Person in the Park: A storyteller's story

By Nicola Chalton, co-editor and publisher of Esk Valley News

Born in Leeds in the North of England, I became immersed in story writing and theatre from an early age. My mother’s family established a theatre, The Nomads in East Horsley, Surrey, which is still going strong today. Inspired by our mother’s passion, my sister and I created an attic theatre at home where theatrical friends joined us to sing, dance and act. I took a different route at university, studying Philosophy before working as a book editor in London. I became a commissioning editor at what was then an independent publisher, Constable & Robinson, developing a series of history and science books.

The freelance life beckoned when I met my French partner, Pascal, a graphic designer, while travelling in Mexico - in a cafe with mariachis playing. Our first ‘date’ was an unusual tour of the Museum of the Dead, deep within the hillside below the city of Guanajuato. We arranged to meet again at the top of the Temple of the Sun in Mexico City, but sadly my travels took me elsewhere and Pascal spent a few lonely hours waiting in the sun - but our romance blossomed when we met again six months later in London.

In 2009 we decided to exchange the pavements of Peckham for the green and purple landscape of the North York Moors. We soon settled in Glaisdale with our young son and a menagerie of dogs and cats. With wonderful neighbours all around, the Esk Valley Theatre in the village, local shops and an excellent school, it couldn’t have been more perfect.

We brought with us our small publishing business - Basement Press - and I acquired an extra local job as co-ordinator of the Heather Hopper minibus, arranging trips for isolated and elderly residents of the upper Esk Valley. This proved to be an excellent way to make friends and before long we were asked to carry on a local community magazine ‘Valley News’ on the retirement of the editor, Anne Bowes. The magazine eventually grew into a larger, monthly ‘Esk Valley News’ and last year metamorphosed into a journal-style ‘Esk Valley News Quarterly’, with in-depth, themed articles relevant to the North York Moors, Whitby, Ryedale and Cleveland. We see it as an antidote to the instant culture of social media – with its ambitions to share a deep knowledge of our local landscape, history and people, and support nature recovery for the benefit of all. Local publishing has never been easy but the latest issue, ‘Folklore, Witchcraft and Traditions’, sold out in two weeks, which seems like a good omen.

Besides publishing I have immersed myself in the area’s lively folk scene, performing with fiddle, song and clog dancing at local concerts and folk festivals. Recently with friends we have formed ‘3-Minute Arts’, to try and develop the arts in the Esk Valley area. The idea came from Maggie Rich who lives at Glaisdale Station house and we have teamed up with the Esk Valley Railway. Three minutes is the time the train stops at Glaisdale station and also the shortest time between stops on the Esk Valley line. Last year we held a 3-minute drama writing competition, the winning plays to be performed on the railway platform this month (May). This year’s competition is to write 3-minute stories to be performed by storytellers in the carriages. Winning dramas and stories will also be performed at a mini arts festival in Glaisdale in June.

Perhaps the biggest project this year is the development of a new Community Earth Festival, linking the Esk Valley with East Cleveland. I became involved as a Council member of the Esk Valley Camphill Community (known locally as EVCC and based in Danby), my role being to help EVCC develop connections with the wider community. We have collaborated with Loftus ACCORD, Jo Mead at Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, the North York Moors National Park, and many local conservation and community groups to present a landmark Community Earth Festival for the area with over 40 events over a ten-week period, from 22 April until 8 July. We hope many people will take part - look out for details at:

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