Thursday, July 08, 2010

Beyond the Border Wales International Storytelling Festival 2010

What more could you want?

On Saturday morning I sat in the shade, in the Blue Garden. The sun shinning, a mug of freshly made coffee in my hand. And on the stage Bro Ar Men - a world music group playing Oud, Armenian flutes and a Breton harp. This was my introduction to the 2010 Beyond the Border festival at St Donats in South Wales.

We've been here at least 4 times before so we know our way around. The children are older now and are already at the Bradenstoke Hall for the Georgian Singing Workshop. I expect we'll meet up for lunch and maybe hear something together later. But for now I'm happy just to sit and listen as the music drifts over the terraced rose gardens and down to the jousting field. Perhaps they can hear it on the beach or on the fields above the cliffs.

When the set finishes I make my way to the upper lawns. I don't really care about lunch - I'm hungry for stories. At 1.00 I hear Ben Hagarty perform Gilgamesh accompanied by Manya Maratou on various instruments in Bradenstoke Hall - a beautifully restored building that forms part of a medieval castle. When it finishes at 4.00 I have to make my way quickly to the Tythe Barn to hear Hugh Lupton tell stories of the Tylwyth Teg.

These two story tellers are almost singlehandedly responsible for the renaissance in story telling in this country that began in the 60's. Then there is an hour to eat something. Katy buys me a lamb burger.

And then something out of this world happens. In the Pavilion on the upper rose garden Michael Harvey, Lynne Denman and Stacey Blythe perform 'Hunting the Giant's Daughter'. I have never heard Welsh so beautifully spoken or sung before. Suddenly I am in love with this language. The story is spell binding - totally transporting. It twists and turns - at one moment tragic, at another absurd and at the next gruesome, and romantic. They get a standing ovation when it finishes. I've never seen that before here. When it finishes at 9.0 I am bursting with story. I am filled to over flowing. But I make my way back to the Tythe Barn to hear Xanthe Gresham's erotic stories of Aphrodite.

Then I make my slow way back to the tent above the festival to the fields that over look the festival site. I am exhausted. My dreams filled with the distant sound of the sea breaking on beaches below and a strange tapestry of giants and gods, Duduk and drum.

Sunday is slow. There are about 2000 people here spread out over the site. Strangers smile at me, they talk about what they have heard. They tell me how well I manage the stairs. They recommend someone to hear.

I buy coffee at the Arts Centre and then stroll down to the Pavilion to hear Mary-Anne Roberts tell stories of Trinidad. But really I'm just waiting for Hugh Lupton and the English Acoustic Collective at 2.00. It is a mesmerising performance of Hugh Lupton's The Homing Stone with music composed by Chris Wood of the English Acoustic Collective. When it finishes I notice people in tears. We cannot stop clapping. It goes on and on for ages.

Afterwards I go up to Hugh Lupton. I tell him what I think. We chat about Alan Garner and the last time we met. Afterwards I stroll around a bit. I get a coffee, sit it one of the rose gardens. I rest and get ready for the journey home. They will be telling stories here until midnight but I am complete. My cup over flows.

Click here for the Beyond the Border photo gallery

1 comment:

seeking echo said...

Ah! - that's the BtB we love! Just hearing you describe it makes me even sorrier to have missed it!

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