‘Storie Storie?’… ‘Storie!’ The call and response from Alim Kamara, British-Sierra Leonean rapper and storyteller who spun the audience into a web of wonder about Anansi the spider. It wasn’t my first storytelling event, but it was my first festival, and it was like being cast under some otherworldly spell. The stories wove around me and into my bones through the wild words of tellers old and new. A far cry from hushed libraries, the audience shouted, whooped, passed round singing bowls and threw tulle scarves in the air. We laughed from the place inside us that made our eyes twinkle.
I sat in awe listening to Taffy Thomas, arguably one of the world’s best storytellers and I dove deep into womanhood through Clare Murphy’s phenomenal show ‘The 9 Muses of Queen’s Crescent’. I camped right next to Dave Tonge who kindly made me morning tea after a stove failure. This was just before I realised what a storytelling legend he is and was then very embarrassed to have asked. I needn’t have been, that’s the kind of people storytellers are: humble gifters, warmers of hearts (and tea).
The days were a family affair with children’s tales which enchanted my small twins to a stillness I’ve not seen in the six months since. The evenings were handed to the adults, with wilder themes which made me laugh, cry, and at times completely baffled me. I travelled to the festival solo and left with stories singing from my heart. They were buzzing from my lips, wanting to be retold in the only indelible voice that, I was told, could map them in my memory: my own.
Being devoted to the written word, it was a strange thing to be around these tellers who linked paper with the loss of traditional storytelling skills. Hearing my children repeat Anansi almost word for word though, taught me a powerful lesson: oral storytelling is a precious art which the written word simply cannot replicate. Whilst I remain convinced that life without a pencil isn’t a life for me, I’ve also worked on speaking from the voice and heart in the months since the festival. It’s grown my world and my love of stories in a way I never thought possible, and it confirmed everything I already knew about the wonder of my previous traditional storytelling experiences.
The East Anglian Storytelling Festival is taking place this year on 12th-14th May 2023 at the wonderful Food Museum in Stowmarket. I’ve already booked my ticket and am unfurling my hand ready for a rich tapestry of new stories to fly in. I hope you’ll join me.
If you’re looking to connect with other writers and storytellers before then, maybe pop along to my super chilled monthly writers group held in Halesworth, Suffolk. It’s on the first Sunday of every month 2-4 pm and we would love to have you.
Contact email@example.com to book, or for more information. Hopefully see you there.