Five storytellers took the train to Banbury, a short journey from Oxford, to speak at a wonderful literary festival: Banbury Literary Live. This event was held at North Oxfordshire Academy. We were met at the door by friendly secondary-school students, who had been delegated to look after us while we were at the festival. We were whisked in through the gleaming, bright auditorium, past a troop of children making a racket and having a fantastic time.
We had arrived about an hour early for our performance slot… however, the children who had come along to the festival were getting tired after a long day of exciting literary events and activities and so we went on almost at once! Our audience were soon happily ensconced in bean bags, their parents sitting towards the back of the room. With no time for nerves, we launched into a sequence of stories:
Hannah Ryley – The Knight with the Lion
Emily Dolmans – Bisclavret
Liz Dearnley – Lanval
Alex Paddock – The Whale
Gareth Evans – Þrymskviða
Our stories moved from the strange Middle English romance tale of Ywain and his best friend, a lion, then on to two Breton lais. The first introduced us to the bow-tie-wearing, vegetable-eating werewolf of Bisclavret, the second to the enchanted story-world of Lanval. We then shifted from these later medieval tales back to the Old English story of Fastitocalon, a cunning whale who tricks sailors. The performance culminated with an Old Norse story about Thor and Loki, who resort to cross-dressing as a bride and bridesmaid in their efforts to recover Thor’s hammer from the giants.
There were charming moments from our audience of young children, who howled along like werewolves with Emily’s story, answered the question embedded in Alex’s story, and giggled and gasped along with the other stories.
We’re grateful to Dan Wakelin and Jo Thorne for inviting us to perform.The event was a hugely rewarding opportunity for us to engage with our audience and to showcase our developing storytelling skills.