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Archive for May, 2009

OK, run and get your diary now.  On Sunday 18th October 2009, there will be a one-day Festival of Storytelling held right here, in York (at York Steiner School, to be precise).  For all ages.  For those who already know they love storytelling and those who are just perplexed by it.  For those who are dying for a chance to tell a story to a sympathetic audience, and for those who have no intention of that but will nonetheless find themselves doing so at some point during the day.  For people who want to tell their child a story without a book.  For people who don’t think stories are just for children.  For children who want to be storytellers themselves.

The festival will centre on the time of year – the drawing in of nights and the rightness of sitting around a fire to tell stories – and indeed will round off with a bonfire.  It will be a mixture of performances, workshops, story walks, puppetry, play, music, fire and good food.  We hope it will be the beginning of a thriving storytelling network in York.  Listen – if you live in this city, you ought to come.  I will let you know as soon as registration forms and tickets are available.  I know, it’s hard to wait, just do your best!

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The glens of Antrim wear their stories very visibly

Rainbow at Glenariff

The easy dogwalkers' path to the summit of Slieve Croob has had many other uses in the past.

The easy dogwalkers' path to the summit of Slieve Croob has had many other uses in the past.

I spent a wonderful Easter ‘at home’ – that is, in Northern Ireland – with my family, and spent about half my time inside reading about things and the other half outside gazing at things.  What things?  Reading books like E. Estyn Evans’ fascinating ‘Irish Folk Ways’, numerous collections of local stories, and maybe most of all, a notebook my grandmother has been writing of her own memories.  Gazing at places like the Glens of Antrim (see Glenariff up above there), or the drumlin country around my parents’ house, or Slieve Croob – on an evening that was sunny till we got near the top, and the clouds started sailing around and past our heads and down the valley.

And what is more, continuously connecting the reading and gazing sides of the brain.  Such as when I learnt from Evans about the bilberry-gathering celebrations at Lughnasa each August, then spotted a sign on the path to Slieve Croob about how it was the scene of just such revelries.  Or reading about the demise of the ‘rundale’ farming system – this left families with hundreds of minute scattered strips of land, and completely reliant on their raucous neighbours – and then clearly observing the stripy fields it left behind, all around the skirts of the hills in the Glens.  Or my grandmother’s accounts of her father going to ‘ceilidhing’ houses to drink tea and play cards, and leaving some cash in the kitty, in the days when most towns didn’t even have a pub (again, just as Evans tells us!)

It’s not been a time of romanticising ‘my’ country (I know my way around York much better than I do any town in Northern Ireland), but of connecting a lot of things together.  Realising that history and stories are not just entertainment or moral tales, but sometimes even TRUE, and a continuous link between who I am now and all that happened in the past.  Whew!

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