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!


  1. Wow THAT sounds amazing! Do they do it every year?...I would really love to see that piece of time stitched into ours, to feel it's fascinating weave.

  2. And have a chance to hear your stories too!