Saturday, May 19, 2012

Donington Le Heath Manor House & Norwich GuildHall

It has been a busy month this May - From Hatfield to the Birmingham Storytelling Cafe and then to Donington Le Heath and back to Norwich Guildhall.

All have been great places to tell, but I am particularly drawn to the historic buildings. Donington was amazing and I just wish I had had more time  to check it out and take pictures. It was like stepping back into the 13th century, because apart from some 17th modernisation the hall has remained much as it would have been in the first few centuries after building. Although it was suggested to me that it might be older still and grown out of a Saxon long house. I like the blend of medieval and early modern architecture and it all fits together to make a comfortable house that I'd be more than happy to call my own! I'm not sure I would have been able to afford it even back then, for it was at one time a gentlemans residence, albeit a notorious one at that. It was non other than Sir Everard Digby, one of the Gun Powder Plotters. Its fortunes were not always that grand, even becoming a pigsty at one point, which is perhaps why the medieval  building survived, unspoilt by much later modernisation. 

But a pigsty lovingly restored to its former glory and now a perfect venue for telling a collection of medieval  tales like Dame Fortunes Wheel and the Three Estates. I really get a kick out of telling stories that would have been recognisable to all those who feasted in its great hall or huddled round the kitchen fireplace long, long ago!

To find out more about the Manor house just visit the Leicestershire County Council Website here...

Hall at Donington Le Heath

The following evening I was back in Norwich telling the Shaming of Agnes Leaman at Norwich Guildhall. For me it was much the same buzz, but more so, for not only was I telling Tudor tales in the Tudor Court room of the medieval building, but the stories were mixed with the stories of real people actually sentenced to various punishments  in that very room over 400 years ago. Its an austere looking room really except for the stunning 15th century window glass restored after the collapse of the chamber roof in the 1500s. But when the civic portraits are hopefully one day restored to the court room; paintings that include many of the 16th and 17th century Mayors of the City, it will look very grand indeed. With all those once great men of a long lost elite no longer looking down on petty thieves and all those accused of ill and evil rule, for now they will be looking down on the likes of me. No change there then!

East end of the Mayors Court Chamber

Detail from the Mayors Court Fifteenth Century Glass

Thanks To Alison and Richard for the Invite to Donington and Rachel and everyone else at HEART in Norwich for once again looking after me at the Guildhall.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Living Crafts, Hatfield House, Herts

This is the second time I've told in the grounds at Hatfield. The first was at Folk by the Oak music festival, but on this occasion its the Living Crafts Fair - One of the biggest events of its type in Europe.

I've told at craft fairs before - Ludlow Medieval Xmas Fayre for example has huge tents selling jewellery, furniture, pots and who knows what else, but what marks Living Crafts out as different is that many of those selling their wares also demonstrate their crafts. I watched a woman heating and manipulating glass into all sorts of delicate objects; making it look so easy although of course it was not.

Another man, a 'bodger' processing the raw timber into trugs, hurdles and so much more...

A stone mason was giving kids and adults alike a master class, his tent full of tap, tap, tapping and concentration as visitors slowly revealed their own designs...

Pupils work above and the Masters below

What also struck me were the stories of many of these crafts men and women. Many had come late to their trades - Dissatisfied with their lives; with being forever caught in the rat race they had opted out, many with a desire to leave something behind. Something beautiful! One man, a silver smith told me that he was once an antique dealer who made a good living from buying and selling all sorts of beautiful bits and pieces, but he felt unfulfilled and wanted to know how the objects had been made, so as not to just be profiting by the skills of others. So that's what he did and I watched him this very day hammering and crafting a delicate silver spoon.

I like that. It makes me relax when it comes to my own kids - neither are really happy with the path they have chosen, but clearly they have time to ponder and try different things. It also fits in well with my own experience of life - For once when I was a welder I would never have dreamed that one day I would be an itinerant teller of tales!

Thanks to Robin and his staff for the invite to his fantastic event.

P.S I also got to camp amongst some great 'stag oaks' like this......

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