March and April are National Craft Month and National Poetry Month, respectively, in our country, and this got us thinking about two of the oldest artistic traditions: oral storytelling, and craft. 

“Oral History,” the British oral historian Paul Thompson said, “is a history built around people. It thrusts life into history itself and widens its scope […] It makes for contact – and hence understanding – between social classes, and between generations. […] In short it makes for fuller human beings.” see also

“Community has helped shape the creative processes of our collective craft history. Craft forms are passed from generation to generation in necessity and survival, but also in the spirit of community and commonality.”

Craft developed alongside oral culture, both responding to physical needs such as carrying water in a vessel or building a tool, but are also deeply interwoven with the cultural need to communicate something deeper about our histories and who we are in the moment. It could be said that we don’t need decoration, artistic objects and expressive storytelling. But go back in history tens of thousands of years – when survival was a daily concern – a you’ll find sculptures, cave paintings, decorative functional objects, and it becomes clear that we have always needed this.

Here in Guelph, our community weaves a tapestry of craft and storytelling culture, including actual guilds for Weavers and Spinners, Storytellers, as well as contemporary outgrowths of oral culture like Guelph Poetry Slam and projects such as “Refuge” happening now through the Guelph Black Heritage Society.

The term “Arts and Culture” often conjures up images of overly formal music, theatre and museum settings. We’d like to draw your attention for a moment a sampling of the great crafts and storytelling created at a grassroots level by our membership and community. Take it in and support its continued existence by being part of the audience or participate in a creative or volunteer capacity. Sign up for our e-news to receive monthly updates on events and activities from our membership.

Oral Histories and Storytelling

Guelph Spoken Word  runs Guelph Poetry Slam, Off the Page Open Mic, facilitates Youth Poetry Slamteams and Workshops like Sharpened Tongue.About Poetry Slams: Slams were created to transform spoken poetry from static readings for the artistic elite into stunning, interactive, dynamic, and competitive performances. 

Storytellers Guild

The Guelph Guild of Storytellers, founded in 1994, promotes the oral tradition of storytelling. Please note that many of our stories are too long or complex for younger audiences.

We welcome tellers with all levels of experience. Members often get together to help build and polish our stories. If there’s enough demand, we’ll run a Beginning or even an Intermediate Storytelling workshop.

We have two main series during the year:
Tea and Tales at the Enabling Garden, Friday mornings in the summer.
Story Show at The Bookshelf, monthly year round.

Eden Mills Writers’ Festival

“The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival has been hosting a literary picnic on the idyllic banks of the Eramosa River for over 25 years. Over the years, programming has expanded to include not only the main event on Festival Sunday when the Festival hosts over 50 authors but also a youth writing workshop, an evening of literary and music performances, and a lecture on Festival Saturday by a high- profile author presented in co-operation with the University of Guelph.”

2016 Literary Contests will be taking applications soon! Check next week for 2016 contest information.

Guelph Black Heritage Society

The purpose of the GBHS is to preserve the historical significance of the BME Church by creating a cultural, historical and social centre within Guelph and Wellington County.


“Refuge” Explores Freedom as a Practice 

Inspired by the stories of hope and perseverance from freedom-seekers on the Underground Railroad, local immigrant youth, youth of colour, artists and facilitators are creating an event to foster “a Guelph legacy of being a refuge for today’s freedom-seekers from around the world.”

Final performance at Heritage Hall (83 Essex St., Guelph). Saturday August 13, 2016

Musagetes is an international organization that makes the arts more central and meaningful in people’s lives, in our communities, and in our societies. Guelph is our home – this is where we live and work. Musagetes established its offices in Guelph in 2009 because the city has rich and nuanced cultural and socio-political conditions that make it a fruitful stomping ground for cultural experimentation.

Recent storytelling events

Guelph has many community theatre and improv groups – see what’s on locally:

Find individuals in our member directory theatre section

MusicWorks Stage Works
Under the guidance of River Run’s technical, programming and marketing staff, and with support from Guelph Youth Council members, participants will learn about the various aspects of building a successful show such as staging, flow, self-promotion, transitions and professionalism. The mentorship program offers aspiring performers real life experience in concept development, production and stage presence, and is inclusive of music, theatre, spoken word, dance, short film and comedy.

Public performances May 3 and 4 at the River Run Centre.

Doors Open
Doors Open Guelph is a day-long celebration of Guelph’s finest buildings, creative spaces, and artistically or architecturally relevant sites. The program aims to showcase and celebrate the hidden gems as well as the great resources, businesses, and creative spaces in Guelph. Volunteer guides tell stories from the site’s history, and of the people who were part of it.

Walking Tours
For over thirty years, Guelph Arts Council has promoted the cultural heritage of Guelph by offering six different walking tours on selected Sundays from April to October (excluding July). The tours are a unique opportunity for tourists and locals alike to learn about Guelph’s history while taking in the beautiful architectural and natural features of the city. Available on each tour is a booklet of historical information and architectural drawings, which allows self-guided tours and serves as a wonderful keepsake.

Taste deTours
Guided food & cultural walking tours.
“We combine our locally flavoured tours with storytelling to give food adventurers an authentic taste of place+ a sense of the history and culture of Guelph. Little Bites with a heritage twist.”


Weavers & Spinners

“The Guelph Guild of Handweavers and Spinners is a vibrant community of individuals with a like minded passion for the arts of weaving and spinning and many other fibre arts. Our membership consists of young and old, experienced and beginners ‎ from Guelph, Wellington County and beyond.

Explore our site and if you live in the area check out our program and events calendar. We would love to meet you.”

Guelph Creative Arts Association

“Guelph Creative Arts Association (GCAA) is a welcoming visual arts organization, open to everyone practicing or interested in the arts in Guelph and surrounding areas… We identify and welcome all categories of artists and artisans, whether professional or amateur, and encourage participation for the enjoyment of both creators and the community.”

Necessary Arts
We are a coworking space for creatives to work, learn and collaborate in downtown Guelph. Our studio is fully accessible and child friendly. We have workspaces available, a marvelous big cutting table, home and industrial sewing machines, a knitting machine, data projector, free wi-fi, 24/7 access*, design and art library, studio supplies, printer and copier. Plus some giant white walls and lots of floor space.

Quilters guild

The Royal City Quilters’ Guild was established in March 1991. Our goals are to promote the appreciation of quilting, to provide educational opportunities related to quilt making, to encourage the exchange of ideas, the sharing of interests and information and preserve the tradition of quilting.

Embroiderers Guild
We are a teaching guild open to those interested in traditional and contemporary forms of embroidery. Our aims are to refine needlework skills, to promote members’ creativity and to extend awareness of embroidery to the community.

Guelph Potters’ Guild
Newly formed, the Guelph Potter’s Guild has grown out of the successful City recreation pottery program.

Discover independent jewellery makers, potters, quilters, painters, and other creatives in our member directory and at Art on the Street and this weekend’s ACE Fine Art and Craft Expo.

We would like to acknowledge that Guelph is on the land of the Attawandron people. We encourage you to explore First Nations, Inuit and Metis art. You can do so by following activities of Anishnaabeg outreach, keeping an ear out for workshops and singing/drumming with Wiiji Numgumook Kwe singers/drum circle, discover many local and Canadian artists through the Art Gallery of Guelph, as well as our member directory, enews and calendar.

Bonus question: Did music evolve before language?

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top