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el dia de los muertos at The Wellcome Trust

Twisted Tales... at The Stafford Knot


Bullfighting widows and Haunted Cows - tales from Milpa Alta, Mexico

“Bullfighting Widows and Haunted Cows” is an exploration of the folk tales of Milpa Alta, Mexico. The stories of Mexico are full of heroes and villains; of malevolent spirits and kind ghosts; of innocent victims and scheming priests. Let Mike guide you through these tales, taking care not to lose anyone on the way – por que hay muchas cosas extraños y nuevos, viviendo mas alla...

"Mike Payton's "Bullfighting Widows and Haunted Cows" is a fantastic piece of storytelling. A well-woven collection of the distinctive folktales of Milpa Alta, Mexico, Mike draws on his time spent living and working in the area to give these stories a deep and vivid authenticity. Mike's passion for his material is matched by the quality of the stories themselves. These are tales full of longing, and while the show features elements that are macabre, humorous, mystical, the core of the narrative remains human and relatable throughout.


In terms of style, Mike is a very engaging teller, effortlessly reading and responding to his audience, showcasing storytelling as a live, in-the-moment artform that relies on the connection between teller and listener to co-create something magical. "Bullfighting Widows..." is rich with evocative and memorable characters, full of images and motifs that burn bright long after the story has finished being told. This is one to watch out for." Tim Ralphs, The Story Forge

The Returned - sometimes they come back

A man stands by a railway track, watching people crowded on the roof of the train - fleeing poverty and violence, or just visiting loved ones. He is plunged into a  reverie, obsessing over home and what it means to those on the roof, and what it means to him, before exploring stories of those desperate to return home - over mountains and rough terrain, through war zones and dangerous ground...and even from beyond the grave.

A Lancashire Hotpot

Mike returns to his northern roots to dig up stories of boggarts, clog fighting gorillas and ghostly undertakers...a mad mix that ranges from the bizarre to the heart breaking.


A collaboration with multi-talented Brazilian storyteller Ana Maria Lines, blending world stories with song and dance - something very different and loved by audiences throughout the Midlands:

“Absolutely brilliant. The whole programme fitted together so well. The music and dance complemented the stories so well, especially with another language thrown in! It must have taken so much work. Thanks!”

Twisted Tales for Lovers

When asked for a Valentine’s Day performance, Mike decided that an antidote to saccharine hearts, flowers and teddy bears was needed: a friend with a broken heart seeks comfort in tales of love, but the teller struggles to find anything suitable, instead dredging up stories where love comes in the strangest of forms. A sort of Arabian Nights. With cider.

Strange Encounters - Big Cats, Boggarts and Balderdash

Some years ago, Mike chanced upon one of Derbyshire's mythical big cats. Over the years, listeners to this tale have chosen to think him mad, or drunk, rather than believe him. In an attempt to persuade people of the truth, Mike has delved into the story mine to bring together a collection of even stranger encounters, which make a puma in Dovedale seem as mundane as finding a baguette in a bakery.

Oh Brother...

When he was five years old, Mike’s older brother told him that he was really a piglet that had been adopted by his parents, who had felt sorry for the little porker. In a show full of anger, tenderness and humour, Mike reminisces on his turbulent relationship with his brother. He finds reflections, revenge and solace in a fabulous selection of connected stories, from the Mayan hero twins to a platonic ideal of brotherhood from Korea. "Having growing up with two bothers, Mike helped  me to travel back to my childhood. Great evening, loved it."

What else?

Mike is constantly updating and refining his repertoire: food related tales; ghost stories from the American south; Chinese miracle name but a few. He often uses music and song to reflect the mood of a story, from American blues to Mexican Huapango.

"A master storyteller!" Artsbeat magazine


oh brother...

a lancashire hotpot at Beeston Tales

Iintroducing a tale from Zacatecas at The British Museum

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