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  • Jem Roberts
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33% funded
235 backers

The finest, funniest stories of England, Scotland & Wales, refreshed for the 21st century. By Brother Bernard, as told to Jem Roberts.

There are currently no books which bring together the ancient stories of England, Scotland, Wales and the Isles, and particularly none that aim, above all, to entertain the largest audience possible. There are lots of localised anthologies and expensive academic works, mythology-based books which remain ghetto-ised as ‘Special Interest’. But in this time of Brexit-based disunity, we believe that one thing which has always brought the people of this island together is our shared culture, and particularly our national treasury of tales, which have been retold afresh for each generation.

Each one of the 77 stories to be found in TALES OF BRITAIN – from the folktales of Dick Whittington, Robin Hood and King Arthur to heroes who deserve to be better known, like Mollie Whuppie, Bran the Blessed and Jack O’Kent – has been forged in performance to find the 21st century retelling to grab today’s audience, no matter what their age, gender, sexuality or creed. Some tales are moving, some bawdy, some downright weird, but above all, they have been retold with a crucial sense of anarchic fun, while restoring the true root of every legend in a way which should appeal to every Briton, whether first generation or thousandth – or indeed, lovers of great stories all around the world, from any background.

Inspiration for these Tales’ delivery comes not just from the magic of Dahl and Rowling, but the Grim Tales anarchy of Rik Mayall and Anthony Horowitz, the warmth of John Hurt’s Storyteller, and the enthusiasm of Tony Robinson’s Odysseus. What the Grimms did for German folklore, TALES OF BRITAIN will do for the British – with the added bonus that each story is rooted in the landscape, and so a tourist guide is provided for every tale, encouraging everyone to visit the places where each story ‘really happened’. Enjoy the tale on a Tuesday, and on Sunday afternoon, you can relive it.

This is not just a book, but a campaign, to enhance Britain’s standing as an island full of ancient story magic, and to revive and celebrate the shared culture of the United Kingdom, in a time of political uncertainty – and, above all, to have a lot of fun with it. With the enthusiastic support of #FolkloreThursday and an ever-growing online community of compassionate Britophiles and story lovers, this TALES OF BRITAIN collection is almost ready to share, and can be designed and released by Unbound as soon as the pledge target hits!


Born in Ludlow in 1978 and graduating from Aberystwyth University in 2000, Jem Roberts has a publishing heritage which goes back over 20 years, with extensive magazine experience – as well as being a performer, with shows all round the United Kingdom.

Although he has made himself the biographer of choice for comedy’s elite – the official, authorised historian for I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, Blackadder, Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and now Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie, in 2017’s Soupy Twists – Jem has been a committed children’s writer for a lot longer.

As a journalist, he edited titles including Pokémon World, Disney & Me and Disney’s Puzzle Land, and has been a contributor as storyteller for further publications – Muffin the Mule, Disney Girl, Winnie the Pooh and many more. His short story ‘Little Wee’ (about a very annoying baby llama) was published as part of charity fairytale collection Homespun Threads in 2012, and he continues to write his own tales as well as adapting traditional ones.

These Tales of Britain are also performed live at folky, family and all kinds of events, with Jem as Brother Bernard, and children’s TV star Kate Harbour (Bob the Builder, Shaun the Sheep) as Sister Sal, and a podcast audiobook project is currently in the works.

Jem Roberts lives in Bath, and finds the idea of moving very stressful.



‘Being bored at school is just the worst – especially when you skipped breakfast.’

During King Arthur’s lifetime, in the hilly Brecon area of central Wales, there was a small but respected school in the tiny valleyside village of Llanspyddid. The students there were of all ages and abilities, but the brightest pupil of them all was probably Cadoc.

He’s more commonly known as Saint Cadoc, but young Cadoc was certainly no saint. He yawned through his classes, gazed out of the window daydreaming at clouds, and spent more time doodling than studying. This wasn’t because he was a bad lad at all, he was just far too bright for the lessons taught by his boring old teacher, Bachan. Cadoc had already travelled through Britain and Ireland learning so much about life from all angles, but he had returned to his Welsh home and was forced to sit through tiresome lessons such as…

‘And that, boys and chaps, is how we know that God created the mermaid to test us all. Now, get out your Science textbooks, and I will tell you all how flat the Earth is, and how quickly the sun spins around it. ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME, CADOC?’

Cadoc’s gaze left the window, and he turned to face his teacher in a flash. ‘Sorry, sir, no sir, I wasn’t!’ the dreamy lad replied – proving that he was anything but a liar. The teacher sighed, and continued to drawl his bad lessons to the dozy class.

It wasn’t just that Cadoc was bored of hearing these silly ‘facts’ he was quite certain were all far from correct, either. It was a humming hot day and everyone in the classroom had only had half a handful of green oats and a few hawthorns to eat that week, and it was nearly suppertime. The whole valley for miles around was in the grip of a terrible famine, and no grain was being grown in the stodgy, rotten fields. Cadoc’s ribs were sticking out of his tunic, and sometimes he got so hungry he was tempted to teach himself how to eat leaves, like the goats.

Suddenly, the teacher Bachan squealed, and leapt up onto his chair.


It Is Time For Your Appointment... with The Apple Tree Man.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

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Before we dive into this week's themed tale, we're positively fizzy with excitement not only to be 1/3 funded, but also to announce that the tickets for the next TALES OF BRITAIN LIVE at the Rondo Theatre, Bath, are now available to buy HERE. Brother Bernard (comedian and Blackadder chronicler Jem Roberts) and Sister Sal (actor Kate Harbour…

THE WILD HUNT for backers

Thursday, 14 September 2017


Happy Folklore Thursday, dear pledgers.

As you can see from the video above (with the whole manuscript formatted into an impossible font, after we realised we could give away most of the book doing this!), we've reached a crucial stage for TALES OF BRITAIN – all 77 stories are now complete, sequenced into order in a single manuscript, and practically ready for the clever folk at Unbound to start…

BBC Bristol Interview

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

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It's a little early for Folklore Thursday, but here's an interim update, with edited highlights of author Jem Roberts' folktale chat with BBC Bristol's Doctor of the Airwaves, Dr Phil Hammond, back in July.

It was huge fun to chat with Phil all about this, though it's worth adding – a few folk have become exercised about the assertion that 'there is no British story collection', and it's true…


Thursday, 7 September 2017

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FIRST THINGS FIRST: We're sadly still not up to the 1/3 funded point a week on, so if any of our backers knows any way we can spread the word further, perhaps with coverage on radio, like the BBC Bristol tales we recorded, or in print, online, or via any means, it will require us all to pull together and do anything we can to interest our fellow…

FREE TALE: Robin's Arrow

Thursday, 31 August 2017

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Happy Folklore Thursday, merrie backers – we are now 200 strong, and more! Can we get over 30% today, what can we all do to help us get there, to get a few individuals to pledge? Because we will need a lot more to see that green light shine, so whatever you do, please keep spreading the word about our campaign for 21st Century British Folklore!

And as a special treat for everyone who has joined…

An Artist's Eye...

Thursday, 24 August 2017

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A glorious Folklore Thursday to all our lovely backers!

Would you like to help us illustrate and find a fresh visual dimension to Tales of Britain? Do you know any keen artists who would simply love to get involved, and create the look of 21st century British lore? Well, do read on...

This here is the Eye of Lewis – the very hole through which the last remaining giant of Albion threaded…

Rhiannon: Wouldn't You Love To Love Her?

Thursday, 17 August 2017

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A very warm Folklore Thursday greeting to all pledgers!

Our campaign continues to grow, and we now have some wonderful heroes joining our ranks, including legendary musicians Cerys Matthews and Neil Innes, historians Greg Jenner, Justin Pollard and Francis Pryor, actors David Lloyd and Hugh Fraser, the great director Dirk Maggs, and some of the UK's best cartoonists, including Davey Jones, David…

Long Meg Lives!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

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Happy Folklore Thursday, blessed 150! 20% funded in a month, we just need to do all that five more times...! We'd like to take this opportunity to share a bit more about the genesis of Tales of Britain, what drives it, and to celebrate the name of one of Cumbria's greatest mythical women – LONG MEG! 

Last weekend we gave a special talk on Tales of Britain at Bristol's Sunday Assembly, including…

Glastonbury Tales

Thursday, 3 August 2017

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Happy Folklore Thursday, brave story-adventurers!

If you click on the mp3 link just above, you'll hear the 5th of 5 very short tales recorded for BBC Bristol – AVALON! The tale of Arthur's final stand, and legendary final journey to the Isle of Apples...

We'll be sharing the remaining two recordings when we can, but we've 'skipped to the end' to highlight one of the cornerstones of this…

Molly Whuppie! Shout her name!

Thursday, 27 July 2017


Happy Folklore Thursday!

This week we need to talk about perhaps the most inspiring figure in the Tales of Britain collection: MOLLY WHUPPIE. 

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I for one had never heard of this crafty hero from the western isles of Scotland until I embarked on this journey 13 years ago, and the injustice of her obscurity is one of the things which has driven the whole project – and that…

Bristol Cream

Thursday, 20 July 2017

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Happy Folklore Thursday, lovers of British lore!

It may have escaped your notice that Tales of Britain has been featured every day this week on BBC Radio Bristol, in Laura Rawlings' afternoon show at about 4.25pm. Brother Bernard has performed specially truncated versions of 5 tales – 3 from the Somerset area, plus 1 each for Wales and Scotland – in the hope that Brizzle's loyal listeners will…


Thursday, 13 July 2017

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Brother Bernard, Sister Sal, Jem, Kate, Kwaku, John and everyone battling to launch the 21st century British story treasury thank you all from the bottoms of our hearts and the hearts of our bottoms! All 35 of you who have stepped up to pledge so far, that is. 5% in one week still only leaves us in the foothills of the mountain we have to climb, but though this campaign may still take several months…

Help Us Revive Britain's Story Treasury TODAY!

Thursday, 6 July 2017


Happy Folklore Thursday, and welcome to the TALES OF BRITAIN campaign!

PLEASE join with us in creating and promoting this exciting new treasury of ancient tales from Scotland, Wales, England and the Isles.

Whether you love stories, or Britain, or both, or know anyone who would delight in a fresh anthology of British folklore, we see this as a movement to culturally re-unite the UK, from…

Daniel Jackson
Daniel Jackson asked:

Hi Jem,

Could you give a little more detail on the Live Show, please? Is it suitable for children, and can I bring mine with me if I pledge at this level?

Best wishes,

Jem Roberts
Jem Roberts replied:

As for details of box office front of house come the show, it's hard to say, but I'd imagine a family coming on one pledge will be reasonable enough, depending on the show's popularity! We can dialogue when the book is funded, and the show is being arranged. :)

Daniel Jackson
Daniel Jackson asked:

Content removed by Moderator.

Jem Roberts
Jem Roberts replied:

Hi Daniel!

It is entirely crafted around being suitable for absolutely everyone of all ages, as is every element of Tales of Britain! Some of the book's stories get scary/bawdy etc., but the live shows in particular are intended for families. Hope to see you there! BBx

Nik Horne
Nik Horne asked:

Just wondering if the "name in the book" only appears in the edition you back? E.g. I've backed the digital level but will probably buy the physical book when it's out (sorry if that sounds like I'm being cheap bit skint at the mo, sorry!) especially if I can get my (impending) daughter's name in print.

Unbound replied:

Hi Nik,

Thanks for getting in touch! The supporters list is featured in both digital and physical editions of the book, so if you put your daughter's name inside it will be printed in the books too. And if you decide to opt for the hardback at any point you can always upgrade your pledge. Just see here for more info on upgrades:

Best wishes,

Unbound Support

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