Wherever you go people want to bend your ear…

The Times (London)
June 28, 2004, Monday

Wherever you go people want to bend your ear. Erica Wagner takes up
the tale

by Erica Wagner

Thought the festival season was over? Think again. Sure, you’ve done
books at Hay-on-Wye and mud at Glastonbury. But don’t give up yet
-the best is yet to come, with festivals and performances that bring
something out of the ordinary across the country.

This year’s Beyond the Border International Storytelling Festival in
the Vale of Glamorgan (July 2-4, 01446 799100) promises to be another
corker. Last year was this wonderful festival’s tenth anniversary,
but its directors clearly have no intention of resting on their

Every year the gorgeous setting of St Donats Castle (home to Atlantic
College) hosts a remarkable gathering of storytellers from all over
the world -artists of the revival of this vibrant form as well as
bearers of living oral tradition.

Within the castle’s walls, and in the beautiful landscaped gardens
that surround them, you will be able to experience the art of Ai
Churek, a female Tuvan shaman from southern Siberia. She will be
working with Karashay (below) -Tuvan throat singers collaborating
with Steven Kent, master of the Australian Aboriginal didjeridu.
Praline Gay-Para, a one-woman whirlwind, tells stories from all over
the world, including Freeze-Frame Beirut, a guided tour of her native
city which, she says, has forgotten its true identity.

Mike Burns is an Irish storyteller and aikido master living in
Montreal; he tells stories heard from his father in Gaelic and Irish
English. He is funny, magical, mysterious. There will also be the
“Young Storyteller of the Year” competition, presided over by Jan
Blake, one of Britain’s premier tellers, and talks by Professor
Ronald Hutton, an authority on myth and shamanism, and Jeanette
Winterson. More wondrous tales can be found at the latest series of
Stories within Stories at the Barbican Pit in London (July 7-9, 0845
1207598). This summer you’ll be able to catch a real masterpiece: the
Company of Storytellers (Hugh Lupton, Pomme Clayton and Ben Haggarty)
are reviving their astonishing adaptation of the Grimm tales, The
Three Snake Leaves.

Book early -then head back to the countryside for the 13th annual
Festival at the Edge in Much Wenlock, Shropshire (July 16-18, 01939
236626). This festival takes place in a lovely greenfield site and
includes workshops, story rounds and sessions for those who want to
take part.

Here you’ll find A Spell in Time, a unique British-Bulgarian
performing arts company comprising Moni Sheehan, storyteller and
dancer, Ivor Davies, musician, and Dessislava Stefanova, singer, who
perform works including The Dark-Eyed Warrior, a gripping tale of a
man who finds a bride but loses his heart.

Also appearing are Vergine Gulbenkian, a young British storyteller of
Armenian origin; Hugh Lupton, one of Britain’s finest storytellers;
and the wonderful, unpredictable TUUP -The Unorthodox, Unprecedented
Preacher. A children’s festival runs in parallel with the Edge, so
there’s something for everyone.

Afterglow Circus Arts, a group of young stilt-walkers, jugglers and
unicyclists, will also be appearing at the Festival at the Edge -but
if circus arts and street theatre are your passions, you might want
to try the Winchester Hat Fair, now in its 30th year (July 1-4; 01962
849841). It began as a buskers’ festival in Covent Garden, but one of
the performers, Jonathan Kay, took it to his home town. Hat Fair
brings Winchester to life with its breathtaking stunts, specialist
circus acts, clowning and world music. Highlights include the UK
premiere of Producciones Imperdible’s Mirando Al Cielo from Andalucia
-they are an innovative dance company who will perform on a glass
stage while the audience is seated comfortably below. What’s more,
the whole festival is free.

* For information on national storytelling events, contact the Crick
Crack Club, [email protected]