Our Story

A man named Dan Yashinsky telling a story.
Dan Yashinsky
(Photo from Storytelling Toronto)
Joan Bodger
(Photo by Fiona Christie)
Alice Kane
(Photo from Storytellers of Canada)

1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling was started in 1978 by Dan Yashinsky when he, with several others, began telling stories between musical sets at Gaffer’s Café in the Kensington Market. In the spring of 1979, Dan, with Celia Lottridge, Lorne Brown, Bob Barton, Alice Kane, Joan Bodger and Rosemary Allison organized the first Toronto Storytelling Festival and created the Storytellers School of Toronto. All three have been going along ever since.

This has earned us the title of North America’s longest-running story telling open mic–a place where new tellers and visitors are welcome to share all kinds of stories, including folk and fairy tales, ballads, poems, myths, legends, and personal tales.

Over the years 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling has moved a few times—including to on-line Zoom evenings during the COVID years—but everyone at 1001 is proud to say that no matter the weather, nor the date on the calendar, people have met and told stories every Friday at 8:00 for 45 years!

We moved from St. George the Martyr Church to Innis College on March 4, 2005 and we were there until May 2023, but online during the pandemic from March 2020 to November 2022. We moved to Church of the Redeemer from June to December 2023 and we have been at St. David’s Parish Hall on Donlands Ave., Toronto since January 2024.

Should you find yourself free on a Friday evening, please, drop by to listen, or accept the talking stick and tell a story of your own. You will always be welcome.

Excerpt from Joan Bodger’s Book

The Crack in the Teacup: The Life of an Old Woman Steeped in Stories, 2001

Dan was telling stories at a little restaurant in the old Kensington Market district. The place was named Gaffers. Dan had originally talked the owners into allowing him to tell on Friday nights, between the musician’s acts, but one night the musicians failed to show up, and Dan was shoved  on stage to cover the entire evening. Even so, his performance was so successful that the owners decided to keep him, and dispense with the music. He was only a beginning storyteller, and he knew very few stories, so he was asking other storytellers in the city to rally round. We came crawling out of the woodwork. But the evenings were not limited to those of us who were trained; anyone was allowed to come up to the stage!

Gaffers restaurant was very small. On Friday nights even in the bitter cold of Toronto winter, a line of would-be listeners formed outside on the steps. Word-of-mouth had spread the news that stories were being told here; people were waiting for a chance to get in. One night a taxi driver, pulling up to the address, asked his customers what the line was for; when they explained about the chance to tell and listen to stories, he followed them into the restaurant and entertained us all with taxi-cab lore.

When Gaffers  closed (due to marital strife between the owners), we floated around the city, from the Amsterdam Café, in the gay ghetto, to an old synagogue-cum-art-school in the university district, to a church near bohemian Queen Street. Dan dubbed the enterprise “One Thousand and One Nights of Storytelling in Toronto,” a name that has stuck for almost twenty-five years. During that time we have listened to Carol McGirr tell the Icelandic sagas, Bob Barton tell modern literary tales, Dan Yashinsky regale us with tales from Turkey, and a thousand other storytellers tell thousands of tales.