Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer events

It was a very busy summer and so here are some of the high points.....

In early July I was telling as part of the Lord Mayors Celebrations in Norwich. It was on St Georges Green which has just been opened up to events after the whole area has been refurbished, repaved and the like. A great place near the City Art College to relax and even take in a bit of culture on the edge of a busy city....

Information Panel at St George's green
Click on any image to make larger

Entrance to St George's Green
Over the newly restored 18th century St George's bridge

Art on the Green

Relaxing on the Green

My storytelling space on the Green

The following day I was at St Benedict's Street Fair in Norwich. This was a real eye opener for me, for to tell the truth I didn't realise they did stuff like this in Norwich! The whole street and others besides were shut off (It was Sunday anyway) and some of the shop owners and other traders set up outside. But there were also lots of performers, singers, street artists and the like and it all made for a very laid back afternoon. I was telling in a churchyard, which is now part of an arts centre and the crowds were well up for a tale or two or three!

Traders and on St Benedict's Street

Performance on the street...

Sustenance on the street....

Relaxing on the street!

The Spoken Word stage at St Bendict's Street Fair

Later in July I was at Folk by the Oak at Hatfield House near London.
I've told at a few music festivals recently, but this was one of the best. Not least because it was a folk festival with only one stage, so I had plenty of opportunity to get in some stories and a folk crowd always appreciates a good story. Some great young singers who are on the way up and all topped off with Bellowhead, who some purists don't like, but I thought were fantastic. Really got the crowd going, although they did take the piss out of Norwich!

What also stood out were all the oaks at Hatfield, hence the name of the festival. Its said that Elizabeth 1st was given the news that her half sister Mary was dead and that she was now Queen under one of them. Although many of the older oaks have now gone, but some still remain or at least the concrete cores that the misguided Victorians once poured inside them.

Crowds beginning to gather in front of the stage

Remains of concrete
Which was once inside now missing section of this oak

Victorian conservation at its worst!

I then continued on to the Cambridge Folk Festival. Although my time there was cut short, I did enjoy what I saw, with so many stages for both established and new acts. I was telling with John Row and he wangled back stage passes for the main stage which boosted me ego and there's nothing wrong with a bit of ego. As someone said to me just last week, if you don't blow your own horn it'll go rusty - Wise words indeed!

There was lots going on, but I enjoyed the ceilidh sessions best. Just watching everyone trying to get their heads around the moves made me smile as much as all of they were. Every one was having a great time dancing with people they had never met before. That's why I like ceilidhs, everyone can join in and even a crap dancer like me can not make a fool of themselves....

The main stage at Cambridge Folk Festival

The storytelling area at Cambridge

Enjoying a ceilidh at Cambridge

Most of August was dominated by places like Sherwood, Ickworth and Kelling where I have told before, but then I went to Devizes International Street Festival. It was a bigger version of the St Benedict's fair except it took up the whole town center. What stood out for me was the local indoor markets where you could buy anything from a second world war ARP Warden's helmet to a Victorian sandwich sponge or even a Canterbury Tales DVD in Russian!

The best thing however were all the great street entertainers and I couldn't help thinking that many a storyteller could learn lots from them, especially when it comes to connecting with a large crowd of people. They included mad WI type men/women roaring about on motorised shopping trolleys and doing displays on said trolleys to rap music. There was also a very different mix of brass band married with some hardcore drumming! But best of all was a wonderful display of puppetry and mime by a group called Nakupelle who put on a performance with life sized puppets that were down on the ground at one moment, crawling around sniffing and hugging the crowd, and then were soaring high above heads the next. They were brilliant. This was storytelling without words...

Drum and Brass!

More Drum and Brass

Even more by my storytelling space

Nakupelle in action

Amazing things with glass balls!

Formation Shopping Trolleys!

And finaly over the holidays I was telling at Rochester Castle. The Tong side of my family came from Kent about 100 years ago, so its always good to get back there and Rochester is not far from where they lived. In some ways most visitors don't see the best of Kent because they are flying up the M20 or M2 to Canterbury or Dover. That's sad, because places like Rochester are fantastic, especially if you're into the historical stuff like me. Both the castle and nearby cathedral are still Norman through and through. It really is like stepping back 900 years There are not many Norman castle Keeps as complete as at Rochester and if your'e into a bit of early medieval Romanesques architecture then you can no better than the Cathedral. A local told me that even after a fire in the nave in the early forteenth century they still rebuilt in the old style, which is unuseual. Normally they would use a disaster like that to rebuild in the latest fashion. I had thought that perhaps it was a far sighted respnse from the local Bishop; perhaps having seen changes elsewhere and wanting to save the old styles for posterity, but no. As the local informed me, they just didn't have enough money to completely rebuild anyway! But that's good with me, for nessesity 700 hundred odd years ago has left Rochester with a almost unique, and I think honest cathedral.

That was great, but because I was staying on site all weekend I also had the oportunity to visit some of the villages my family lived in long, long ago. Places like Egerton where some were buried in the late eighteenth century. I couldn't pinpoint their graves, but the churchayrd was a peaceful place, set on a rise overlooking fields and orchards and a well away from the M20!

Rochester Cathedral at dawn

The Cathedral from the top of the Norman keep

The Romanesque 'Norman' nave

The original entrance to the Chapter House
Rochester Cathedral Cloister

Model of Rochester Castle Keep

Rochester Castle Keep

The three floors of the Keep

Door and tunnel set into Keep wall

View of my tent and other traders/performers from top of Keep
Also Victorian Bridges and Medway

Late seventeenth century grave from Egerton churchyard