How To Be A Raconteur

First published in the June 2010 issue of Buzz Magazine

Michael Harvey, who will be appearing at this year’s Beyond The Border, is a veteran in the art of spinning a good yarn. He explains how you too can be the envy of any dinner party.

STEP 1: Get inspired

Go to a festival like Beyond The Border, and keep an eye out for other events. There’s a really nice one at Milgi in Cardiff on the third Tuesday of every month. It’s really friendly and includes floor spots from professional and upcoming storytellers.

STEP 2: Develop existing skills

The social world gives you all the storytelling skills you need and if you work with the skills you have you get an original, unique performance. Looking for stories to tell can be a lonely business so it can help to buddy up with someone like minded, starting with collections of folk tales and mythology.

STEP 3: Find a good location

Start at a level that isn’t going to freak you out, amongst friends. Telling stories outdoors is beautiful, and you need a place with character. Informal seating is good too, because if people cuddle up or sit wherever they want then they are much more relaxed and open.

STEP 4: Pretend adults are children

Kids taught me everything I know, but adults can be harder because their faces are more closed and their resting expression can look a bit grumpy. But, if I convince myself that inside there’s an eight-year-old child, and I start telling a story to that child, then their faces soften, and they become more open and responsive.

STEP 5: Work through stage fright

Everyone gets nervous; it’s just that when you get experienced, you just call it excitement. If you feel you’re using the audience, slow down, calm down and rest in the story. Think about the physical sensations – what the story looks like, what it sounds like, what it smells like; a story can be as real as a memory.

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.