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Anykščiai’s International Storytelling Festival – three packed days of storytelling inspiration

Thu 21st Dec 2017

Adverse Camber, Fire in The North Sky, Review, Storytelling, Tours

In December, Adverse Camber was invited to present Fire in the North Sky: Epic Tales from Finland in the town of Anykščiai, Lithuania for the country’s first international storytelling festival, the brainchild of artistic director Daiva Ivanauskaitė and cultural project manager Jurgita Bugailiskiene who steered us through three packed days of storytelling inspiration in a wonderfully atmospheric setting.

Anykščiai is a town with a population of around 12,000 and sits on the banks of the river Šventoji, two hours drive from the capital, Vilnius. The town has a mix of rustic and grand houses, is host to a superb arts centre in a main square and a well equipped and comfortable library, as well as a gorgeous spa resort deep in the pinewoods forest and an impressive twin towered church.  All across the town, wherever we went we breathed in the unmistakable, relaxing smell of wood smoke in the wintry air, air which was distinctly fridge-like, yet the warmth of everyone’s welcome entirely made up for it!

The festival was a superb mix of workshops, talks and performances, embracing storytelling for social change, skills sharing, open mics, programmed talks and a number of performances. Thanks to Wizz Air’s grounding of our plane for two hours on tarmac, we unfortunately missed the night at the Horse Museum and a chance to enjoy Lithuanian folktales as part of an open mic, but we were lucky enough to see fascinating presentations at a conference event exploring The Art of Storytelling Today.

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I’d been asked to talk about the passion of producing and we had fine examples of that all weekend in the commitment and energy of Daiva and Jurgita, two visionary women who were the glue that held the whole event together, drawing in brilliant, unique examples of transformative work from across Europe. We were fired up by the energy of Sahand Sahebdivani and Raphael Rodan and led ‘into the hill’ by Nick Hennessey, speaking about bringing stories to modern audiences.  I was particularly struck by freelance architect, Guoda Bardauskaitė and experiential learning specialist Ieva Šližienė who spoke movingly about their project ‘I am You’ at a Women’s Prison, sharing stories about life, freedom, happiness, women and men through inventive, careful use of space and conversation.  Guntis Pakalns from Latvia also showcased a riveting range of cross-generational community building through storytelling, including storyteller contests for children, with around 500 participants vying to tell, in just 5 minutes, a folk tale, a real-life event and an anecdote. I’d go along to that!

The conclusion of the festival on Saturday night was Fire in the North Sky in the arts centre’s main performance space to a very enthusiastic audience (standing ovation!) with surtitles in Lithuanian – a new departure for us which worked well, even with inevitable improvisational variations, plus with new episodes of Lemminkäinen’s antics in the second half.  Shots of Salmiakki and evocations of the burning fires of the Sampo’s creation felt fittingly authentic given the temperature and early darkness outside.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this event possible, particularly the producers Daiva and Jurgita and all the participants, as well as the funders which included FEST and Creative Europe.

Naomi Wilds
Adverse Camber Producer

This performance of Fire in the North Sky at the Anykščiai International Storytelling Festival was supported by FEST and Creative Europe

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