Shonaleigh Cumbers is a drut’syla, a storyteller in the Jewish tradition. She inherited this mantle from her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. She trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating with an award as best interpretive student. As part of the National Year of Literacy in 1998, she devised a series of workshops for schools across England and served as the storyteller-in-residence for the National Trust in 1999. She produced stories on environmental projects using the combined arts of dance, storytelling, and sculpture. From 2000 to 2001 she was the artist-in-residence at Castle Morpeth, England.
Cumbers formed the group Tashbain in 1999 and was commissioned by the Baring Foundation to create The Tower of Bagel. Three years later she received a commission from the Jewish Heritage Trust to create The Golem at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival. Her newest major work, The Fool of the Warsaw Ghetto, premiered in 2006 at the same literary festival.
Cumbers has worked extensively with community groups on different projects, many of which bring together disparate ethnic or age groups. Additionally, she maintains a full schedule of shows and festivals and has appeared all over the U.K. and Europe. She performs in The Twisting Field, based on Celtic legend, and is part of the folk/story duo Javalaka (formerly AT613). Cumbers is currently touring “Unbridled” with Hassan Erraji, a Moroccan musician, and is lead artist in the huge Touchwood project in Calderdale.