Often after storytellings I get asked general questions, so I thought, in case anyone was wondering, I’d answer a couple of the most regular ones here this month:
How did you get started?
A long, long time ago, in the ’80s, I was playing in a band. The other band members used to spend lots of time adjusting sounds and effects between each song. Being the bassist it was left to me to fill the “dead air” so I began reciting Lewis Carrol and constructing elaborate introductions to the folk songs. I found I enjoyed talking with the audience and wanted to do more. Then my parents took me along to the village gardening club Christmas dinner for company. For entertainment they had a lady reciting her own Pam Ayres style poems who was reasonably amusing for 10 minutes but 40 minutes was more than enough. With the arrogance of youth I said to my Dad “I could have done better than that”, so, being a committee member, the following year he said “I’ll put my money where your mouth is” and booked me to be the entertainment. Although my parents had always been very tolerant of my artistic activities, they had never appeared to take them seriously before so I was a bit surprised and determined not to let my father down. I scarfed up a bunch of Norse Gods stories and, (despite years of theatrical and musical performance experience) shaking like a leaf on a very breezy day, I stood up on my own and did my first storytelling… and was immediately booked for a gig in a local pub as a result!
Where do the stories come from?
In short “Days of Yore”!
I like stories with a bit of history, tales that have been matured in oak or earth and have roots that can be traced back through time. A recent lead took me to the Sumerian legends, written on clay tablets four and a half thousand years ago by the inventors of agriculture and the builders of the first cities, but they still speak strongly to us today. Some of the more widely spread “world stories” are even believed to have first been breathed in to life at the firesides of the tribes migrating out of africa for the very first time.
I’m a storyteller because I love the stories. Over the years I have collected about 6 metres of books filled with myths, legends and folktales. They cover not just those original Norse Gods but the popular Celtic hero cycles, great stores of British folk tales harvested during the 18th and 19th centuries and collections from across Europe and beyond.
A lot of the original material was the entertainment of kings and warriors in their feasting halls, from the roundhouses of the Celts and longhouses of the Saxons to medieval banquets. These stories were told again in great barns for the festivities of ordinary communities and at Victorian parlour recitals before TV dumbed us all down. Many tales were created or kept alive at pub firesides (which still make some of my best regular bookings), where people can relax with a drink and enjoy being taken on an adventure.
So how do you remember them all?
When I first started it was really hard but, like any muscle, the more you use your memory the easier it gets. If the story means something to you, then you get involved in the telling and it unfolds naturally as if there is no other way it could. As it happens, the myths of the Norse Gods are some of the hardest to remember and if I hadn’t started with them I might never have got round to them. Why? Because everything, every hall, every animal, every utensil, every rock, everything in the story has a name. In Old Norse.
So it’s actually your job then?
Yes indeed! Other things have grown from it over the years like historic interpretation, guided story walks and workshops for schools. I still make some of my income with my trusty bass and the odd bit of sound work but it’s, more often than not, the magic of the Gods, the strength of ancient heroes and the wit of clever princesses that pays my mortgage.
How do you get work?
Being freelance is a tough business, my partner Jo acts as my agent and we are always on the lookout for places we think would make good venues, so if you know of any likely spots for tales do let me (or the venue) know. I often get the best tellings when people like you decide you want it to happen.
…here’s to living happily ever after, until the next adventure.
The Travelling Talesman www.thetravellingtalesman.co.uk