Upfront: Black History Month

First appeared in Buzz magazine – October 2011.

October is Black History Month, and in Wales, all manner of events, exhibitions and discussions have been organised to celebrate and recognise the history of black people in Wales – which is said to date back to the 16th century – as well as the invaluable impact they have had in Welsh society throughout culture and industry.

Education is a big theme of the month-long programme of events which starts with the Centre For Lifelong Learning’s first instalment of its history course Black History: The International Struggle for Freedom on Tues 4 and Butetown History And Arts Centre hosting a history workshop Black History And The Concept of Development on Thurs 13 and 20.

Fri 14 Oct sees the All Wales African Community Centre deliver their Black History Month seminar Understanding Black History: Community Cohesion and Engaging With People of African Caribbean Heritage In Wales. The event will take place at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

The arts also play a big part in the month’s celebrations, and in Llanelli, where friend of the South Wales miners, singer, civil rights campaigner and thorn in the side of the US authorities, Paul Robeson, will have his story told in a play called Call Mr Robeson: A Life With Songs at the Theatre Eli on Weds 5.

Radio Cardiff host a special gig at the Coal Exchange, Cardiff Bay on Thurs 6 with reggae stars Tarrus Riley and Janet Kaye performing. In the capital’s oath Library, the book launch of Kiskadee Girl by Maggie Harris – which is her memoir about growing up in Guyana – will take place on Mon 24.

In Swansea, the National Waterfront Museum hosts a free Black History Celebration Day on Sat 15 with at, crafts and performances from around the world. On Sat 29, the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, hosts the free grand finale event set to include a broad and diverse range of entertainers, performers and workshops.

Beyond The Border – Festival Preview

First appeared inthe June 2010 issue of Buzz Magazine

Beyond The Border International Storytelling Festival, St Donats Castle, South Wales

Fri 2-Sun 4 July 2010

Back in the days before the internet, mobile phones and even books, people used to actually talk to each other. When they ran out of gossip about whose sword was bigger than whose, they would recount tales of generations gone by.

The tradition of storytelling still thrives around the world, including a vibrant scene here in Wales. Old myths and legends are retold again and again, sometimes with modern adaptions. Many of these storytellers from across the globe will be gathering in Wales at the UK’s leading storytelling festival Beyond The Border in July. The festival has been running since 1993 and attracts thousands of visitors a year, as well as running a programme taking storytellers into schools and workplaces all over the country.

 This year’s festival features over 20 storytellers from as far afield as Canada and Egypt. There is also a strong Welsh connection, including Celtic mythology from the {Mabinogion} which will be retold in words, music and song.  Welshman Osian George will be performing with trio Bro Ar Men (Land Of Stone) led by Brittany’s Pol Huellou with Armenian Vasken Solakian. Wales loves nothing more than a good male voice choir, and Beyond The Border is being treated to the Republic of Gerogia’s Mtiebi performing on the Friday of the festival.

The storytelling takes a saucy twist with late night adult-only performances, including stories from Boccaccio’s naughty Decameron and some erotic late night stories about ancient love goddesses Aphrodite and Innana told by Xanthe Graham.

The festival features music from exiles Kotchnak Ensemble, a family of singers from Armenia, now living in Paris who first began making music in 1976. Also performing is Ahmed Muhktar from Iraq who is renowned for his playing of the oud, an instrument similar to the lute. He will perform as part of the Nights In Baghdad programme which includes Egyptian Chirine El Ansary telling the stories from the author of 1001 Arabian Nights, Robert Irwin.

Beyond The Border provides a window on the world past and present and with every yarn festival goers will be transported somewhere different.