A PROJECT which started over a kitchen table a decade ago is in need of support after the effects of Covid-19 and the restrictions which were placed on communities caused its main funding routes to dry up.

For over 10 years, arts charity Settle Stories has brought art, colour and famous faces to the rural Yorkshire Dales but there is now a genuine fear this could all come to a close due to a serious lack of funding.

Organisers say the charity’s Yorkshire Festival of Story, which has been reworked into a free online event due to the coronavirus pandemic, is running throughout August to stream hope into people’s homes through these unprecedented times.

The festival has been a hit so far with local and international audiences, but with a loss of nearly all its income through the effects of the pandemic Settle Stories needs to raise money now to secure its future.

Yorkshire Festival of Story is offering over 80 free events online this month.

Famous guests among the line-up include Yorkshire women Dame Jenni Murray, Joanne Harris MBE and Yorkshire Shepherdess - Amanda Owen, along with Booker Prize-winning author and poet Ben Okri.

There have been almost 5,000 events registrations already for the festival events, which includes shows and workshops for all ages.

“It’s been absolutely buzzing,” said Charles Tyrer, executive director of Settle Stories.

“Since launching the festival online, we’ve had people tuning in from across the country and as far as Singapore and Canada to connect with amazing storytellers and artists to celebrate the spirit of Yorkshire and beyond.”

Sita Brand arrived at the idea of Settle Stories sitting at her kitchen table over 10 years ago.

A professional storyteller with a background in drama, Sita arrived in the Dales after moving north from London to Giggleswick around 13 years ago.

She wanted to connect people through the power of story. Since then, tens of thousands of school children have been inspired through Settle Stories’ learning programmes.

She started the storytelling festival in 2010 with nine events. The following year it held 12 and had grown annually ever since.

Projects have helped combat loneliness for the elderly, helped individuals overcome addiction, offered a route to employment and given people tools to deal with emotional struggles to change their future.

This robust charity is now part of the fabric of the Settle and Craven community.

Due to the pandemic, Settle Stories lost the vast majority of their income from sponsorship, and all potential revenue from ticket sales.

This, coupled with their usual funding streams suddenly unavailable, means that this independent charity now needs to raise emergency funds to survive.

“When the pandemic hit, we knew we had to keep our commitment to artists who lost their jobs overnight,” said Sita.

“We transformed our flagship festival into a free online event, to provide people with a much-needed artistic escape from the isolation they’re facing and the stream of bad news in the headlines.

“Now Settle Stories is looking to people who can donate to help the charity survive for the next decade.”

Settle Stories is a small independent charity that receives no regular funding.

Supporters and audiences from across the globe have helped the charity raise almost £9,020 of their original £10,000 target to cover the loss in ticket sales from the festival.

With such enthusiasm from audiences and supporters, the funding target has been extended to £15,000 which will cover the loss of sponsorship and advertisements for the festival.

Settle Stories has grown at an exceptional rate since it began, proving a genuine thirst for art.

The charity makes the arts accessible to all in rural places, connecting communities and ‘removing the barriers typically involved in travelling in search for new experiences’.

Its learning programme reaches thousands of children every year, with storytellers covering everything from Black History Month to the maths curriculum in schools and adult learning projects that have helped local people back into employment.

The hub, The Joinery, hosts events for all ages, bringing year-round art to rural Yorkshire.

Any donation, big or small, is greatly appreciated. You can donate via www.settlestories.org.uk/donate/