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The Step-Up Commission

In October 2021 I was contacted by storytellers Shonaleigh of 'House of the West Wind' and Amy Douglas of 'Get a Word in Edgeways' to tell me that I had been nominated to be the first recipient of their new 'Step Up Commission'. The idea was to encourage local storytellers to 'step up' to the next level on to the national stage.  From that October to July 2022 I worked with these two marvellous people; alongside an additional mentor - the charming and unfailingly supportive Amelia Armande. In July 2022 I presented the result of all our efforts: These Woods More Free.

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These Woods More Free

My idea was to build on some work I had done on the story of 'Robin Hood and the Abbot' taken from the medieval ballad called 'The Gest'. Whilst I like the story, it made me wonder where all the women were whilst Robin and his men were waylaying strangers on the highways?

Finding the womenfolk:

Taking the idea of a medieval book of hours as a frame, I linked together stories of women and their activities, at this time, within the cycle of a year. There followed extensive research into the histoy and landscape of the period. I drew on folk tales and medieval ballads for my stories.

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About the show:


These Woods So Free is a one woman show featuring traditional oral storytelling at its best.  Madeleine Grantham takes to the stage to create a rich, atmospheric, deeply textured, medieval world.
Madeleine lives on the edge of the New Forest and is inspired by its wild beauty -  the wide expanse of heathland where deer graze and buzzards soar and dappled glades.
Like so many, during the daily allotted hour of lockdown rambles, Madeleine rediscovered those moments of extraordinary beauty in the everyday; paying attention to the amazing tiny transformations that take place as the year turns.
Inspired by authors like Ellis Peters and Candace Robb, Madeleine is a medieval history fan, but found herself frustrated by tantalising glimpses of ordinary people in the accounts of heroes and lords in medieval stories… where were the working women?  Where were the ordinary people?  
In These Woods So Free, when Robin Hood goes to London adventuring, he leaves behind a web of community where the seasons turn, and at heart of everything is the mysterious, wise Widow Sadler...
Madeleine tells the stories of the common people behind the heroes; the women who keep the world turning and the ordinary people who hold up the myth.

Feedback for these 'Woods More Free'



Excellent, I could listen to that for hours & hours, thank you so much.


Brilliant Madeleine


That was great


Really good Madeleine! Thank you!


Beautiful ending too!


Thanks and brilliantly well done Madeleine!


I really enjoyed the event today. I particularly enjoyed the stories later on... where the humour really came through. I loved the setting and the staging, and also the pace. Tone of voice was lovely and so easy to listen to and I especially like the sparkle in her eyes! Genuinely looking forward to hearing more.

I love it when the storyteller's personality shines through the story and yours did. x


The passing of the months and seasons was delightful.


I enjoyed the thread of the wise woman - she holds the story together - she holds the community together.


Loved it!


Great performer. Thank you.

The show is designed to be 60 - 75 minutes long.

It would be suitable for: storytelling clubs and festivals, history festivals, medieval re-enactment events, nature & the environment celebrations, folk festivals and midlands folklore events.

Please use the 'contact' tab to enquire about booking the show.

The show takes its title from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ where his exiled duke relishes the honesty of country life over courtly life by remarking: “These woods more free from peril than the envious court”

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