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 literary 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 joyfully returning to live touring last autumn with a selection of Haunted’s ‘greatest hits’ at new community venues in the villages of Humshaugh and Felton.

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 long-running 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.

Liam read at Haltwhistle

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. When not performing or choreographing stage combats he practices Yoga daily and has many sporting pursuits including kayaking, cycling and swimming. We were thrilled to have Liam make his Border Readers debut at Haltwhistle Library, getting our tour off to the best possible of starts.

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

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. In 2019 Grace worked with 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 & 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 many years Stephen also produced promenade Shakespeare, ghost story readings and Christmas concerts at Lancaster Castle under the demi-paradise banner from 2000 – 2016. Since 2017 he has been happily resettled in the north Tyne valley.

Helen read at Lancaster

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, Cinderella: A Fairy Tale, Sleeping Beauty and Grimm Tales for The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster. A fan of a more unusual job, she also performed on the QM2 in Much Ado about Nothing and Canterbury Tales, the latter involving her once circumnavigating the deck of an ocean liner daily dressed as a Pardoner whilst playing the flute. In 2020, Helen composed the music for and appeared in the new play, Ladies That Bus, based on real life stories from users of the 555 bus which toured to great success. She is now working on a second play, Ladies That Dig, and a tour is planned for early 2023. Helen currently plays the character of Hannah Riley in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers.

Helen writes: ‘I am very happy to be joining Steve and his company, having previously worked with his sister company Demi Paradise Productions at Lancaster Castle in the site specific Richard III (Anne) and having both compiled and appeared in their annual Christmas show Deck The Hall on numerous happy occasions’.

Wynne read at Felton

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). Film credits include playing a care worker in the 2017 feature, Edie, starring Sheila Hancock while her most recent appearance in a commercial was in the Metro Centre’s 2021 Xmas TV ad. 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.


Ann Cleeves (Wild Swimming) awards include the CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing, in recognition of the sustained excellence of her work. She has written distinct crime series as well as stand-alone novels, and is especially well known for her Shetland and Vera Stanhope series of police procedural novels. The first of the Two Rivers crime series, The Long Call, is due to be televised. Her new Vera novel The Rising Tide will be published in September. Website:  

Martin Edwards (Bad Friday) received the CWA Diamond Dagger in 2020, and is the author of twenty novels. He is consultant to the British Library’s Crime Classics series and is a former chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and current President of the Detection Club. His novels include the Harry Devlin series and the Lake District Mysteries; in addition to publishing nine non- fiction books and seventy short stories, he has edited more than forty anthologies of crime writing. Website:

Kate Ellis (My Oleander) has sold over a million books worldwide. She has written more than twenty books in the Wesley Peterson series, blending mystery and history, and set in a fictional version of Dartmouth. In addition, she has published five books in a series set in the ancient city of Eborby in North Yorkshire, featuring DI Joe Plantagenet. She is the author of a historical mystery, The Devil’s Priest, and many short stories. In 2019 she was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library. Website:

Margaret Murphy (Big End Blues) Founder of Murder Squad and co-founder of Perfect Crime writing festival, Margaret is a former RLF Writing Fellow and past Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association. She was shortlisted for both the ‘First Blood’ critics award and the CWA Dagger in the Library. Novels include psychological suspense written under her own name; a trilogy of forensic thrillers penned as A.D. Garrett; and two serial killer thrillers, written under the pseudonym Ashley Dyer. Website:

Cath Staincliffe (Two Birds, One Stone) is the author of the Sal Kilkenny private eye stories and creator and scriptwriter of Blue Murder, ITV’s hit detective drama starring Caroline Quentin. Cath writes the Scott & Bailey books, based on the popular police show. Radio work includes Legacy, investigative mysteries featuring brother and sister heir-hunters. Cath has been shortlisted twice for the CWA Dagger in the Library, and twice for the CWA Short Story Dagger. Website:


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)

The company give Intimate live and recorded readings of outstanding classic, modern and contemporary ghost stories by writers including Edith Nesbit, Chaz Brenchley, Muriel Spark, Amelia B Edwards, H G Wells, Kate Clanchy, M R James, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Bram Stoker, Christine Poulson, Elizabeth Gaskell and Oscar Wilde.

In collaboration with creative design practice TWDA ( Stephen is currently recording the various classic ghost stories he has previously read 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.

To experience these wonderfully atmospheric audiobooks visit the TWDA ‘Art of the North’ page:

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