LAST week, I mentioned that this year’s Salisbury Playhouse pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, is a story as old as Stonehenge. Researchers have traced its origins back 5,000 years, to a tale called The Boy Who Stole Ogre’s Treasure. It’s not the only fairy tale to have such historical roots: both Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin are 4,000 years old. Another pantomime favourite, Cinderella, exists in some 300 versions around the world: communities with no contact with each other spookily telling variations of the same story.

The art of storytelling is as old as humanity itself. Before literary records began, they were a way of passing on information: the more memorable the story, the more the information was remembered. Books such as Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots argue that there are a set of story archetypes passed down the generations, that we know and respond to.

One of the curious trends in recent years is that, for all the advances in technology and communication, storytelling has made something of a comeback. It’s there in politics, where talk is often of creating a narrative; it’s there in business and advertising, where storytelling consultants are hired to create company stories; and it’s there on reality TV shows such as The X Factor, edited to create their modern-day rags to riches fables.

The art of storytelling itself has also been reborn. This week I caught up with Mike Rogers, founder of the Sarum Story Club, which meets monthly at the Wyndham Arms. The Sarum Story Club, which has been running for three years, is one of a quarter of local oral storytelling groups, with sister organisations in Southampton, Ringwood and Winchester. These, in turn, are part of a nationwide network of storytellers that continues to grow and prosper.

Mike is a natural storyteller to his fingertips: he started writing his own stories when he was eight; was a lecturer in German language and literature for nearly three decades; and has been going to storytelling clubs for the best part of a decade. So why the upsurge in interest in storytelling? Mike drew the comparison between story clubs and supermarkets: “It’s the feeling of, can we do culture with reduced air miles instead of something international and marketed? It’s like organic food: Netflix is the supermarket, storytelling is your local farm shop.”

As the nights draw in, what could be better than sitting round a roaring fire listening to an expert storyteller? Indeed, as the upsurge in storytelling continues, it may be no coincidence that this year’s Christmas publishing craze is for books about building fires.

The next Sarum Story Club is at the Wyndham Arms on Tuesday, from 8pm.