Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Long-awaited Launch of the Sculpture Park

What a week! And thankfully the weather was up to it. Last Saturday saw us storytellers performing at the official launch of the sculptural environmental play area in St. Buryan, designed by a member of the Collective artist's network, and friend. Mel has worked for months on this project, and has done wonders with the space. It boasts an earthcave/earthhouse in the shape of a barrow, a beautiful wooden climb-in ship sculpture - designed by Jo also of the Collective - an amphitheatre (for storytelling! naturally...) mosaic pillars and stepping stones with a theme of rockets and stars, willow maze, arches, fence, herb garden, stone circle border, pump fountain, carved wood pillar entrance...! and altogether, while built as an environmental 'natural play area', it really is an interactive work of art and a wonderful piece of landscape design. Whilst only involved with it in a support-for-the-designer, occasional bits of admin like taking photographs for the website, Collective kind of way, we storytellers still felt proud to be connected with it, and delighted to be asked to perform at its opening. As John Le Carre said in his speech to open it, it's a unique space, and will end up being an attraction in its own right, and far from just a local feature. The amphitheatre was a lovely space to perform in, and the body-masks leered at the audience from behind us, like uninvited guests when not in use, while the flags rippled in the breeze. Classic moments included one little kid trying to climb into the Dragon's mouth, and pick the nose of the Goblin! when they were lying by after the end of a set. Our first ever performance of the classic Cornish folk story 'The Mermaid of Zennor' went down especially well, and in the evening we did an informal shorter set for adults who'd been working serving food and drink all day, which met with much hilarity and applause. Thanks to all at St. Buryan Community House for being such sporting hosts! 
   Another blog would be the trials, tests and parties of the Collective, what tales to tell of how this place was built, and the many involved in it and with it...would make a great novel, but hey, who wants to be sued?
     The week's other performances and events will have to wait till another post, as another Edition's just gone off, but as ever that means the website is waiting for updates, there's signage and flyers to do for more events, invoices still to be sent and......................eventually some time off hopefully.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Chance Meetings and Surprising Greetings

The strangest things happen when you're a performance artist or touring artist of any kind...Having sent off lots of proposals to different events and venues earlier in the year, and then ringing various numbers of them up and finding that they'd lost the proposal in the overflowing inbox, or decided they couldn't afford the fee for six of us, administrator and form-filler-in-chief, I was just getting fed up, when...a company in Dorchester e-mailed inviting us to perform and do workshops, having just secured their funding, someone e-mailed who'd seen Widsith & Deor's Epic of Gilgamesh show last Autumn, asking if we were free for another gig, AND, most bizarrely of all, meeting a guy in a bluebell wood who happened to be the ranger, and within two weeks, meeting up again and being offered another gig to perform at the launch of the finished conservation project there in July! All in the space of two days...You can be sure as hell that if you hadn't have slaved away with a load of proposals, the work wouldn't have come in...and yet as so often in this business, you get what you hadn't planned for, expected, or in some cases even suspected! Other storytelling companies we know have said just the same thing. But three in two days...well that was pretty good and out of the blue. We've also been offered slots at Express FM in Portsmouth, the good folks at Phonic FM on their new 'Waves with Words' programme, Spoken/Written stalls and places to sell 'Porlock'...The excellent charity bookshop Bookcycle who run a donation-only bookshop - an amazing place with lots of unexpected gems, tucked away inside the higgledy piggedly Tudor building - who plant trees and send books to education projects in Africa are interested in a small press event for Cartwheels Collective Publishing, the publishing arm of the Collective... The summer is booking up apace...Just as the leaves have sprung into life and the buttercups are livid gold against the brightening greens, so everything else seems to starts happening and gathering momentum. Pip pip!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Merry Merry Month of May

Wow. Sometimes - especially after filling in lengthy forms to uncertain ends, overworked festival organizers deciding that instead of this or that which you actually offered, they'd rather you built them a willow cave instead, and you nearly agreeing to it, until you work out the time involved for the money you're likely to make there and pulling out, sending off work to magazines that may reply sometime near Doomsday, etc., etc., - sometimes something happens that makes you remember why you became an artist (storyteller/writer/poet/whatever) in the first place. Such a thing was this Beltane weekend. We were off in the newly converted storytelling van (thanks Wayne of Van-tastic! fellow member of the Collective) to perform at the Outlore Festival - a private event and one of the most sought-after on the Live Action Role Play or LARP circuit. The site was amazing as always (it was our fourth time there, and our third Outlore) - a beautifully atmospheric Dark Age settlement set in an idyllic stretch of countryside near Okehampton. To add to the river, bluebells, and all the rest, in a clearing in the forest over a causeway on a hill is a small village of roundhouse, Viking longhouse and many other huts and structures and a wonderful attention to detail. There's always something going on and something to look at! And this time was no exception. It may not be straight re-enactment, for instance the 'baddies' are monsters not people, and the paying player-characters ultimately win, but it has a fine feel of authenticity nonetheless. Highlights were the invasion of the settlement by the (very tall!) wolf warrior, the coming into being of the bull god, and the entrance of Hel complete with a raven. There was a new fort built to house the enemy, and a skeleton hanging from a gibbet one could see for miles. Unlike some other places, it looked scarier the closer one got! and the constant sound of war drums added massively to the sense of impending storm. The weather (as at the other two Festivals) was perfect, and in the evening, few places are as lovely seen lit up. Our stories of fools, daydreamers and wisecracks made folk laugh out loud, while they waited for the siege, our riddles perplexed, and our epic battle poetry from Egil's Saga pleased the warriors. And we got more 'gold' and 'treasure' than ever before! as well as a fair share of mead. Music was by the excellent Goliards, in the evening and the lanterns and torches amongst all the film-like setting, with the spring leaves and the latticework of the branches on a clear darkening blue sky with a bright half moon above was simply magical. But the biggest thrill for me during Sunday was when the falconer let me hold the large raven on my wrist - it stood there majestically, and then tore a mouse to shreds that someone had bought it. It felt a strange privilege to have this large flying creature so close. The evening and sunset were about as heavenly as May offers, and in doing the last verse of the 7th century (possibly) poem 'Widsith' as Widsith, as the poet explains and justifies his position in Dark Age society, it made me feel connected - as ever - with the long line of 'Widsiths'...and all in all, I was reminded - yes, that's why I became a performer...! 
   Huge thanks to Dave and Jon of Tyburn Jig and the Dumnonni Chronicles for inviting us again, and to Dave for his immense feats of organization for the whole Outlore adventure, also to all the warriors, damsels and healers who liked our tales and gave us things, the Goliards of course, and especially to the falconer!