“…and the birds sang, full throated…”
So said Daniel Morden, in his evocative and hilarious story in the ‘Rambling House’ session which, after hearing from so many tellers that have made this festival so extraordinary over the years, brought last weekend’s ‘Birthday Barnstormer’ Beyond the Border Wales International Storytelling Festival 2018 to a standing-ovation close.
The ovation – utterly deserved – was for Artistic Director David Ambrose, who has successfully steered this festival from inception to its current glories, ably assisted in its beginnings by the Three Marvellous Midwives of the Company of Storytellers, Sally Pomme Clayton, Ben Haggarty and Hugh Lupton. Each of them played a major role in this weekend’s programme, alongside a rich array of fine and full voices from across Wales and beyond.
Adverse Camber has been privileged to be part of Wales’ continuing explorations of its Mabinogi stories in recent years, which have included two Aberystwyth Storytelling Festivals, notably 2015’s collegiate ‘all four branches in a day’ experience.
All four branches were told again at this festival, by different artists, with contrasting voices and perspectives. Most of these pieces have evolved since 2015 and this diversification of versions affirms the delightful energy and confidence at work across this growing community of artists.
What’s not to like about hearing Tamar Eluned Williams’ contemporary perspective on Rhiannon next to the epic journeys of Michael Harvey and Pauline Down’s Branwen, followed by Guto Dafis’ magical Manawydan, then discovering parallels and contrasts between Cath Little’s empowering perspective on the 4th Branch Castle Arianrhod and our own Dreaming the Night Field? The Petals and Claws exhibition welcomed in the voices of poets and visual artists, offering another exciting perspective on the material. Call it intertextuality, or an increasingly thriving living tradition, it’s like catnip for the story lover and truly exciting. And not only with Mabinogi stories –Markus Luukkonen and Mikael Öberg’s creative response to Finland’s deep traditions offered a different perspective to Elias Lönnrot’s Kalevala, or the artists we work with on Fire in the North Sky (co-commissioned by Beyond the Border – great thanks to David and the team for that!)
The embracing of collective ownership alongside the distinctiveness of individual perspective is one of the many treasures which storytelling has to offer as a skillful and collective art.
There was much to love about the weekend, including a packed marquee of enthusiastic young storytellers competing to be part of Young Storyteller of Wales 2018. We also especially enjoyed the premiere of Angharad Wynne’s deeply affecting Wales/India collaboration, Hands of Time, contrasting gloriously with the riot that was Sally Pomme Clayton’s The Frog Princess Punked.
All this, plus running into friends and fellow enthusiasts on the treacherous, dizzy stairways which weave around the walled gardens and castle grounds, offset by astonishing weather and the glorious vista of the sea!
And while there was poignancy in knowing this was the last festival under its current directorship – this was matched with full-throated enthusiasm at the repeated reminders that the festival is continuing, with 2019 dates from 21 to 23 June, in Midsummer. Thank you David from all of us at Adverse Camber and here’s to your own future stories!