1. Visit Preston

Encounter Festival Artist Series: Magical Story Jars

16 February 2024

Encounter Festival 2023 offered a wide range of free activities for families in Preston, including workshops, performances, and games.

Saturday and Sunday saw imaginations run wild with workshops offered by the wonderful Magical Story Jars.

We caught up with Beth, the founder and Chief Storyteller at Magical Story Jars, about her experience at Encounter Festival 2023. Here's what she had to say...

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I live in Preston with my husband and two children. 

My family and I are the founders of Magical Story Jars; an award-winning small business that allows children to unlock their creativity, create memories together and explore their limitless imaginations through the wonders of our story jars.  

Our business came to be after our children wanted made up bedtime stories and we needed a little bit of help creating them! 

We work primarily in the North West of the UK with a small and passionate team who help us to spread this joy to little ones and their families by providing story making activities at events, festivals and in museums. 

We also run an online shop selling our Magical Story Jars product range.  In our spare time, my family and I like reading, walking, Parkrun and paddle boarding. 

How many times have you taken part in either the Torchlight Procession or Programme of Events?  Do you have a favourite memory from when you participated?

My family and I watched the torchlight procession (the one with the gigantic giant!) during the Brief Encounter back in 2017.  So when I saw the artist call out for participants back in 2022, I knew straight away that I wanted Magical Story Jars to be a part of such a fun filled festival. 

The 2023 Encounter was the second festival we sprinkled our story making magic over. 

One of my favourite memories of taking part was most definitely seeing the children's imaginations come to life during our 3D treasure map of 'Winckley Square Island' activity. 

I'm not sure I'll ever look at Winckley Square in the same way again!  

It inspired some very exciting quest stories.  Let's just say if you live in Preston, you need to keep your eye out for unicorns flying overhead, lots of buried treasure, the odd volcano here and there along with plenty of portholes that transport you to weird and wonderful places that only exist deep inside children's imaginations! 

A table with a blue table cloth with pens, flags and arts and craft materials.

Why do you think people should attend Encounter Festival?

The Encounter festival quite literally has something for everyone and its spread out right across the city.  From the community and traditions stage to dance workshops and the timeless performance. 

I couldn't think of a more perfect opportunity to come together as a community and create great memories.  It's a festival that is created by local people for local people.  Visiting the festival with my own family always makes me come away feeling proud to call Preston my home town.

What's more it's all completely free! 

My family and I have both delivered activities and indeed visited many different arts festivals over the years and it's fair to say that these events aren't cheap to attend. 

The Encounter Festival programme is brimming with such fantastic performances and activities, all for free thanks to funding from organisations like the Arts Council and Without Walls.

A table with pencils, hand gel and an Encounter guide book.

Have you got anything exciting lined up for 2024?

Yes, we have lots of plans afoot for 2024. 

We will be spreading our wings and travelling further to sprinkle our story making magic over even more museums and we're also looking to participate in more children's literature festivals.

Finally, we're launching workshops specifically for schools in Spring this year.  Lots of our 'teacher parent' customers have been suggesting we take our activities into schools for quite some time.

We've been trialling workshops and we're extremely excited about the thought of injecting more fun and magic into creative writing and helping to foster a love of stories. 

Here at HQ, we love a bit of 'learning in disguise' so I'm confident the workshops will be not only be beneficial for the children but also lots of fun.