Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Williamsons, Jess Smith and the Traveller Tradition

Centre Stage on the Storytelling Centre’s main auditorium sits a wooden chair with the name Duncan Williamson etched into it. It is to honour a man now passed but one that imbues the place with a strong sense of the storytelling tradition. Duncan hailed from a traveller family and was born in 1928, to an indigenous Scots family who continue to travel the land and in doing o preserve the culture. When other communities were settling into industrialised towns the travellers continued to move seasonally for work and continued to tell their children and family stories.

Duncan as a wee lad loved the tradition and would lesson and remember the stories he was told as his family moved about. The Scottish Studies centre at the Edinburgh University has recordings of him taling the tales and his wife Linda helped to record and now publish the stories in several books. The keepsake I have brought home is ‘The King and the Lamp: Scottish Traveller Tales’. Pictured is Linda and two of Duncan’s children.
Seated is Grace Banks who also honoured the traveller tradition by singing a song taught to her by Stanley Robertson and told a story of fellow traveller Jess Smith, ‘Lunaria’ from Jess’s collection ‘Sooking Berries”. Grace did a fantastic job of telling Jess’s story and created the eerie sense of mystery surrounding the beautiful women of the story. Her singing was superb and according to Marion Kenny she had echoed Stanley Robertson in timing and intonation. Some of the highlights, for me of All Hallow’s eve.

Edinburgh goes off on this night and the streets were full of young people dressed for the occasion .

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Night of the Circle: Stories from the Otherworld ; AUTHENTIC VOICES

Huge Festival Hightlight

31st of the October is the night the Devil is loose! Keep within the circle to be safe from evil on Halloween. Linda Williamson had set the stage with pumpkins decorated to represented Gods and spirits from North, South, East and West. Stories were presented by the Internationals guest to the festival including myself, Ragimoana Taylor NZ, Amina Blackwood Meeks, Jamaica, Gayle Ross Cherokee and Grace Banks from Aberdeen. John Slavin and Linda interspersed with music and songs.

Australia and Scotland

Sean Choolburra , Jess Smith and Anne E Stewart celebrate their love and respect for the land in an evening of fantastically haunting stories, songs and dance, music and spleen-splitting comedy.

Jess Smith was our host for the evening and with her knowledge of Scottish indidgenous traveller tales we were off to a great start. Her passion for her people and their treatment by Scottish Government has a lot in common with Sean. He was totally engaging and funny and danced and sang and gave everyone a sense of indigenous culture. I shared a couple of stories but was very proud to share with them the Story of Barak, the Last of the Wurrundjeri who was supported and championed by a Scottish woman Anne Fraser Bon ( nee Dougall).

The Scottish centre was pleased to hear of her early efforts at reconciliation and they loved it so much they have asked for a copy of the story. Having visited her home town of Dunning in Perthshire I had a greater understanding of the woman and her cultural background.

Tell a Story Day: Australian Tales

Spent the afternoon in the Edinburgh Gardens telling stories about Australia. Pictured with events manager Ian Edwards and Amina Blackwood Meeks and me telling in the amazing brand new John Hope Gateway Centre, it is the most fantastic place. They even had a Woolami Pine in the entrance area

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Carribean Night

Mara Menzies kicked of the night with a short story before she introduced her guests the all singing, all dancing, vivacious Amina Blackwood Meeks and writer poet Joan Anim-Addo. Mara is a glorious young creature who is passionate about sharing her African/ Scottish Heritage. She spent her first 13 years in Kenya and her repertoire includes traditional folklore such as ‘How the cat came to live indoors’ and ‘The Seven Day Story’, to stories based on actual historical characters such as Kenyan freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi. (Website: )
Amina Blackwook-Meeks is one of the more prominent leading storytellers from Jamaica. This cultural icon lives in Jamaica but performs worldwide. Her stories, always entertaining, involve a political bent. Well versed in politics, Amina strives to entertain her audience while relating direct messages about politics and culture of the Caribbean and worldwide. Her educational background includes government, theatre and education, and she draws upon all of these in her varied performances.
She has been referred to as "One of the most dynamic and charismatic proponents of storytelling; a special and rare talent". Amina Blackwood Meeks, has dedicated her life's work to restoring the art form of traditional Caribbean storytelling. "She has broad experience as a practitioner: writing and performing contemporary work for adults and children, organizing the first Caribbean storytelling festival in 1994 and teaching others the skills and ideas to continue the art form which is at the bed rock of Caribbean culture."

Festival on Tour: Headed to Ullapool

After spending Tuesday at a school in North Berwick (an hour on the train from Edinburgh) my friend Angela visiting from Australia and I headed north for my Show at the Ullapool Museum. “An Australian Heart and a Scottish Soul” We hired a car so we could take in the scenery, so it was north to Inverness and the across the River Ness and onto Ullapool. A picturesque fishing village nestled on the side of Lochbroom we had the great fortune to be booked into one of Ullapool’s most legendary places, “The Ceilidh place” (pronounced Kale e )

My dream place, no TV’s but a bath, a bookshop, great artwork on the walls and each room stocked with a library of interesting titles. A huge lounge with dozens of comfy couches and an honesty bar stocked with all your favourite drops. A great and interested crowd for the stories, followed by whisky and plenty of blether.

Mara Menzies and a Home cooked Meal

Mara (pictured with her daughter) came over to collect Amina so they could plan what they were going to do for their Caribbean Night. After sharing some conversation with Sean and Ragiamona Taylor from New Zealand, I was invited to join them as they headed off. I thought we were going to the Storytelling Centre but we ended up in the suburbs of Edinburgh enjoying a meal with her family and friends. An interesting night as several of the guests also had African Heritage and stories and ideas were bouncing around the room. They all seemed to enjoy having the very knowledgeable Amina to discuss ideas

Smokey Mountain Men

Jerry Harmon is an Appalachian Mountain Man and he tells Jack tales and sings mountain songs. He was joined by local teller Ewan McVicar who has an extensive knowledge of Scottish Songs and how they have travelled the world. His repertoire is extensive even running to plenty of Aussie songs. I could see him having a great deal of fun with our own legendary Danny Spooner. Pictured with Amina and Annie

Sean Choolburra: Deadly Aussie Storyteller at the Scottish Museum

Went along to watch Sean’s show and say Giddaye for our upcoming performance. This fella is lively and energetic and incredibly funny. Starts his show playing the didge, does a great story about how the greedy frill necked licked gets his frill and engaged the audience by getting them to help tell his crocodile story. DEADLY