As guests of the Much Wenlock festival of Words ‘Get a Word in Edgeways’ https://www.getawordinedgeways.co.uk/ Anne Hunter and I made congenial and lightsome travelling companions for the lengthy and somewhat uncomfortable train journeys from Scotland to this festival on the border of Wales.
Greeted and driven onwards by Anne’s friends Toni and Denise was a cheerful welcoming. The second leg to the festival made us new friends, Andy and Jo Jukes who boarded us, fed us and drove us to the festival itself.
The weather smiled throughout, and the tree surrounded grassy sward of the festival tents provided airy and pleasant storytelling venues. Anne and I had commodious rooms in a converted granary. The meals provided were varied and could be eaten at leisure in the sun.
We each had 3 sessions each over the 3-day period, one of which Anne and I shared offering a varied fare of blessings, riddles, tales, songs. Fun.
I had a traditional session for families while Anne was telling tales of fate and tunes of transformation. Oh ho!
The festival had a wonderful and amazing mix of things to see, hear and participate in. Music, poetry, poetry slams, storytelling, spoken word, words around the fire, children’s activities, book signings, healing words, a special commission, and a Virtual Reality tent.
The latter a cutting-edge project devised by Amy Douglas and well worth taking a look, here’s a link:
I was to have my memories of Duncan session with Amy who was a friend and protégée of his. She was devastated to be smitten by Covid, but fate was serendipitously kind and Marion Kenny who was visiting the festival became my compere companion storyteller for the session. We invited Shane Ibbs devout Duncan admirer who was delighted to open our session. With Marion’s companionable help and appropriate flute intermissions our session was a song Duncan would have loved.
When Duncan died I was thinking, what would be the appropriate anthem to mark the going of this great spirit? Then in my journal I found the words I woke and wrote on the night of the day he died:
My tears for you were waiting under the lids of sleep, you, ‘my Darling’,
such sweet endearments were in our ‘marriage’, my friend, you
‘the last of the great whales’. For when you sang that song it was
your MacCrimmon; it was the lament for a college of stories:
your house, your heart the open hearth are gone, the hugs the
welcome, warm and spontaneous as a child’s, as a puppy’s. And
always afterwards the feast; the songs, the nonsense, the mischief,
the stories, the night becoming morning.
And the weather at your going, the wildest gale, huge force gale
to blow you on your way, no less, not surprising, no less.
The whole weekend was an absolute pleasure full of intoxicating moments. Along with Mike Rust, Cath Edwards was our ubiquitous and charming orchestrator of events and Queen of hospitality.
The poetry events at the festival were organised by Adrian Johnson, former poet laurate for Birmingham and literary officer for Arts Council England. Marion was asked to judge the rather exciting poetry slam between local secondary schools!
We were spellbound, as always by Shonaleigh and her storytelling but also delighted to meet and see new storytellers and poets. Les Barker an English poet had us in stitches and Dreadlock Alien even had us beat boxing as well as managing to get all our names into his introductory poem. This gives just a taste of a few of the things from a new and exciting festival which will undoubtedly go from strength to strength.
We loved it.
David Campbell and Anne Hunter