Top of the Mornin to ya B’ys!

Attending the past two parts of the Summer Series was a blast. I look forward to capping it off with the finale, and making a hat trick out of my storytelling event summer adventures. This third act is featuring Bev Kane and Jim Payne, telling Newfoundland stories with a shot of Irish flavor. This time it’s only me, I’m not dragging anyone along.

I finally get to the Benevolent Irish Society building after going to the wrong address. I am then greeted by Kailey, and I help them set up the banner. As set up finishes, I plop down at the table by the door, taking the admission of people who come in.  The venue is spacious; the chairs are laid out in a semi-circle, and the banner is behind the microphone stand. I notice that there is a bar here too. The audience find seats, making small talk with others around them. That feeling of being comfortable and welcomed fills the room like air in a balloon. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s one of my favorite things about storytelling events and something that deserves more recognition.

Kailey goes to the mic to introduce the tellers. I fix my glasses on my face and take out my journal, I’m ready to listen and take notes. Without missing a beat, as soon as Kailey starts talking, a respectful and attentive silence encases the audience.

Jim Payne is the first to speak, and he begins to tell a tale about a fellow named Dickie, who’s very short. “… by and by the once,” he says, earning a chuckle from the audience. I notice that in this story, there’s a lot of repetition of sentences.  My brain switches into folklore mode as I analyze and identify the elements of this folktale. Jim breaks into song mid-story, and the audience stomps their feet to the tune. His next piece is a recitation that was written by Len Snow, about Summer in Newfoundland. “The car will stir up clouds of dust,” Jim recites, and once he finishes the recitations, and everyone in the room gives a round of applause.

Bev Kane is next, she introduces her stories with a little bit of background info, highlighting her trips around the Southern Shore to visit her in-laws. Her first tale is a Jack story called “Hard Arse.” I open my listening ears as much as I can, as Jack Tales are one of my favorite kinds of folk tales. “Every story has a Jack,” she says, continuing to talk about the magic boat and the crew Jack gathers on his journey. Bev engages the audience, and I watch in awe. When I start telling stories, having audience participation is an aspiration of mine. I smile and a feeling of admiration and awe bubbles in my belly. “Will you give me a birth, for God sakes,” the audience responds exactly on queue. Her story is earning lots of laughter from the audience. I decide that Hard Arse is one of my favorite stories I’ve heard so far. Her next story is about a house party, and she finishes that bit with a song. “About six in the morning… stole her hard wine,” she sings. After the song is finished, the audience claps and cheers. Once Bev steps away from the mic, Kailey announces that a short intermission is happening. I say seated, adding a couple of new story ideas I have on to a page in my journal.

“I’m full of useless information,” Jim says, returning to the stage, and the audience responds with laughter. Jim delivers a fabulous Irish recitation. I notice again that there are repeated lines that drive home the humour. “Who’s the five did you say?” he says for the third time, and a chuckle arises from the crowd. He nods to Bev and sings a song called “Ballad of Nelly Purchase.” It is about a woman whose husband was killed at Beaumont Hammel during World War II, and has not come out of her attic since. The song is haunting, even more so when the audience croons along with Jim during the chorus. When it ends, the crowd claps respectfully.

Bev takes the stage again with stories from her experiences on the taxi that goes from the Southern Shore to St. John’s. “You’re in labor? No, I split my head open,” she says explaining that she slipped and fell one day while pregnant, and her husband was worried sick that her water would break so he sent her to the hospital on a taxi. She then sings a song about a woman who went to St. John’s on a taxi and stayed in a boarding house, never going back to the bay. Once again, the crowd erupts with applause.

Jim closed out the event by singing a song and playing his accordion. Applause roars from the audience again. The frequent cheers add to the supportive and encouraging atmosphere of storytelling events. I believe it’s an important staple in the storytelling event recipe.

As the evening winds to a close and the crowd mulls out of the building, I help Rebekah and Kailey put the banner away. Once it’s done, I get a ride home from Rebekah.

“Thanks,” I say, getting out of the van.

“You’re welcome, will I see you Tuesday?” she asks with a smile.

“Of course, see ya at The Crow’s Nest Officer’s Club then,” I reply, a huge grin on my face. I unlock my door, and I’m itching to tell my roommate about the awesome night of stories he missed out on!

Dropped Threads: Stories of Super Women

After how much I enjoyed the July Story Circle and the first event of the Summer Series, I decided to go to another storytelling event. This one is part two of three of the Summer Series, and it is featuring Anita Best and Karen Carroll, telling stories about womanhood. This time, I drag my cousin Allison along for the experience

We finally arrive at The Rooms, just before the stories begin.

I greet the women at the admissions desk, and tell them that I work with the Storytelling Festival.

“Claire with the dark hair?” One of the admissions women ask, looking at what I assume is a guest list.

“That’s me!” I reply and flash a smile.

Her coworker meets Allison’s gaze. “Are you a student?”

“Yep.” Allison replies, getting cash out of her wallet.

“You’ll have to pay.” The lady says with a chuckle, Allison replies with a nod. She takes her button, putting it on her shirt.

“I have no plus one.” I laugh, and exaggerate a frown. I scan the staircase. “Wait, which way?”

“The theatre is upstairs.” My cousin replies, pointing to the sign a floor up that says ”.

“Right, yeah.” I scratch the back of my neck. “I uh, knew that.” We make our way into the theatre.

When we get there, the Festival Admin Kailey has already started their introduction of the nights tellers. As they speak, Allison and I make our way to the back, as to not disturb or distract anyone. The event once again did not fail to bring out a crowd, and I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride swell in my chest. I’m glad Allison can’t see me at this moment, as she’d probably ask what I’m smiling about.

The theatre is ‘high quality’ for lack of a better word. The lighting resembles that of a concert hall, and I notice professional production equipment in the room behind us as I look at my reflection in the glass. The atmosphere feels warm and welcoming, which I notice is a constant at storytelling events. While the theatre is not as rustic as The Crows Nest Officers’ Club, or as open as The Lantern, I still feel a wave of relaxation and comfort wash over me as I get comfortable in my seat. As the first teller gets up on stage, the familiar blanket of attention and respect covers everyone in the audience, from ages eight to eighty.

Karen Carroll delivers a recitation

Karen Carroll speaks first, dressed in costume. I infer that it resembles what women wore ‘back in the day’. She begins with a tale about her mother and living in an old salt box house in Carbonear. She mentions how as a young child, she never thought much of how much work her mother did. “… Like an orchestra conductor,” Karen says of her mother, and talks about how while parenting has evolved, the tasks are still the same. A mother still puts clothes out on the line to dry. She then presents a recitation she wrote about household chores. “Stories written on my heart and in my mind… clothes on my line.” Applause fills the theatre as Karen finished her poem.

Anita Best then gets up on stage, and begins a folk tale about a big, hairy, ugly girl named Peg Bearskin. She talks about how Pig defeated a witch, and retrieved gifts for a king in exchange for his princes marrying her and her sisters. As Anita talks, her tale draws gasps and laughter from the audience. In the tradition of these tales, hers ends with “If the table had been stronger, my tale would be longer.”

Intermission starts, so Allison and I get up to stretch our legs.

“Wanna find something to eat?” I ask my cousin, as I remember that neither of us have eaten supper yet. Allison nods, and we head up another floor to the cafe. Along the way, we run into my pal Rebekah Nolan who also works in radio and folklore. We chat with her briefly, then continue on to the cafe. Allison decides to get a caramel coffee cake muffin.

As the intermission ends, my cousin and I sit our bums back in our seats.

Karen takes the stage again, this time telling a story about her grandmother. She talks about a pair of brothers who married two women, both named Liz, referred to as Pat’s Liz and Mick’s Liz so no one got confused. The story details the lives of these two very different Lizzes, with lots of wit and laughter from the crowd. “God bless em now, they’re all in the graveyard and peace is with them now,” Karen finishes. She then delivers another recitation called “The Tale of Two Lizzes.” The audience gives a round of applause, then Anita comes back up to close the show.

Anita Best tells the harrowing story of a delicate delivery and a heroic midwife

She tells a story of a midwife named Kit McGraw, who knew that nursing was a dangerous occupation, and who never let horrendous weather stop her from delivering babies. Anita mentions one particularly harrowing delivery amidst a terrible storm, but which has a punch line at the end that puts the audience in stitches. Anita tells another quick story about a woman who was taken by fairies, and the trials and tribulations that allowed her husband to bring her back to life.

The event comes to an end, Allison and I wait around the outside of the theatre for Rebekah, as she’s walking home the same way we are. I breathe a breath of satisfaction, feeling glad that I stated going to storytelling events. I decide right at this moment that I’m not gonna stop being involved with storytelling anytime soon.

 

~Claire Edwards

My First Story Circle

by Claire Edwards

 

Ever since I began university, I wanted to attend storytelling events. For my first couple of years, I watched from afar and heard whispers about this so-called Storytelling Circle from family and people I encountered who are involved with the local folk art community. I read the newsletters, and every month I thought about going but was hesitant to go alone so I never went.

Until…

Tonight. I have a summer job with the Storytelling festival as the Programming and Promotions Assistant. I took the opportunity to go, with the comfort of knowing people I know will be there. I grab my friend Josh, who also has been wanting to go to these events but not alone. We take the bus down to The Crow’s Nest Officers’ Club and were genuinely confused about how to get in.

“It says members only?” Josh says, looking at me with a puzzled gaze.

“It says to let the staff know that you’re there,” I reply matter of factly. “C’mon, let’s go in.” Being the impulsive person I am, I open the door without hesitation.

“Do we go down there?” He asked once we went through the first door.

“Hmm, I think it’s upstairs. I hear voices,” I answer.

Josh nodded and followed me up a very narrow and steep staircase. Once we got to the top, it was pretty obvious why this place has ‘crow’s nest’ in the name. Looking out the windows, you could see the city’s harbourfront. We were greeted by Kailey, the storytelling coordinator, and the rest of the board. We introduce ourselves and sit down. The ambiance of the bar is rustic and replicative of a ship’s cockpit. The walls are covered by ship crests and other nick knacks, the atmosphere friendly and warm. Josh and I find a table to sit at, and wait for the tellers to start.

“We’re the youngest people here,” I say with a chuckle, looking around. The bar is packed, and I’m impressed that the Storytelling Circle has such a robust audience.

“Yeah, but I’m okay with it,” Josh replies with a grin, and I nod in agreement.

The host, Charis Cotter stands up next to a stool and the front of the bar and introduces herself as a collector and teller of local ghost stories. I notice the audience coming to attention as soon as she starts talking. Everyone is very attentive and respectful, it’s a reassuring and relaxing environment.

“… please God, not again,” Charis says as she finishes a story about disappearing ships. She then introduces the next teller, Angus Anderson.

Angus talks about growing up in Nain, and the stories he heard from his older relatives about encountering European settlers on the coast of Labrador. “Avoided them for the next hundreds of years,” says Angus, as he talks about how the community of Nain came to be.

The next teller is Daryl Williams. He delivers a tale about traditional Newfoundland meals. “My mother who was a fantastic cook..” he says and describes the enterprise stove she used. Daryl finishes with a ballad like recitation about his love of homemade bread, and the audience claps.

Two guests from Israel perform next, an Israeli folklorist named Yoel Perez, and his son Hagay. Yoel tells a story about a little boy playing hide and seek with a pupil of Mohammad. His son tells a story about a king. Their stories serve as a preview for a special event the following night. As they finish, the bar once again erupts into applause. Hmm, I can get used to this kind of support!

It’s about halfway through, and intermission begins. I catch up with a friend and fellow radio enthusiast Rebekah Nolan and go on a hunt to find the bathroom (which I did). As the next teller after the break begins to talk, I realize what time it is and frown. Unfortunately, I gotta go. Josh and I say our goodbyes (quietly of course, so as not to distract the teller) and make our way to the bus stop in the pouring rain.

“That was fun.” I tell Josh as we got on the bus.

“It was,” he agrees.

“Same time next month?” I ask with a grin.

“You know it,” Josh smiled back.

Thanks, and fare well!

We are wishing our outgoing President Christine Hennebury the best possible luck in all her future adventures!

Christine has been involved with the St. John’s Storytelling Festival for the better part of the last decade, and much of what we have accomplished could not have been done without her! A few neat facts about Christine:

  1. Christine is an artful and successful Creative Life Coach! She’s fabulously sensitive and insightful, with a unique ability to help you define your obstacles and find achievable ways around them. And she uses storytelling as a tool to help re-train the brain and make room for your creative pursuits!
  2. Christine is the founder of the Association for the Arts in Mount Pearl. AAMP hosts the ArtFusion festival annually, where you can enjoy performances, art-making, storytelling, music, and more!
  3. Christine is also a compelling writer! You can enjoy some of her flash fiction by following her here, on facebook.
  4. Christine has just released a free e-publication of her novel Disconcerted! Did we mention she’s a compelling writer?

She will be deeply missed by everyone here at the Festival, and we’d like to thank her for her years of committed work and wonderful storytelling!

Thanks for everything, Christine!