Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Looking forward to 2010

2009 turned out to be a busy year for me. So busy in fact that I didn't have time to post about everywhere I told. For that reason this year I shall only blog about places I've not told at before, which is already considerable. I've new bookings at The King of Hearts Arts Centre in Norwich, The Bishops Palace in Wells, Devizes International Street Festival and some folk festivals like Folk by the Oak which takes place in the grounds of Hatfield House north of London. A full list of where I'm working this year can be found on the Diary page of my website and it's updated regularly.

That said I feel I should mention some of the places I did tell at this year but did not get a mention in 2009....

First there was the English Heritage Festival of History at Kelmarsh in July. To tell you the truth its not my favourite event, because it is huge. Too much going on for me, and the main focus is on warfare throughout the ages. If I were feeling uncharitable I might call it the Festival of Death! But that is a bit unfair for amidst the various armies that go from the Romans right through to the present, there are also dedicated living history groups that demonstrate everyday life from long ago. there are also a lot of female re-enactors who present what life was like for women who had to get on with life regardless of whether or not their husband was at home or fighting on a far off battlefield. I can't deny that the Festival offers something for every one and you can even talk to an early 2oth century Arctic explorer in full kit whilst the Kids are put through their paces by a second world war drill Sergeant, or have a go at medieval jousting, or even play some Roman games!

I also spent a week camping in Sherwood Forest whilst telling as part of Past-Imagined with Stewart Alexander.....

The Past-Imagined Storytelling tent in Sherwood Forest
Click on any image to make larger

We have been telling at their annual Robin Hood Festival for the last five years now and its probably one of my favourite if also the most tiring events of the year. Not only does the festival have all sorts of great entertainment from jesters to dancing demons, but the emphasis is on fun and not authenticity. This gives you a bit of licence to be creative! There is also the dated but wonderful visitors centre which will be going soon. It will be a real loss because the exhibits do focus on the magic of Robin Hood and the Greenwood, which is something I think will be lost when the centre is rebuilt. I fear it will be all about the facts and doubt there will a place for Hearne the Hunter and the Green man! The other reason I enjoy Sherwood is the camping and the privilege of staying in the greenwood. I like being in any wood, but there is something quite dark, yet exhilarating about Sherwood, which I think has a lot to do with the huge amount of ancient Oaks that still survive in what is today a very small piece of woodland. And what makes them all the more spectacular is the fact that they show their age. Many are 'stag oaks' whose gnarled twisted branches make them look like boney old giants pushing aside everything in their way...

A very gnarled but still very alive veteran oak

One of many detailed interpretive panels in Sherwood

There are other places I missed posting about, but I'll finish with the Open Christmas event at St Andrews Hall in Norwich. Its been running on Christmas Day for many years now, but this is the first time I've told there. And its not just for the homeless either. Anyone who is feeling a bit lonely can come and I think I'm right in saying that whole families turn up! Certainly there is a great atmosphere and there are lots of activities from carole singing to bingo. Although what struck me most was that most people were just happy to chat and catch up with friends of old, which I suppose is what Christmas should be all about. I was also struck by the level of dedication by all the staff on site, for there are decorations which must have been done prior to the event, also cooking, collection of food for people to take home with them and also cars and taxis to ferry people to and from the event. It made my 30 minutes on stage look like nothing at all!

So here's to all of the volunteers at the Open Christmas event and also the staff and volunteers at many a museum, heritage site, festival and fair who helped make 2009 a great one for me. And here's to an even more eventful 2010!