Anna’s labour of love to save stories

It is an age-old African tradition that looked to be dying out - until a retired Norfolk teacher became involved.

It is an age-old African tradition that looked to be dying out - until a retired Norfolk teacher became involved.

Anna Cottrell travelled to Ghana last year on what was due to be a one-off trip of a lifetime but which turned into a labour of love to protect and preserve a part of the culture that has had children spellbound for centuries.

Following another trip this year, the 62-year-old from Brundall has collected previously unrecorded oral stories and, using an outline translation, written a book of 24 of them.

Once Upon a Time in Ghana will be launched on September 1 in front of 600 people in London, including the High Commissioner.

Mrs Cottrell, a former French teacher at Flegg High School, Martham, near Yarmouth, said: “I didn't go out to Ghana with the intention of doing this at all. I went there to teach and just happened to ask someone about story telling.

“When I came back from the first trip I had about six stories recorded but when I went back in March I was able to meet more storytellers and have about 40 recorded on CD told in their own language of Ewe.”

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With help from a Ghanaian called Togbi Kumassah, Mrs Cottrell was able to get an overview of each story which she then retold in English.

“A direct translation was not possible so I have used the skeleton version and my own imagination to publish 24 of them in English. Like many things, there has been a gradual erosion of this tradition as culture changes. By recording them I am preserving them,” she said.

Each tale has a moral and is aimed at teaching people what is acceptable behaviour in their own community.

Together with the London launch, there will also be a local one in South Walsham a few days later.

All profits from the book, which is priced £6.99, will go to help the storytellers.

“I organised a big concert in February which made more than £1,000 which has bought 10 boats and 50 fishing nets for the storytellers who have formed a co-operative,” she said.

If you would like to attend the book launch in South Walsham, or to find out more, visit for contact information.

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