STARS came out in Settle at the weekend.
Instead of its annual storytelling festival, Settle Stories organised a Star Party to stimulate interest in space and astronomy among people of all ages.
The project was a partnership between Manchester Metropolitan University and Bradford Astronomical Society, and included everything rocket workshops to an indoor planetarium.
Settle Stories director, Sita Brand, said: "The rocket workshop was popular with lots of adults and children blasting their homemade rockets into space.
"The Star Lab was extraordinary. It was a real thrill to listen to stories under a canopy of stars. We loved it so much we're hoping to bring it back for next year's festival in April."

REVIEWS by Gill O'Donnell:

Star Lab, Victoria Hall:
ENTERING a star lab is an unforgettable experience. A large inflatable dome which looks like some kind of cross between a bouncy castle and a slush coloured igloo, its exterior gives no clue to the enchantment within. Having crawled through the tunnel to the centre you find yourself in enfolded by  360° digital planetarium projection technology.

In this stunning setting storyteller, Emily Hennessey began by telling the story of the crows and how the selfishness of the male crow turned the world to complete darkness, while around the audience the light dimmed until like the crow we were in inky blackness.

Then, as the story unfolded and we heard how the crow pecked holes in the darkness to allow pin-pricks of daylight through, gradually the stars began to appear above us and the scene was set for an amazing hour of astronomical facts and storytelling fiction to explain the patterns in the night sky.   

These included tales of how the stars were made and explanations of how and why the constellations were named as well as an opportunity to look more carefully at the constellations and learn how to find certain groupings in the night sky. 

Totally fascinating throughout one of the most fun aspects was discovering that the same constellations have totally different stories in other parts of the world and therefore the group of stars which we know as The Great Bear is actually The Elephant in African mythology.

This acted as a wonderful starting point for the children present to start identifying other animals in the sky and doubtless will provide the basis for many new stories explaining how they came to be there.

A heady cocktail of science and fantasy the star lab proved a real crucible for the imagination.

Tales from the Cosmos, Stories of the Daytime Sky, Friends Meeting House:

AN abundantly enthusiastic exhibition of interactive story-telling for all ages,  Tales From the Cosmos focUsed on the myths and legends connected with the daytime sky.

Billed as an event for all ages this was a real masterclass in how to involve an audience and illustrated perfectly why the art of storytelling will always survive in every culture. 

Cassandra Wye is a stunning, larger than life character who doesn't just tell stories - she literally becomes the story. Every gesture is perfectly timed, every nuance of phrasing exploited to the utmost as she acts and dances her way through the tale in a masterpiece of physical theatre which holds the audience spellbound.

Reality was completely suspended as she summoned up a world in which darkness ruled and rabbits ran into trees and animals squabbled about the need for more light and where the audience then helped to solve the problems posed by the story.

Similarly when the archer needed to shoot down the sun it was the audience who provided the means to do so, totally transported to another world and time and working together - regardless of age - in order to ensure that the tale would end fittingly. 

Regardless of the origins of the story the art of this amazing storyteller lay in her ability to make the story not only universal but so accessible that it was impossible to simply be an observer, it was so compelling that it became imperative to actually be an active participant in the tale.

Introduction to Astronomy, Friends Meeting House:
PRESIDENT of the Bradford Astronomical Society, Rod Hine was a perfect example of the way in which a good teacher can captivate a group simply by their ability to share their own enthusiasm and passion for a subject.

Faced with the daunting task of explaining the history of astronomy and the advances in our understanding of the universe that astronomy has made, in an hour-long slot he managed to take us on an incredible whistlestop tour of the universe and the history of astronomy which was quite staggering.

From Ptolemy through to Einstein, via Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton the theories and maths behind astronomy were explained and put into their social context with great skill and flashes of humour.

Along the way he also delivered a range of practical tips on how get started in astronomy, advising on topics such as where to buy the best binoculars and how to locate certain stars.

Then swiftly on to examples and explanations of common phenomena such as asteroids, noctilucent clouds and meteor showers before a guide to the key constellations and how they reflect the mythology and times of the observers. Heads buzzing with information the audience were also treated to some striking photographs to help reinforce the explanations.

The whole event, in keeping with much else happening on the day, was totally mind-blowing. One of the most staggering revelations however was that having just explained the way in which the Milky Way is composed he went on to explain that there are actually more galaxies in the universe than there are stars in our Milky Way, but that each one of us is essentially composed of atoms which were once star dust. 

A compelling speaker on a fascinating subject he managed to draw together key themes from the day's events and leave the audience filled with wonder.

Dream's Landing, Victoria Hall:

THERE was definitely something very primeval about lying under the stars and listening to stories about the origins of the world - it would be difficult to think of anything  further away from the hustle and bustle associated with  modern technology.

Difficult, that is, except for the  fact that the stars were projections on the ceiling and walls of an inflatable star lab dome! However that didn't actually feel at all relevant as what mattered was the sensation generated by this experience. 

Sita Brand is an extraordinary storyteller and the hypnotic nature of her voice as regaled us with tales from around the world helped to create a timeless quality where reality itself was suspended - little wonder that in Aborignal culture "The Dreamtime" has come to mean the time of understanding of creation and knowledge revealed through stories.

It was this essence of dreaming which was conjured in the stories and experience within the star lab.

The first of these stories was an American Indian legend explaining the origin of the constellation which we know as The Pleiades.

These were once seven wives who decided that as their husbands had criticised them they would go instead to live in the sky. When the husbands realised what they had done they tried to persuade the women to return but were unable to do so. The men then tried to follow their wives but were unable to reach them and still chase them across the sky forever fixed as the constellation of Taurus. 

Other tales explained how the sky was first pierced by burning embers to become stars or dealt with the nature of dreaming itself and the conundrum as to whether it is when we dream that we are actually alive or whether when we are awake that we are simply part of someone else's dream. 

The fascination with such stories lies in the fact that in so many cultures similar tales occur and the very act of telling stories to explain our world is something which is itself somehow a way of creating a time which is outside "normal time" and a place for dreaming.

Tales from the Cosmos: Stories of the Night-time Sky, Friends Meeting House:

AS the day darkens and the moon begins to rise, now is the time for dreaming… the opening to this event was immediately evocative, setting the scene for tales of enchantment where anything might happen.

Having seen Cassandra Wye performing earlier in the day to a mixed age audience which contained a number of young children it was particularly intriguing to see how she adapted her style to suit an adult audience.

As anticipated, many of the trademark skills of a good storyteller were still present: the repetition of key phrases, the careful scene setting and the shifting in tone of voice at key moments to prolong tension but what was different was the way in which the stories were told with far more intricacy and poise.

There was a subtleness to each line, a nuance in inflection and a very definite purpose in every gesture which made her completely mesmerising. We often talk about people weaving stories, but in this case it was more like weaving magic as the audience time and again physically were drawn towards her as she spoke as if pulled by invisible cords. 

Undoubtedly a very fine actress, she plays her audience perfectly telling stories with great theatricality and physicality and yet still being able to step out of character to insert modern comic asides without destroying the atmosphere in any way.

Those who still think that "stories" are just something for children really need to see Cassandra Wye in full flow in order to be convinced that there is something in all of us that needs to be told a story and which longs to listen.