The Border Readers

” I have always held the old-fashioned opinion that the primary object of a work of fiction should be to tell a story ” (Wilkie Collins)

The Border Readers is an association of northern based professional actors who present live audio narratives in intimate public settings – arts centres, galleries, hostelries, small halls and libraries. With Stephen Tomlin producing they toured ‘Haunted: Ghost Story Readings for Halloween’ in 2018 and 2019; recorded more literary ghost stories for broadcast during lockdowns in 2020/21 before returning to live touring in Spring 2022 with ‘Many Deadly Returns’, five contemporary stories by northern based crime writers collectively known as ‘Murder Squad’.


The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

When a golden girl can win / Prayer from out the lips of sin /Then shall all the house be still /And peace come to Canterville’

Few ghost stories so brilliantly counterpoint comedy, romance and the supernatural as this one does. Wilde’s plot centres on the thoroughly modern US ambassador and his young family who buy Canterville Chase, an English stately home, complete with its late Elizabethan owner (the ghost of the title) whose practised haunting techniques are constantly thwarted by the inconsiderate incomers. After a series of entertaining night time incidents an unexpected reconciliation brings matters to an emotionally satisfactory conclusion.  One of the author’s earliest works, published in 1887, The Canterville Ghost has been the subject of many film, TV and radio adaptations.

The Demon Lover by Elizabeth Bowen

Wherever he may be waiting, I shall not know him. You have no time to run from a face you do not expect.

This modern classic is a highly charged story of paranormal intensity, set in the bomb blasted London of 1941, where a fatal promise extracted during a previous conflict must be kept….Bowen, who served as an air raid warden in the war, delivers in The Demon Lover a beautifully crafted study of coercion from beyond the grave.

Teeth and Hair by Christine Poulson

A row of teeth like the nodules of a spine lay down the centre of the mattress. She gasped and shut her eyes. When she opened them they weren’t teeth. They were pearls, pearl buttons, like the ones torn from the wedding dress…

University student Nell, temping as a live-in nanny, is haunted by the late mother of the girl she’s caring for…Christine Poulson’s Teeth and Hair is a gripping tale of modern unease and a clever take on The Turn of the Screw. We are particularly delighted to present another tale from Christine, whose powerful story Safe as Houses was featured in an earlier tour of ‘Haunted’.


Ashington Library, Kenilworth Rd, NE63 9JY   01670-622248     Mon 24/10

Newcastle Lit & Phil, Westgate Road NE1 1SE        0191-232-0192     Wed 26/10

3   Stocksfield Cherryburn, Mickley Sq NE43 7DD 01661-843276 Fri  28/10                 

4   Humshaugh Village Hall, NE46 4AA            01434-681924        Sat 29/10

5   Hexham Library, Queens Hall, NE46 3LS  01670-620450       Mon 31/10

6   Morpeth Library, Manchester St., NE61 1AF        01670-620391      Thurs 03/11

7   Blyth Library, Bridge Street, NE24 2DJ                  01670-620201      Mon 07/11

8   Bellingham Library, Town Hall, NE48 2AS 01434-220495    Wed 09/11

9   Felton Gallery Forty5, Main Street, NE65 9PP         01670-783424        Fri 11/11

10 Whitfield Denis Kilgallon Gallery, NE47 8JP  07496-754601       Sat 19/11


Ticket prices vary. Start time 7.00 pm except Humshaugh & Felton 7.30 pm. Event runs approx 2 hrs (inc interval)

All NCC Library venues – Ashington, Hexham, Morpeth, Blyth & Bellingham – need to be booked online via Likewise, all the other venues, except Cherryburn & Gallery Forty5, can be booked via Eventbrite. (A small commission surcharge applies). We recommend you contact the venue directly to book for GalleryForty5, Cherryburn, Lit & Phil or Humshaugh.

Humshaugh Village Shop sells tickets (Open AM only). Our Humshaugh Arts Programme (HAP) co-ordinator Sharon Higginson is otherwise the direct ticket seller, and it is her home number that’s listed above, not the shop’s!

For access, or any other site enquiry, please contact the venue concerned directly.


Janine Birkett Born in Northumberland and raised in Newcastle, Janine spent her early career touring with Northumberland Theatre Company before joining the Northern Stage Ensemble and performing at Theatre by the Lake; the New Vic Stoke; and the Stephen Joseph Theatre. In the 1990’s Janine was Byker Grove parent, Maggie Watson for three series; and she played Jenny Elliot, Billy’s Mam, in the film Billy Elliot. Other TV and film appearances include: Emmerdale, Hollyoaks, Holby City, The Royal, Inspector George Gently and Coronation Street. BBC Radio drama includes the series My Uncle Freddie and the Jarrow March play, A Woman’s Walk. In the last four years Janine has narrated over 100 audio-books, including several by Vera author, Ann Cleeves.

Grace Kirby has been an actor, director and teacher for over 30 years. Graduating with BA Hons in Creative Arts from Newcastle Polytechnic she started her career with Tyneside community theatre, Dodgy Clutch. Stage credits include Communicado’s Fringe First award-winning Carmen: The Play and performing alongside Stanley Baxter in one of his legendary Edinburgh pantos. She performed with Hexham based Theatre sans Frontiers on their first English play Diamonds in your Pockets by Linda France and returned in 2018 to workshop new pieces based on Sherlock Holmes stories. Grace most recently appeared for Librarian Theatre as Mrs Tredegar in an adaptation of Quentin Blake’s The Green Ship, touring libraries nationwide.

Stephen Tomlin For 50 years, since qualifying as a specialist teacher from the Central School of Speech & Drama in 1972, Stephen has worked extensively as an actor in television, theatre and radio as well as being a director, writer, researcher, role player, teacher and tour guide. Audio includes voice overs and narratives as well as guest roles in Radio 4’s The Archers, Writing the Century and Home Front alongside many single dramas and serials. Based in Lancaster for four decades, Stephen produced ten promenade Shakespeare and other seasonal entertainments at Lancaster Castle under the demi-paradise banner between 2000-2016. Since 2017 he has been happily resettled in the north Tyne valley.


Stefan Escreet is an actor and director in theatre and audio.  Stefan has performed in theatres all over the country and was Associate Director at Theatre by the Lake for many years where he directed dozens of productions and led on new writing. Stefan was also a Drama Producer for BBC Radio Drama North and currently produces work in and about the north with his company Ragged Edge Productions. They have won awards for their rural touring production of The Chef Show and are now making Audio Adventures – a range of performances that bring audio and live performance together in the great outdoors. See

Helen Longworth is an Actor/Musician and Composer who trained at RADA. Theatre work includes, Unruly Women, The Last Waltz and The Wife of Usher’s Well (Quondam Theatre). Also Sirens at the Women of The World Festival, Hull (Blazon Theatre Co). Closer to home, Helen has also appeared in Aladdin, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Grimm Tales and The Jungle Book for The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster. In 2020, Helen composed the music for and appeared in the new rural touring play, Ladies That Bus, based on real life stories from users of the 555 bus. She is now working on a second play, Ladies That Dig. Helen currently plays the character of Hannah Riley in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers.

Sue McCormick has worked in theatres nationwide, including Royal Exchange, Library, Palace and Opera House in Manchester,West Yorkshire Playhouse, Oldham Coliseum, Theatre by the Lake Keswick, New Vic Stoke, Dukes Lancaster as well as touring extensively with Northern Broadsides and Hull Truck Theatre. TV includes Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Holby City, Casualty and Where the Heart Is. She has recorded several plays for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Learning Online. Sue also works as a theatre director and playwright. 

Wynne Potts is an actor/musician, born and bred in Northumberland. She read English Literature at Cambridge, before studying musical theatre at the Royal Central and acting at Rose Bruford. TV credits include Queen Victoria & Smugglers Wife in Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories (BBC) and Mrs Smith in Julian Fellowes’ Victorian drama series Belgravia (ITV). She also works regularly as a roleplayer and for the stroke support charity, Interact, reading to recovering patients in Newcastle hospitals. Wynne will be appearing later this year as Helene and the Nanny in Elysium Theatre’s north-east tour of Ibsen’s A Dolls House.

Liam Scarth is an actor, singer/songwriter, musician and physical theatre practitioner. He trained at E15 Theatre School (2014-17) and has applied the specialist skills learned there to a raft of live and recorded projects with community based companies across his native north-east and beyond. A consummate world traveller Liam has engaged with many languages & cultures in his creative practice, from Iceland to India, Spain to Uganda.

If any of my stories succeed in causing their readers to feel pleasantly uncomfortable when walking along a solitary road at nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours, my purpose in writing them will have been attained. (M R James)



In collaboration with creative design practice TWDA ( Stephen has recorded some of the classic ghost stories he has previously read live for Demi-paradise and The Border Readers. These include The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde, The Phantom Coach by Amelia B Edwards, The Magic Shop by HG Wells, The Tractate Middoth and A View from a Hill by M R James, Man Size in Marble by Edith Nesbit and The Judges House by Bram Stoker. TWDA have edited the music, effects and visuals for each story. You can listen, for free, here:

I do not believe in ghosts, but I am afraid of them. (Edith Wharton)