Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2009

The first ever York Festival of Storytelling has now got its own rather comprehensive website: www.yorkstorytelling.co.uk – where you can read full listings of performances and workshops and find out what on earth motivated us to get it started.  By hook or by crook, it is going to be a wonderful, intense and enjoyable day for childlike adults, children and old cynics alike.

Read Full Post »

In a few weeks (12th-13th Sept) I will be involved in what is shaping up to be a really wonderful event, the Wild About Wood festival at the Castle Howard Arboretum.  So I paid a visit there, partly to explore what trees and habitats will be at my disposal for storywalks and inspiration, and partly to be in some publicity shots for the event.  A lot of employees’ and sponsors’ children were also prevailed upon to come along for a sneak preview and smile for the camera!

Investigating the arboretum's sundial

Investigating the arboretum's sundial

In the outdoor classroom

In the outdoor classroom

Unlike some events of this nature, which purport to educate but really only aim to entertain and bring the punters in, this festival looks like it is really going to have some depth to it.  By the sheer variety of woodland crafts being demonstrated, and the different ways of interacting with wood – climbing a tall tree, riding in a coracle boat, going on a woodland story walk, writing their name in the ancient script of trees (Ogham), trying out tools on different kinds of wood – people will learn through all their senses!

See http://www.wildaboutwood.org to learn more!

Read Full Post »

I arrived for a day’s storytelling at the North York Moors Visitors Centre at Sutton Bank about 20 hours after arriving back from holiday in Shropshire, and felt slightly catapulted back into performing mode.  I had some stories ready about the local area, but felt a bit unarmed nonetheless – I didn’t know the area personally too well.

However, I took my first group of the day out for a story walk in the grounds of the centre.  There were bilberries ripe all over the place, oak apples on all the tree, fragments of dry stone wall and horses grazing, thickets of wood and wild raspberries…we didn’t get more than about 100 metres along the path in 45 minutes, as there was a story ready to pounce at each bend it took.  The children gingerly tasted bilberries and were amazed to hear that for many Shropshire children, picking those berries all summer was the only way they could afford school books and clothes in the 19th century.

Anneliese and I kept thinking this kilnman was real and saying 'Excuse me' as we walked past him!

Anneliese and I kept thinking this kilnman was real and saying 'Excuse me' as we walked past him!

Another story that sprang to mind was that of the Broguey Stone on the Lecale Peninsula, near where I come from in Northern Ireland:

The Broguey Stone

In pre-Christian times and long beyond them, chiefs and kings in Ireland used to be sworn in not by the Bible, but by a sacred stone.  With one foot on the stone they would pledge their loyalty to the people they were to rule – and in fact the stones themselves were often in the shape of a foot or shoe.  This was certainly the case in the Lecale – the rulers of this area swore on a stone which was naturally, yet uncannily, similar to a shoe or ‘brogue’. Having one foot on a sacred stone, it was believed, kept them safe from the draining energies of the Earth, and gave them some of the wisdom and powers of the gods.

As the centuries passed this custom faded and most people forgot what the stone had been used for, but they still felt they ought not to move it from its place.  It was still worthy of respect, it must be lucky, it must have to do with the fairies, or something….until, a century or two ago, it lay in the middle of a farmer’s field.  He had to plough in awkward circles around it, but neither he nor any of his neighbours did anything to disturb it.

Until, that is, his land was bought by a younger, wealthier neighbour.  The day before he left his farm he asked some friends to come and help him ‘shift the old stone’.  And they hefted it between them to the dry stone wall surrounding the field, and slotted it into a gap made by an old gate.  They didn’t trust the new farmer, you see.  And as the years passed the moss grew on the strangely-shaped Broguey Stone as it sat in the wall, and people forgot it had ever been in the field.

The old farmer grew even older and as he chatted with his friends in the pub or in his kitchen at nights they used to discuss how they would, before they died, raise a fine concrete plinth and have the Broguey Stone placed on it for all to see, with an inscription.   As the old man grew sick and frail he made one of his friends swear to have this done for him after he was gone.  And the friend swore (although probably not with his foot on the Broguey Stone – but who knows?).

However, as the old farmer lay in bed and felt death was drawing near he called for his friend and said, “Do you know, I’ve been thinking – I think we’ll leave that stone where it is – it looks just fine there.”  And his friend agreed, and the stone is still there today, with no memorial except the patterns of the moss, and no plinth except the other old stones of the very old wall.

Read Full Post »