(12th. Sept. 2002)
THE WIZARD OF THE NORTH!
I am currently researching the 10th. Century Scottish wizard, Michael Scot – I intend to place a number of folklore stories about this character in my ‘Magictales’ pages.
It is my belief that he is the original archetypal wizard, with the tall, conical hat and long robes decorated with moons and stars, etc.
There is however a second, 13th. Century ‘wizard’ named Michael Scot. He is said to be an ancestor of Sir Walter Scott, who bestowed upon his forebear the title, 'Wizard of the North’. As a result of this and of references made by the famous Scottish writer to his ancestor’s dabbling in alchemy, many of the stories found in the folklore of the first, are being attributed to the latter!
I think that Sir Walter Scott has mischievously created the myth that his ancestor was a wizard and credited him with the mystical powers that actually belonged to the earlier character.
The 13th. Century Scot was a scholar and much is known about his academic life. Because of Sir Water Scott’s illustrious place in Scottish history, perhaps subsequent historians have accepted his interpretation of the legend without question.
If anyone out there has any additional information, I would be pleased to hear from you. The tales that I am unearthing are fascinating!
N.B. I have obtained a number of copies of an out of print book entitled, "The Wizard, The Worms and Robin Hood", written by George K. Smith. Much of the material is about the earlier Michael Scot and is a fascinating read. If you are interested
for more information.
(17th. Sept. 2002)
A PIRATE PROBLEM - CAN YOU HELP?
I have today received an email from Judy Rodgers. She is trying to track down a pirate poem told to her long ago. She remembers only a tiny part: - 'Pirate Dan Durdle, Dundee, As wicked as wicked can be'.....and that he wore a purple cloak and twirled his crooked moustache...! There should be enough in those few words, to identify the poem to anyone who knows it. I would love to see the full text myself - it sounds like a 'fun' piece. So if anyone out there can help, both Judy and I will be most grateful!
(6th. Oct. 2002) PIRATE PROBLEM (Resolved).
For those who have been waiting with baited breath for a result to my request for information about a pirate poem (both of you!), With a little help from Kate in Edinburgh (Thanks Kate), who pointed me in the right direction – I have found it!
Anyone interested in looking it up will find it on: www.cswnet.co,/~erin/child.htm
The correct title is “Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee” and was written by Mildred Plews Meigs. My thanks to those of you who responded and showed interest.
(14th. Nov. 2002) CHRISTMAS.
Christmas is a time for storytelling. When the turkey has been consumed and the table cleared, that is the time for the family to gather around the fire and swap stories. It usually begins with reminiscences, “Do you remember that Christmas when Uncle Charlie dropped his pipe in his lap and burned a hole in his trouser leg? Auntie Josie didn’t half give him what for!”
Of course it is not like that any more! Families are now more likely to settle in front of the television and watch endless repeats of programmes they have seen many times before. Sadly, this has become the 'new' tradition.
However there are little pockets of resistance! Taffy Thomas has a lovely event in Grasmere, “Christmas in the Storyteller’s Garden”. Braziers are lit, everyone wraps up, Taffy begins with a couple of stories and away they go! Singers, musicians and storytellers contribute through the evening and Chrissie Thomas dispenses warming refreshments. There is often a performance by the Eden Valley Mummers and then the Wassail Cup is passed around! – You can’t get much more traditional than that!
It is on Wednesday, 18th. December and starts about 7.30pm. Ring Taffy on 015394 35641 for further details.
We also are presenting an event in Blackpool at the Stanley Park Conservatory Studio. We are calling it, “Stories and Songs around the Christmas Tree”. The Salvation Army are providing musicians, Southlands High School are sending their pupil storytellers, we are hoping also to have a local school choir and a team of handbell ringers in attendance. Yours truly will of course, be making a contribution. This takes place on Tuesday, 10th December and commences at 6.30 pm. The telephone number to call for more information is 01253 478428.
Why don’t YOU organise something similar in your area? I can tell you that the children will love it!
In the meantime, as promised, I am opening up a new page of stories for Christmas. Only two to begin with but there will be more – more still if YOU would like to make a contribution! Keep your eye on the navigation bars for access and I’ll see you there!
CHRISTMAS STORYTELLING AT SELFRIDGES
Those of you living within travelling distance of Manchester's Trafford Centre, might like to know that I shall be telling stories in the book department of Selfridges each Saturday and Sunday from November 15th. until December 22nd. Do come and say, 'Hello!'
(19th Dec. 2002)
I have been having a busy time this last couple of weeks (If we are not busy at this time of the year - when?!), so in order to catch up, here is a summary of activities:
(Dec.5th) As Storyteller in Residence, I attended the Arrival of Father Christmas at Selfridges in the Trafford Centre. He arrived on a sleigh drawn appropriately by reindeer (Purists might suggest that it is Santa Claus and NOT Father Christmas who travels in this manner – we may one day discuss the various international differences between the seasonal gift-bringers. In many ways they are quite different).
This event was followed on Dec. 7th – again at Selfridges with a ‘Breakfast with Father Christmas' event'. About forty children with their families turned up and I along with two clowns provided the entertainment. There is nothing quite so rewarding as ‘Jollying people up’ at 9.o’clock in the morning! (Yeah right!)
(Dec. 9th) The first of three evenings entertaining at the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston. I may elaborate on this experience at a later date!
(Dec. 10th.) SONGS AND STORIES AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE.
A very pleasant evening at Blackpool’s Stanley Park Conservatory, beautifully decorated by the park staff. Entertainment was provided by The Blackpool Citadel Salvation Army Band, The Singing Company and a tambourine display by the Junior Timbrells. Stories from yours truly and the talented pupils of Southlands High School from Chorley.
(Dec.15th) A long trip up to 'The Borders' to entertain the children of the Eden Valley Children’s Hospice. The location was Dalston Hall Hotel (about 8 miles south of Carlisle) – The children were a delight and both they and their parents a lesson in fortitude.
Dalston Hall is a converted medieval baronial hall with a fascinating history and several active ghosts! I will write more about this place another time.
(Dec.18th) CHRISTMAS IN THE STORYTELLER’S GARDEN
Taffy Thomas hosted another magical evening at his Grasmere location. The weather was COLD but dry. A full moon illuminated the clear sky as Taffy and Mike O’Connor presented extracts from their just completed northern tour of schools, storytelling clubs, W.I.’s and community centres.
Panikatak sang and played, Andy Whitfield brought his Lancaster Millennium Choir, who sang beautifully and the ‘Froddle Crook Mummers' gave us a traditional ‘Hero/Combat' presentation.
George Harrison once more donned his Father Christmas suit and whiskers (sorry kids, it was George again! – The real thing doesn’t come until Christmas Eve!)
Refreshment was provided by Chrissie Thomas in the form of Taffy’s potent ‘Wassail Cider’ and brandy-laced mince pies also helped to keep out the cold!
The evening concluded around 9.30 p.m. and many of us headed for the local hostelry for a bowl of warming soup – It really was a VERY COLD night! – Another super evening and I am sure that we will all be back again next year.
N.B. It Was nice to see Honor Giles, High Priestess of Manchester’s ‘Word of Mouth’ club, make the relatively long journey from Lymm to attend the event.
Not so happy was the news that Taffy and Mike were robbed in Liverpool whilst on their tour. They had stopped off for a well earned Chinese meal. When they returned to Taffy’s ‘Tale-Mobile’, they discovered a smashed window and most of their ‘props’, costumes and C.D.’s gone! Included among the stolen items were Mike’s fiddle and concertina – they were left with little more than they stood up in!
They managed to borrow a fiddle and concertina from a couple of folk musician friends and were able to continue the tour – but the experience obviously took some of the pleasure from the trip.
I am off up to Scotland for Christmas and New Year, so in case I don’t manage get any more news to you before I go, let me now wish you all – THE HAPPIEST OF CHRISTMASES AND MOST PEACEFUL OF NEW YEARS!
A MEETING WITH GOTHS!
On the 1st. 2nd. & 9th. November 2003 I was in Coventry, telling stories in Waterstone’s Bookshop.
Quite an enjoyable experience. Sunday, 2nd. was particularly interesting because my audience
for the 2.o’clock session consisted of about ten or a dozen ‘Goths' aged around 17 or 18 years,
dressed all in black with the usual array of rings through their noses, ears, eyebrows, lips and goodness knows where else(!).
It was of course Hallowe’en weekend and they were still in the ‘spirit’ (so to speak!). They first of all visited the face painter to have their faces painted – in a variety of grotesque horror designs – and then demanded to know, “When is the Storyteller on?”
I was warned in advance and asked if I wanted them excluded, I was after all, there to entertain
the children. I was quite happy to let them come along and they sat on the floor as good as gold! There were also two or three of my usual customers (children of about four or five years) along with some
parents and the whole session proceeded famously!
The teenagers actually wanted to stay for the 3.30 session but the Manageress asked them not to as
their presence might discourage some of the mothers from bringing their children to the event! The ‘Goths’ fully understood and politely thanked everyone concerned for an enjoyable afternoon!
"YO HO HO!"
On Wednesday 5th. I travelled to Angelsey in North Wales to entertain about 200 'year seven' school
children with my ‘Pirate Tales’ presentation. They were children from a secondary school in Nantwich, enjoying a ‘Residential Week’ at The Canolfan Conway Centre.
(26th. Nov. 2003)
I spotted this quotation recently in Waterstone’s bookshop:
“Never lend your books for they will not be returned – My library only contains books that have been lent to me!”
13th. March 2004 – update
We have been out of commission for nearly a week with a nasty virus infection and the computer
has been hospitalised!
Prior to, during and since all that, I have been working in schools – lots of them. Two, three and sometimes four performances per day!
When I was just a magical children’s entertainer, the months following Christmas, from a working
point of view, were pretty sparse. Now that I am a “Storyteller”, things have changed. We now have National Storytelling Week, commencing on the first week in February and my mail-shots for that go out before the schools break for the Christmas Holiday. I usually have two or three dates in the diary before Christmas.
At the end of January, I am promoting World Book Week (World Book Day is March 4th.) with my libraries orientated, “Books Are Magic!” presentation. I can usually put together three solid weeks of work for each of the featured periods. And so has it been.
I shall be discussing my methods for generating business in my workshop, "MAKING CONNECTIONS" at the SfS Gathering in Penrith, next month and suggesting ways in which YOU can fill YOUR diary!
Last weekend (Friday & Saturday 5th. & 6th.) I was performing in ‘Percy Piecrust’
mode, at a large local Garden Centre. It was fairly quiet on the Friday, but plenty of children to
entertain on Saturday. I even managed to fit in two storytelling sessions that were quite successful. I have thought for some time that garden centres are very suitable locations for storytellers.
On Sunday 7th. I ran two workshops of three hours duration, at Myerscough College (Nr. Preston). It was part of a training weekend for childminders, promoted by Blackpool Borough
Council’s, Early Years Development & Childcare Partnership. There was a host of training activities
over the two days. My remit was to deliver workshops on ‘Storytelling’ and ‘Story Sacks’. There were about twenty participants at each event and I found it very enjoyable (although I have to admit that three hours is a long time to talk about Story Sacks!).
As a result of all of the above, I missed the February and March meetings of The Lakeland Storytelling Club, held at Ings in Cumbria!
July 29th. 2004 – update.
I have been quite active during the last couple of months, high-school ‘Intake Days’, ‘Sure-Start’ and other pre-school childminder’s organised activities in the area and beyond. 'The Ormskirk Comes Alive!’ Festival was very enjoyable and I even managed a short trip up to Scotland!
Next month, I am at two presentations at which the general public are invited to attend. The first is on Saturday 14th.August when I shall be conducting a Story-walk along the Lancaster Canal. The title of the event is ‘Tales & Legends of the North-west’. The story-walk commences at 1.00pm starting from Bilsborrow Village Hall, on the A6 between Preston and Garstang and concludes at the same place at about 4.00 pm. Anyone wishing to come along should telephone the Garstang Discovery Centre (01995 602125) – but not before August 1st.
Later in the month I shall be participating (along with many other storytellers) in a nine-day event entitled:
'TALES FROM THE TEES' (Tees-forest Storytelling Festival – 21st. to 29th. August 2004).
My itinerary looks like this - do come and say 'Hello' if you are in the area.
23.08.04 - Albert Park, Middlesborough (1.30 - 4.30) – two, 40-minute presentations of 'Stories with Magic'.
24.08.04 - Woodland Centre, Saltburn, (10.00 - 3.00) - 11.00pm Tales of 'The Green Man’ - 2.00 'Pirate Tales'.
25.08.04 - Drinkfield Marsh, Darlington, (10.30 - 12.30) 'Teddy Bear Tales'.
27.08.04 - Preston Park, Stockton, (1.00 - 4.00) – two, 40 minute sessions of 'The Green Man’ stories.
29.08.04 - Woodland Park, Cowpen Bewley, (2.00 - 5.00) Interactive
workshops/story-rounds - predominantly for adults.
Taffy & Chrissie Thomas are both away next week (30th. July – August 6th.), attending the Sidmouth Folk Festival. This means that for the first time in ten years, neither will be present to run the August meeting of The Lakeland Storytelling Club (Tuesday 3rd. 7.30pm). In their wisdom (?), they have invited me to host the evening!
THE LAKELAND STORYTELLING FESTIVAL (September 24th. – 26th)
will soon be upon us – Is it already ten months since the last one?! Performers booked thus far include:
Rory McLeod, Duncan Williamson, ‘Spud’nYam’ (N’zinga & Kate Corkery), Pamela Marre, Mike O’Connor, Keith Donnelly, Sunshine Arts, The Fosbrooks, plus others in negotiation. This year’s theme is entitled: ‘Blowins’ meaning stories brought in from other cultures by those from nationalities who have settled in England – some from long ago and others more recently. There will be more and I will let you know as soon they are ‘firmed up’.
22nd. April 2005 - update
I have been away visiting relatives in Colchester. It is a beautiful part of the country and while there, I took a trip to the Suffolk village of Hartest.
Taffy Thomas has a story that has intrigued me since I first heard him tell it a couple of years ago.
It seems that at the start of the 1914/18 war, like many others, the men of Hartest were called to serve their country.
Several of them, prior to leaving, nailed a coin to a beam in The Crown Hotel. The intention being that on their return from the war, the men would use the coin to purchase their first pint.
There are a number of holes visible, showing where coins have been removed. There are also quite a number of coins still nailed to the beam - testament to those who didn't return. A poignant memorial indeed!
Being so close to the location (Colchester is about 25 miles from Hartest), I felt the need to go and see the coins for myself. It is a sobering sight.
If YOU should ever be in the area, do go. It is a lovely village situated between Bury St. Edmunds and Sudbury.