The Elfin Knight and Other Stories

This time last year, I was eagerly anticipating rehearsals of the pantomime, how time flies!

Since then I have done so much, so I thought it was time to remember and recall what has happened.

Spring brought forth the Hawthorn blossom and first telling of “The Elfin Knight and other stories” a wonderful storytelling and music set with my fabulous husband Jake. Based on the 16th century ballad of the same name, we wove story and music together to tell the tale of Mary and her path to a “true lover” with the help of her wise and very eager Auntie. It is a joy to tell and sing, and work with Jake, and so far we’ve performed it at Mythstories, Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, and Festival at the Edge. We will be performing “The Elfin Knight” at BLAST! http://www.b-l-a-s-t.co.uk in November, a storytelling club in Bishops Castle, founded by storyteller Amy Douglas.

It was wonderful to see how the story unfolded, piece by piece, new things coming to light. Flashes of Awen and moments of “ah!” as we were shown places in the landscape that were in the story and treasures from other stories with a similar theme, showing us that we were on the right track.

033 yonder well from a nearer path

What began as a 10 minute story, formed at my weekend at Bleddfa, has become a 45 minute set, with music and words “blending perfectly” (audience feedback).

We are now rehearsing it again for BLAST! and it is a joy to be back with the characters and having a cup of tea in Auntie’s kitchen.

 

 

From Shakespeare to Pantomime!

Playing Deirdre – The Villain!

Well I had so much fun with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that my family and I auditioned for the Pantomime at Ludlow Assembly Rooms, Robin Hood.

We all got parts! My two youngest daughters played “Villagers” who became Robin’s “Band of Merry Men, Women, Girls and Boys”, my husband played “Alan a Dale ” the Minstrel of the crew, whose music filtered through the panto, from Lullabies to the Hokey Cokey to the theme “Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen”

I had the extreme fortune to be cast as the Sheriff’s Mom – Dierdre. It was amazing to play the baddy! The driving force behind the Sheriff’s evilness, yet still washing and ironing his pants on a daily basis, while “thinking of wicked schemes”.

The script was written by Simon Bolton of the acclaimed Ludlow company “Rooftop Theatre” and it was a pleasure to work with him and Paul Sayers, especially after seeing their fabulous version of “Hamlet” last year.

The younglings from Go MAD in Ludlow (of which I am co-leader with Simon DeVay) were mostly involved as villagers too, so it was wonderful to see them growing with the production and help them overcome backstage nerves.

It was just fabulous to work with Simon on a production too, we have been working together with the “MADlings” since May 2016, but to be onstage doing proper acting with him was just fab, seeing as he’s in 30% of my DVD collection, having been in Merlin, Sherlock, Being Human, among many others. I think, that he, Andy Bainbridge (who played the cat with purrrrfection)  and myself just made the most wonderful villainous trio, so thanks to you both for helping me unleash my darker side, MWAH HAA HAA!

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So that all happened last year, rehearsals started in November, and the run was 8 shows over 5 days in December.

So 2017 is now into Febraury, I have storytelling adventures to be going on, and will be trying to keep you up to date with them as they happen!

But for now, a belated Happy New Year, and I look forward to sharing more adventures with you in 2017

One final thigh slap, Huzzah and a wicked laugh for good measure!

HUZZAH!

 

 

A “Dream” fulfilled

And so 8 performances later, Phyllis O’Strate has been played.  “The Battle with the Centaurs” is done, the “Tipsy Bacchanals” no longer riot, the “Thrice Three Muses” no longer mourn, and the “Tedious brief scene of Young Pyramus and his Love Thisbe” has been wonderfully played out over and over again.

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The props and scenery dismantled, the costumes in the wash, and the after show get together is a sweet memory.  Fond farewells and “keep in touch” and “good luck for your next project” was mixed with hugs and a few tears.

It has been a wondrous adventure, with wondrous people. I have learnt so much, had loads of fun, and will remember it for a long time to come.

Thank you to all the cast and crew and Here to There Productions for this fabulous experience.

Farewell to Athens 1955, Thisbe’s balloons, Steam Punk fairies, hair grips and pink lipstick, and those horrible tights!

A Dream within “A Dream”

Tonight I fulfil a dream. To be on the stage in a play. A play by the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. (why he was not knighted or made a lord of something I do not know!) At school we studied Macbeth, I love that play, and I really wanted to act out the words of Shakespeare. But life went off on a tangent and though I appeared on stage in amateur productions of “The Mikado” and “Ruddigore” as “chorus” ,that career path didn’t happen.

Fast forward 30 year (gosh is it really that long ago??) I am a storyteller and Mom of beautiful daughters and through their youth theatre, I met Mel and Carl at Appletree.

There was a flier for open auditions for Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Why not thought I, thinking it would be a good experience, to see what auditions were really like and to see how other people portrayed the characters.

To my total surprise, I was offered a part –  PHILOSTRATE from Dream.

Now you may or may not know, that PHILOSTRATE is butler to Theseus, and Master of Revels, and is very often cut from the play, his part being distributed between Lysander and Egeus. But PHILOSTRATE was Shakespeare’s satire of the theatre system of the time. You could not get a play put on until it had been passed “the Master of Revels” so to playwrights he was hurdle to be overcome!dscf7556

In Here to There Productions  “Dream” set in Athens in 1955,  PHILOSTRATE becomes “Phyllis O’Strate” a determined spinster Aunt, using her brother Egeus as a stepping stone to climb to new heights in the household of Theseus and Hippolyta.  As Aunt to Hermia, she approves of Lysander with his “Nosegays and poetry” as she thinks it terribly romantic and dislikes the overbearing and unfaithful Demetrius, whom her brother would have marry her niece!  Thus she is very pleased when the four young lovers are paired more romantically by fairie magic!

She appears in Scene 1, and Scene 5, but her spoken part is in Scene 7, where she gives Theseus a list of the marques and merriments available for the evening. Usually either Theseus or Egeus deliver the list, but in this production, Phyllis has a shining moment and delivers some of the best words (in my opinion) ever in a play!

“The Battle with the Centaurs, to be sung by an Athenian Eunoch to the harp”

“The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals, tearing a Thracian singer in their rage”  (actual titles of plays in Shakespeare’s time, accoriding to Wikipedia)

Thus the list goes on until the Mechanicals play is the only one left on the list, but to be honest, Phyllis has seen it and thinks it is crap! And in trying to dissuade Theseus, loses her rag a bit, but the play is presented, and she gets to say “The prologue is addressed” with much contempt!

So there you have it, a usually overlooked Shakespeare character, but one that I have been given the privilege to play and bring to life.  It has been a wonderful few months, meeting all the fabulous folks involved, and learning so much along the way. Rehearsals have been a joy to be at and I shall miss them when it’s over. Who knows, this could be the first step on a new ladder for me – we shall see!

There are parallels with storytelling and much to differentiate between the two, especially as engaging with the audience goes, but it has been amazing.

So I go to my first night, all a-tremble, and butterflies in residence in my stomach, but determined to do my best and not disappoint my fellow actors and stage management and especially Director Carl Walker and Stage Manager Sally Walker, who I would like to thank for giving me this chance to fulfil a life-long dream, by being in “Dream”

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Been away for a while…..

Once upon a time, there was a Festival and it happened high up on Wenlock Edge in Shropshire.  The first time I went there, it was 2005, and I went there with my now husband of 10 years Jake Thomas.  We spent that first festival between the musical Silver Tent, the CAMRA Beer tent and our own tent, sleeping off the beer and music.  I did catch a few story tellers though,and that is where my Storytelling journey gained pace.

 

Festival at the Edge has just held it’s 25th gathering of Storytellers, listeners, musicians, glorious food sellers and amazing market stalls, and like the others I have been to, it was an amazing, beautiful and inspiring weekend.

The iconic purple flags,Purple flags welcomed us to Stokes Barn and we saw our favourite tellers, ones from our “bucket list” and heard lots of enchantiSilver Tentng, thought provoking and hilarious stories, all in 3 days.  (Plus a whole load of wonderful music as we camped near the Silver Tent!)

In previous years, we have left as the Festival ended, not wanting to see it taken down and put away, somehow keeping it alive in our minds for longer.

This year was different.

We stayed an extra night, enjoyed the Sunday night Party (for helpers, stewards and performers)  for the first time, and saw everything disappearing back into the land.

The Festival village became a field again, the stories whizzed around and then drifted off with the wind, over the Edge and off to the next ears to hear them.  We also stayed because we wanted to see it go.

It wont be at that same site next year, so we stayed to say goodbye, to a place that has been as much a part of our marriage as it has my story telling journey. We have made many friends through this festival and this year has been no exception. Meeting up with old friends, recently made friends and those we know from “social media” putting faces to names and profile pics and most exciting of all, new friends.Beer Tent

This chapter of FaTE has come to an end, but a new one begins, (it’s a real page turner!) Feeling renewed and inspired by Story, and with a rather wonderful Tshirt,  I take another step on my own Storytelling path. Bunting

Summer is a coming in……………….

Winter is on her way back to the Northern lands, escorted by the Ice Dragons. The Swallows swoop in, bringing Summer on their wings.

Telling tales around the hearth fire to keep out the winter cold is turning into telling tales in open spaces and in marquees and tents across the land!

Daniel Morden braved icy mountains at the end of January, to come to Cleobury Mortimer library to tell his tales for one of two events celebrating National Storytelling Week.

Daniel Morden being amazing at Cleobury Library.

Daniel Morden being amazing at Cleobury Library.

He held the audience in the palm of his hand, at one point making them jump out of their skins, such was his hold!

Daniel is one of my favourite storytellers, so I am very grateful to Friends of Cleobury Mortimer Library for running with my ideas, and of course thanks to Daniel for taking us into his stories.

Dragon tales at Cleobury

Thanks to Russell Drysdale for this photo!

For the second National Storytelling Week event, I went to the library as Dragon Teller with Pratchett, my travelling story dragon by my side, and told my first Dragon Tales of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed telling them, as always, and thankfully the audience enjoyed listening to them too!

There have been other ideas, over the Winter, some will happen, some may not. Being a storyteller with no audience is no fun at all.  The story wants to come out, but there is no one to tell it to. I feel that the story itself, shuffles off with its head down, a sad expression on its face.

Sometimes when you have ideas, you get all excited about them, and want to share, the only trouble is, that sometimes, no one else seems to share the excitement.  The sparkle fades, and you wonder why you do it. The Inspiration lies dormant, and you worry about it fading away. This can be disheartening. But just when the sparkle is just a speck of glitter in the dust, someone comes along and blows away the dust and makes it shine again.  This week, two people pulled the glitter from the dark. One lady who recognised me from a story corner at a local farm attraction, 2 years ago and remembered the story, saying that her children loved it. The second, a teenager who asked if I was the one who came into school in 2008 and told the story of the Clee Hill Serpent, telling me that is was one of the moments they remembered from their childhood.

When moments like this happen, you remember why you do it. It’s to let the story live, to pass it on, to bring the sparkle of story to other people, not to make yourself shine.

Here’s to the brilliance of Summer in all her glory, to the stories and to their telling!

Have a wonderful summer of storytelling everyone!

A Story a day

The nights have well and truly drawn in, Orion rides across the sky, and the air is cold. Winter approacheth! I love Winter, living as we do in the “middle of nowhere” (according to my Mom!) we get snowed in and really appreciate the heat of the multi-fuel Rayburn, the intense glow of the hearth fire, and from such places, new ideas are born.

things 025At least, that’s what happened last Winter Solstice.  I decided that my inner story library shelves were seriously empty. So I set out on that cold Solstice eve, to find stories that I had longed to hear. Tales that were in every fairy tale book, yet never read to me as a child (all together now – ah) I needed to fill my head with tales. Not necessarily to tell them, but just to know them. So, clad in Iron shoes as seems to be the footwear for such intrepid journeys, (OK so they’re very comfy red clarks) off I went!

I found good ones, bad ones, scary ones, silly ones, brilliant ones and thought provoking ones.  I even read some twice by mistake and some days I would read a few, just to find the right one.

As I type, I am on Day Three Hundred and Twenty Two, with a couple of days missed for one reason or another, 365 days will take me beyond the Solstice to the time of returning light, (about 29th December) The journey has taken me through many genres, books, websites and Storytelling spaces. Earlier this week, when coming to the end of a fabulous book “Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales” I found myself heaving a great sigh and said (along the lines of the Lady of Shalott) “I am half sick of stories”.

But that’s not exactly true.  I was craving a stonking good yarn, a fabulous tale, an amazing story. My appetite could not be satisfied from the pages of a book, no matter how well it was written or what stories were contained within it.

DSCF1248I realised, as I travelled this journey, that the some of the most uplifting and emotionally moving stories have been told. I have heard them, with my own ears. At Festivals and story clubs, in tents, around fires, in pubs, libraries, a town hall, an arts centre, and a castle hall. These have fed my hunger for stories. My plate has been full and the belly satisfied.

So as I head to the Solstice and beyond, I remember the tellers of these tales, and revisit them via You tube, and excitedly at local events, hearing tales from them that I have not yet heard.

Some words to describe how I feel came to mind

“to hear a story it has to be told, to learn a story you need to tell it”

Honour to the tales and to their telling!

King Arthur

I have many books on King Arthur; I have collected them since I was a teenager. I have 2 Tarot decks associated with the legend, purely because they are associated with the legend!  On my bookshelf in total there are 27 with “Arthur” or “Arthurian” in the title, and that’s not including all the various “Myth and Legends of the British Isles” genre.

Not a huge amount, but enough for someone interested in the Arthurian Legends you might think. But curiously enough, I have not read ANY of them! Oh yes I’ve flicked through, skimmed, and glanced at pages, and illustrations, and always intended to read them, but every time I sit down and open a book, the words stay on the page.  They stay there, unmoving, un yielding, un read (by comparison, when I pick up a Terry Pratchett novel, the words leap off the page and pull me in to Discworld).

You may think that I should give up.  But Arthur keeps calling, like he has since my teen years.  Somehow I have to find the way in to the story. But I have come to the conclusion that it is not through books, and the stories are so set in stone that people now argue with alternate versions.  Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the stories down for William, who wanted a “One Land, One King” legend to refer to,  Malory recorded his version (which obviously I cannot comment on because I haven’t read it) and latter day authors have mixed in their versions too, like John Matthews, Kevin Crossley Holland, and Michael Morpurgo.  New books appear every year, claiming to have proof of Arthur being in Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, and yet everyone has their own King Arthur, and their own Merlin.  They may not go by these names, but the essence of the figure remains, and can be associated with each of these characters.

The stories of Jesus are written in a book and people believe in them, but Jesus affects peoples’ lives in different ways.  He is friend to some, saviour to others, prophet to many and nothing to some.  They say there is historical proof, but what does that matter to those who BELIEVE in him?

So that leaves me thinking that people don’t believe in Arthur and Merlin, because there’s too much red tape. Where the legends of Arthur and Merlin are concerned, there are different versions yes, but when someone releases their version, the old dusty copies come out and critics say “but that’s not the story, or that’s not historically accurate”.

What is Arthur to you?  What is Arthur to me? What is Merlin to me?  I don’t know, is the answer, but they keep tugging at my sleeve, whispering in my ear, drifting into my dreams. Do they need labelling? Pigeon holing? Restricting? No!!!!

I don’t live in Cornwall, or Wales, or Brittany. I live on the slopes of Titterstone Clee, in South Shropshire, one time gathering place of the clans of the Middle Lands and this beautiful, quarry scarred landscape has given me its stories to tell the world. The Hill tells me of a Serpent deep within that turns the wheel of the year, and the Ancient Yew told me of the Dragons, a stream told me how the Mistletoe came to this valley. And now Arthur and Merlin are trying to do the same. But how can I get the stories? Are they too the stories of this land? The Land of Oak, Albion, Merlin’s Isle, Britain.

So many stories, myths, legends all captured in books, stories from other lands brought in and adapted, it is time to free them to take them from the pages, melt them down into their base form, and then with alchemical force bring them to life in their raw state, without political opinion, without religious view, without historical accuracy.

Gather the kindling, light the tinder, fill the bellows.

A story is real, while it is being told.

Apples and Foxes

 

 

Welcome Autumn

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Time of silly hats and colourful scarves, and not necessarily matching gloves!

Time of flames flickering in the hearth as the Rayburn is lit.

Time of turning leaves, ploughed earth and hedge trimming.

Time of sunny days and star filled nights.

Time of foggy mornings and frosted spider webs.

Time of Apples and Foxes.

 

Yes, the traditional Apple Day! This year I am privileged to be storytelling at two! Tenbury Applefest, and Calke Abbey Apple Day. The days of the year when I eat more apples, and drink more apple juice than I consume the rest of the year! I try the different varieties, fill my nostrils with the gorgeous smell of ripe apples, and generally have a fabulous time!

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As for foxes, I went for a stroll down the lane last night, to see what things had changed, the ripening berries, the still flowering Meadowsweet, when across the stubbly field, there was a fox. Such a beautiful creature, bane of chicken keepers and instinctual delight to the hunter. They are a little like Marmite, you either love them or hate them. This fox, picked its way around the field, looking for whatever he was looking for. There were some rabbits in the field too, both Fox and Rabbit seeming oblivious to the company of each other. Words started to come to mind.

 

“Black tips on your orange ears, white flash at the end of your tail. Tell me oh Fox of your honest tale. When you were revered and not hunted. One that tells of you as clever, not sly. Of how your wit and cunning was rewarded, not punished”

 

This got me thinking of the other creatures of this land, so slandered in folklore as the new religion swept across the land. Ravens, hares, owls, dragonflies even, all associated with devilment and witchcraft in European folklore. Yet in other cultures, these creatures are revered, honoured, and respected.  Tell me your tales, ancient ones, of the times when you were truly magical and to catch sight of you was a blessing, not a curse. My ears are listening.

 

Every adventure has a challenge

Calke Abbey in Derbyshire is a stately home like no other,it is “Unstately” and proud of it. There are gardens and woodlands and parklands and a house full of wonderful  “stuff” collected by the Harpur Crewe family that owned it over the centuries.

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I have had the pleasure of telling stories there over the summer, sometimes in the Garden of Imagination and other times in Calke Explore,  a woodland nature trail with a wild play area and art meadow.

In the gardens, I sat in the Summer House telling tales of Dragons, fairies, and watering cans with leaky bottoms. Children (and adults sometimes) would come along and make up stories with the things in the story box,. There were some fabulous stories of King Egg and Queen Rose that I could tell you!

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Down in the woods, Mad Meg Sorrel, (my woodland character who has developed a Scottish accent over the summer) had riddles to be answered and told families about tree folklore among stories of gigantic antlers and dancing tree folk.

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It has been wonderful, each time different , each time magical.

Because I live in Shropshire, it is beneficial for me to stay over at Calke, usually at my sisters, but the last time I went , she was on holiday, so Calke very kindly offered me a place to stay on site!  Wow! Staying on the Calke Estate! That’s exciting!

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Walking around the park when the rush of visitors had gone home, talking to the trees that usually are driven past on the way out.  And generally having a bit of peace and quiet in the evenings.  But as in the title of this post, “every adventure has a challenge” and the challenge was to stay in the Base Camp accommodation ON MY OWN!!!!!

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Now everyone likes a bit of peace and quiet, and some time to themselves, yes, but this was a converted farm. Part of the house was the dairy, now lived in by Bill and Viv, and the Base Camp was other parts of the farm set up.

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The kitchen was massive, and that’s where I spent most of the time, reading, studying and listening to the radio. The toilets were upstairs, and the dormitory was one of two, also upstairs.  Very nice, they are, basic, comfortable, the toilets being across a landing, over the stairs and across another landing. It even had a “who goes there” door!   This place was HUGE!! And I was in it ON MY OWN!!

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Now being a storyteller with a rather active imagination, you can imagine what I was dreaming up in my head. Every sound would be something that it wasn’t. but that was it! Apart from the odd aeroplane from East Mids Airport flying overhead, there was NO noise AT ALL!!! Nothing! Zero, not even the rustle of leaves, or the shuffle of sheep. The windows had secondary glazing and the silence was deafening and kept waking me up in the night. And of course, the three realms that had to be traversed to get to the loo in the middle of the night were hurriedly crossed with eyes almost shut incase I saw anything that I didn’t want to see!

So that was the challenge, being on my own. I am usually surrounded by people, noise, even in the “middle of nowhere” where I live, there is a gentle hum of the land, sheep and cows shuffling about, an occasional car down the lane, owls hooting, cats asking to be let out, or in. Not a huge challenge I know, no dragons to fight, or rings to be thrown into fires, but a challenge for me and a real adventure.

On returning home, I am so grateful to everyone at Calke, for my summer adventures. But I am also very grateful for my own bed, and the noise that surrounds it!

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