Kate Coleman is a regular sight cycling around Stratford-upon-Avon on her colourful Pashley. She is a children's storyteller and brings Kate's Storytree to events, parties and festivals both locally and across the UK.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am a storyteller. I write, collect and tell stories. Most of the time I am listening. Listening to the stories people tell me and then filling in the gaps, making stuff up. I like to exaggerate and change the stories told to me. I learnt that when someone tells you their story, it’s a gift to you. I won’t tell a story unless the person who told me says it’s ok. I am a storyteller, that’s my living. I’ve had a million jobs before settling into storytelling. My first job was selling ice cream. I’ve worked in a pub, an office and as a teacher in Italy. I tried working in an office for my dad. It didn’t work. I’ve worked as a teaching assistant and then a Montessori teacher, a babysitter and a nanny. I’ve worked in a cheese shop, a running shop and had a job checking cutlery for defects. I’ve been a bookseller, a cinema usher and now a storyteller. I think I needed to do all these things before I got to where I am now.
What are you passionate about?
I love stories and I’m passionate about people. I love hearing things, watching people, relating things to other things, finding out how people work and the world that we live in. I wrote a story about the world, the world I live in and how I see it and I like to hear about other people and the world that they live in. I like it when worlds collide. I think it’s important that everyone has someone to listen to them, that everyone has a voice, whether that is the spoken word, written, art, music , dance, making things. This is what I am passionate about, the voice and the many languages we use to communicate.
I spent most of my childhood outdoors. We walked to and from school, had a big garden and my friends lived nearby. My house sat on a hill and had a long fence running alongside it. Not a tall fence. So we could climb over it and under it and through it. We lived next to Chestnut walk, a stony road which ran in front of a row of fifteen houses. And because of the short fence, we could watch people walking up and down. Each house on Chestnut Walk had a long garden leading up to a disused rail track. My friends lived in Chestnut Walk. As children we would ride up and down Chestnut walk. I would look out of the window and see their heads pop up over the fence, grab my bike and head out of the gate, drag my bike down the steps and up the little path to meet them. The road had cars too but the cars slowed down for us and we felt important. People looked out for us when we were out on our bikes and we raced up and down all day. At the end of the road, a narrow path with a fence lead to Station road which was where my house was. It was the best feeling to cycle down this path and then try to cycle back up it. It was hard work but worth the journey back again.
What was your first bike?
My first bike was a purple Raleigh. I loved it. I really loved it. I have an older sister and so was used to having second-hand, old stuff. But my sister couldn’t ride a bike and so this was new and I loved it. It was too big at first. My parents bought me a big bike so that I’d grow into it! I can remember riding it to my friend Emma’s house. Jumping off it, running up the path and ringing the doorbell to get her to come out and play. Then we’d ride our bikes all day long. I was pretty lucky. My childhood was fun. We had lots of time and space to grow. To decide what we loved and grow and create ourselves.
How long have you been a cyclist?
I’ve been a cyclist since I was seven. My parents weren’t and still aren’t cyclists. But, it’s never too late and perhaps they will become so in their 70s. My dad talks about buying a trike. I’ve moved around a lot and so have spent many years not owning a bike but borrowing one or two or three. I went to live in Italy at the age of 18 and I had use of a bicycle there. Lots of people cycle in Italy and the older and the more decrepid the bike the better. It’s only in the last two years that I have owned more than one bike. I wonder if the owning of more than one bike requires a different title from the one of ‘cyclist’?
What bike are you riding?
My current bike is a Pashley Parabike Fleet. I use it for my storytelling. It’s blue and green and has a space in between the bars in which to fit a panel and advertise what I do. As I get older I have become more more indecisive. It’s taking me a while to decide on the design for my panel. I want it to be perfect, although I know that it can’t be. But I love my Storybike and so it has to be right. It’s an extension of me and my work and I want it to be the best.
How many bikes do you own?
I currently have two bikes; my Parabike and a Triumph which needs a bit of fixing. There are more bicycles on our boat but I wouldn’t lay claim to them being mine.
What is your dream bike?
I don’t have a dream bike. I’m pretty happy with what I have already. Although, after a cycle tour along The Caledonian way on a TSR, I’d quite like a Moulton next. She was packed out with all the necessary stuff for travelling around Scotland and I loved carrying my home for ten days. I would love to have some of my stories published and I will go straight out and buy a new bike with the book advance. I’ve promised my partner that there’s a new bicycle in it for him too. They say that the bicycle is the transport of artists and writers so it seems the right thing to do.
What appeals to you about cycling?/What does cycling mean to you?
The freedom of cycling, the simplicity, the movement and rhythm. The ability to carry everything you may need. The connection to the Earth and air and the weather. I feel strong and independent. It’s nice to go forward, propelling myself. And I love flying down hills with my feet off the pedals.
What do you dislike about cycling?
I hate it when cars drive too close when overtaking. Sometimes I get comments made about being a woman on a bike. When that happens, I wish I could go unnoticed. Perhaps I shall invent a bicycle which becomes invisible, and the rider too.
How often do you ride your bike, and for what purpose?
I try to ride every day but some days it doesn’t work out that way. When I do an event I have a lot of stuff; monkeys and elephants and clouds and a rainbow and crayons and glue and coloured paper. So I have to use the car but next summer, I hope to buy a trailer for my Storybike. Then I can travel with The Storytree on the back.
What’s your favourite cycle route or destination?
I’m lucky that I live near to the river Avon and I like to cycle alongside the water. In the summer, during the long days, I like to cycle down the Greenway. There’s a nice cafe and a few pubs. There are rabbits along the way and no cars. It’s nice just to cycle into town and back home again.