom. Harry Potter goes without saying, and a more recent love is ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak, its story is one that will forever be powerful and will continue to challenge and move me. 

Eman Ansari

Production Coordinator

Meet Eman
What’s your story?

I loved stories and playing pretend as a child. My own story is of growing up in Cambridge, summers spent in Pakistan, and a family who taught me to stay interested in the world around you and always welcome anyone who ends up on your doorstep. Before Tall Stories I stage managed a few small, chaotic university theatre productions where I learned to juggle getting the job done and caring for your team, and worked in hospitality where I learned a lot about people as well as how to make a decent cocktail or two.

What do you do at Tall Stories?

Along with the rest of the production team (aka the Prod Squad) I do whatever it takes to get our shows up on stage! This involves lots scheduling and logistics – getting things (and people!) in the right place at the right time. I help with casting and managing our programme of access performances. I also run our merchandise, help out with marketing, and will try my hand at anything else that comes my way.

What are your favourite stories?

I think Eva Ibbotson is criminally underrated. Her characters are rich and real, kind and flawed, and her descriptions of settings from Vienna and St. Petersburg to the Amazon Rainforest always made me long to pack my bags. For older readers I am also absolutely evangelical about recommending Jackie Kay’s Trumpet, quite possibly the perfect book!

Rachel Benson

Company & Marketing Coordinator

Meet Rachel
What’s your story?

I initially trained as an actor Musician at Rose Bruford, having loved theatre since I was a child. I’ve come to Tall Stories in a slightly indirect route. I first worked with them as an actor in The Snail and the Whale in 2018 and subsequently on the West End. I’m still performing in the evenings in London, but in the day time I get to have fun in the office!

What do you do at Tall Stories?

I help to support the wonderful office team – so a bit of everything really! Of course my most important job is making sure the biscuit supply is well stocked! I also help with the company marketing – making sure that our image for the company matches the vision.

What are your favourite stories?

I’m a big crime and thriller reader. I read loads of Nancy Drew books as a child. My favourite series is Slow Horses by Mick Herron, but I’m also a big fan of one-off books like The Chain and The Power. My favourite book of all time is probably The Binding by Bridget Collins. I think I must have bought at least five copies to give to friends and lent out my copy copious amounts!

Sheila McClenaghan

Finance Manager

Meet Sheila
What’s your story?

I have loved numbers from an early age, and have been involved in looking after the accounts for many varied organisations for most of my adult life. My interest in theatre began when my children joined a local drama group, and I took on many backstage roles over the years. I have been fortunate enough to work in professional theatre now for almost 13 years, the last six years at Tall Stories.

What do you do at tall stories?

My job is to deal with the money coming in, mainly from ticket sales; and to keep track of all the money we need to spend on our various projects, and make sure everything gets paid on time.

What are your favourite stories?

As a child I loved the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ series, and when my daughters were younger I enjoyed reading them the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Patrick Orkney

Finance Assistant

Meet Patrick
What’s your story?

I grew up in Bristol and studied Actor Musicianship at Rose Bruford. Since graduating I’ve worked as an actor in several family theatre shows, and for the past couple of years have been part of the Customer Experience team for ATG. Tall Stories have very kindly given me my first office job!

What do you do at tall stories?

I assist the finance manager in keeping track of spending, income and receipts – Microsoft Excel is my new home!

What are your favourite stories?

I absolutely love ghost stories and gothic horror; anything that sends a little shiver down the spine is a winner for me! Dracula is one of my favourites, and I recently loved reading the Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Olivia Jacobs

Director

Meet Olivia
What do you like best about your job?

The people I get to work with. I’m lucky to be in a room with so many talented and creative people. It’s hard and physically demanding – but we laugh all the time and what could be better than that?!

What was your favourite story as a child?

I loved being read Mr Tickle by my dad. The anticipation of him tickling at the end was almost unbearable…

Why did you want to work in theatre?

I learn best through stories and am inspired by getting lost in a brilliant tale. To be part of making great stories come to life for a living is a real treat.

 

 

 

Samantha Lyden

Tour Booker

Meet Samantha
What’s your story?

I’m the eldest of four children, from Hertfordshire originally, but I moved down to London in 2013 to follow my dream of working in theatre. Having started out performing, I quickly found I enjoyed all aspects of making theatre happen, including tour booking and producing. And though these days I’m more often found behind a computer than waiting in the wings, I’m ready and willing to be called upon for any Tall Stories understudy duty!

What do you do at tall stories?

I organise the tours for Tall Stories’ productions, making sure as many people in the UK (and sometimes beyond!) get to see the shows. I communicate with theatre programmers across the country, informing them which productions are going to be touring, when. I help interested venues book these shows into their programme over dates which work for them, whilst also trying to be mindful of how it will fit within the surrounding schedule.

What are your favourite stories?

My favourite stories are ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ by Norton Juster and ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’. I remember reading ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ as a child and being transported by its weird and wonderful magic! I also loved ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ for similar reasons and with its themes of quarantine and friendship, it feels even more relatable in recent times!

Trustees

Penelope Daly

Chair

Meet Penelope
What’s your story?

Starlight, camp fire, melodious voices – my love of storytelling grew from my upbringing in Zambia. Speaking Bemba before English, my African connections are strong.

What’s your role as a trustee of tall stories?

Combining my background with an adult life living internationally, I bring to the board the diversity of my multi-cultural experiences. I also bring expertise in leadership, strategy and governance gained from leading organisations and supporting business scale-up programmes.

What are your favourite stories?

‘Hot Hippo’, ‘Crafty Chameleon’ and all the books by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway.

Steve Cowton

Vice Chair

Meet Steve
What’s your story?

I was born in Northumberland and have worked in most areas of professional theatre (front of house, technical and admin) before winding up as Head of Theatres at The Lowry – in many ways my perfect job. When I’m not in a theatre I can often be found watching cricket – or more realistically sheltering from the rain.

What’s your role as a trustee of tall stories?

I think my role on the Board is to represent the promoters and venues who book Tall Stories shows. I have thirty years’ experience of programming venues at all scales and across the subsidised and commercial sectors. Also because of my role, I tend to see a lot of theatre of all types which enables me to bring a sense of perspective to board meetings.

What are your favourite stories?

My favourite stories have happy endings.

James Jones

Meet James
What’s your story?

Learning at an early age that I couldn’t sing or dance, and later on that enthusiasm is no substitute for talent, I was forced to draw a line under an otherwise promising stage career. Since then, I have spent 30 years as an entertainment lawyer specialising in theatre. My clients include leading producers; I still hope that one day they’ll overlook my shortcomings as a performer and cast me as the grumpy director in ‘A Chorus Line’.

What’s your role as a trustee of tall stories?

I hope I am seen by the rest of the Board as a valuable source of legal and commercial knowledge, but I suspect my innate aversion to risk means I am the Eeyore of the Board.

What are your favourite stories?

I have fond memories of the ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ books, although naturally I always preferred James to Thomas. And, of course, any ‘Winnie the Pooh’ story where Eeyore is proven to have been right all along.

Emmaline Cen

Meet Emmaline
What’s your story?

As a child, my mum encouraged me to learn an instrument which led to me becoming a Harpist and made me develop a huge interest in music. I love going to the theatre and watching stories come alive on stage, and I also love working with numbers. It was therefore the perfect opportunity for me to join Tall Stories as the Treasurer, combining both my passion for the arts and numbers!

What’s your role as a trustee of tall stories?

As a previous external auditor and now a financial accountant, I bring to the board my analytical and financial expertise. I am also responsible for providing financial oversight and ensuring the board carries out their financial responsibilities. Using my expertise, I hope to guide Tall Stories in achieving its future goals.

What are your favourite stories?

My favourite stories as a child were ‘The Faraway Tree’ series by Enid Blyton. I loved reading about all the adventures the children had in the enchanted woods and finding out what magical land they would discover each time they climbed to the top of the tree.

Stacie Bond

Meet Stacie
What’s your story?

Originally from Ireland, a land of storytelling, I grew up surrounded by stories and poetry. My mum would buy me a new poetry book every Easter instead of a chocolate egg. This grew into a love of theatre, music and art, as ways of expressing our stories but also understanding those of others, opening perspectives and inviting others to join us. I started working in applied theatre across a range of settings in Ireland before moving into the operational management of drama schools, theatre companies and charities in London 12 years ago. I’m a mum of two and love sharing stories old and new with them.

 

What’s your role as a trustee of Tall Stories? 

My role as a Trustee is to be a sounding board, a critical friend and a champion of Tall Stories and the team. I bring my background of working with young people in a range of communities and my experience as a senior leader of charities and educational organisations to support the work and help it to share stories with more people.

 

What are your favourite stories?

‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll is my all time favourite story – I love its playfulness and how it reminds us the importance of being curious.

From having my son I have also fallen in love with the stories by Trish Cooke, especially ‘So Much’ and Oliver Jeffers!

Pippa Garland

Meet Pippa

What’s your story?

As a child I loved books, reading long past my bedtime by the light of a torch. Now with two little bookworms of my own, I am amused at how quick they are to hide their books when caught being up late, and how slow to wonder who is keeping their torches charged… As a family, it has been such a gift to be able to take them to see the stories they love brought to life at Tall Stories’ productions.

 

What’s your role as a trustee of Tall Stories?

I am a lawyer by trade, specialising in charity law and governance. I see my role as ensuring the charity remains onside with its legal and regulatory framework, while marveling from the sidelines at the creativity that goes into creating the magic onstage.

 

What are your favourite stories?

I am always amazed that I didn’t run off to boarding school, so engrossed was I in stories of Malory Towers, St Clare’s, the Worst Witch and Trebizon. I am currently loving rediscovering the spellbinding power of Harry Potter with my eldest – while hoping that she won’t pester her parents as much as I did to be sent to Hogwarts.

Zaylie-Dawn Wilson

Meet Zaylie-Dawn

What’s your story?

I’m someone who loves the magic of stories and theatre. I grew up in semi-rural Scotland so stories for me were adventure and escapism. Having worked across a range of arts organisations and theatres, the thread of all of my work has been championing stories, and ensuring that those who wouldn’t normally have the chance to see them onstage, are able to.

What’s your role as a trustee of Tall Stories?

To be a supportive and critical friend. To bring my expertise to support Tall Stories to grow and thrive, alongside the other Trustees. My particular specialisms are Programming, Artist & Talent Development, Education, Touring Theatre, International partnerships, Festivals, Community work, Access and EDI.

What are your favourite stories?

Growing up my favourites were Flat Stanley, The Secret Garden, Peter Rabbit and the Gruffalo.  When reading with my little boy my current favourites are Guess How Much I Love You and Five Little Ducks.

Patrons

Cariad Lloyd

Meet Cariad

Cariad Lloyd is an actor, comedian, improviser, podcaster and writer. She is the creator and host of the award-winning podcast Griefcast, where she talks to people about their experiences of grief and death. Past guests include Sara Pascoe, Adam Buxton, Nish Kumar, Fleur East and Rev. Richard Coles. The show won Podcast of the Year at the British podcast awards in 2018, was an Apple Spotlight podcast in 2022 and was featured in the New York Times. Cariad has also appeared in ‘Peep Show’, ‘Have I Got News For You’ and ‘QI’, and is one of the creators of improv show, ‘Austentatious’. In 2023, she published her first book based on the Griefcast, ‘You Are Not Alone’ to critical acclaim.

Chris Riddell

Meet Chris

Chris is an author, illustrator and the political cartoonist for the Observer. He was appointed the UK’s Children’s Laureate in 2015. Alongside his collaborative work with Paul Stewart, Neil Gaiman and others, Chris also writes and illustrates the ‘Ottoline’ series and the Costa Award winning ‘Goth Girl’ series. Chris has won many awards for his work, including the Nestlé Gold Award, the UNESCO Award for ‘Something Else’ and three Kate Greenaway Medals.

Wendy Shearer

Meet Wendy

Wendy is a British-Guyanese storyteller and author of three books. She regularly performs at institutions including the British Museum, the Museum of London, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Barbican and the Eden Project. Wendy’s repertoire is drawn mostly from her Afro-Caribbean heritage and her first degree in Classics. Her background is in writing and producing children’s television, having worked for the BBC, Nickelodeon and PBS in America. Wendy is passionate about inspiring the next generation of readers, writers and storytellers with her work.