Kali - November guest - Emily Hennessey
Right from her first words, our audience was riveted by Emily Hennessey's performance of Kali. She had set the scene with a beautiful shrine dedicated to the goddess, draped with glowing coloured cloth, flowers and candles, and topped with statues of Kali and Ganesh. Emily's tale, based on Hindu mythology, was on a grand scale, encompassing some of the most powerful gods of the rich hierarchical pantheon of deities. We were introduced to Brahma, Indira, and the main focus of the first part of the story, Shiva the "destroyer", how he fought the Demon King, gained and lost his heart's desire, and how she, Parvati, morphed into the terrifying goddess Kali, held us spellbound.
Emily's style of telling owes much to her experience of working with storytellers in India, using quite exaggerated facial expression, hand gesture and body posture. It was fascinating, terrifying, exciting, often very moving, and told with great vitality and economic use of language. Images were conjured and dispelled and new images created, but the thread was never lost - a remarkable performance.
Food for Thought - Harvest tide tales for October
A home-grown Word of Mouth this month. Helen Stewart, Honor Giles and Tom Hughes, provided a sumptuous feast of tales which, with serendipity, coincided with Manchester's Food and Drink Festival! I'm not sure that everyone would attack The Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly's meal with such gusto, but with Honor's encouragement we all joined in with this childhood favourite. A gruesome recipe followed where, with Delia Smith-like precision, we were instructed in the gory mysteries of making a Hand of Glory. (Don't expect to find the ingredients in your local supermarket though!) Then followed a tale from the north Pennines of enchantment, terror, robbery and more severed hands and hangings. Helen gave us a very descriptive tale of the passage of food down the alimentary canal before Tom took us back to monastic days in Cheshire with the tale of a greedy cellarer at Vale Royal Abbey.
Tales from the floor followed in the middle half, with a dramatic tale from Tibet of the disappearance and rediscovery of the wind told by newcomer Fay. Monologue John Bartley gave us a ballad of shipwreck and deathbed wishes in his inimitable style and a welcome return from Joe with a tale set in the solemn fast day of Yom Kippur.
The final act began with another of Tom's Cheshire tales, this time the story of the meagre rations in the workhouse being bulked out with cannibalistic additions. Honor delighted the audience with a Japanese tale of dumplings and a cook's eventual escape from ravenous goblins. Then Helen concluded the night with a tale of hot chocolate, marital infidelity and the monotony of an eel pie diet.
The Moon's Two Wives - September guests Helen East and Rick Wilson
Helen East and Rick Wilson gave us a feast of stories and sounds, each magical tale of Helen's was beautifully interwoven with Rick's soundscapes and irresistible rhythms. From southern Africa we now know how the bee was able to facilitate the beginning of the world and why the moon grows fat, but then becomes thin. We had a heart-warming but heart-rending Greenland tale of an unattractive woman and a family of polar bears and the Nigerian tale of a poor man who found a cowry shell and how the truth was hidden under the king's hat. This, along with a delightful Jewish tale told in a declamatory style, had such infectious rhythms that we would have been up and dancing if only we had room. The final story came from Jordan, and the tale told how the dreams of a powerful shah could have changed a poor man's life, had he not misused the good fortune that came his way. We were left wanting more... always a sign of a good night of stories.
Summer Stories - August's Story Round
With distant rowdy choruses of summer in the city drifting into the room we began our summer storyround. We had a wide ranging set of tales, beginning with another Mouse Woman tale from Honor, this time the story of the Wooden Wife. Then we had Helen Stewart's outrageous tale of the consequences of letting rip! Maurice shared a lovely tale of the Korean orphan and the goblins bringing her much needed luck. Tom tried something new for him, adapting a short story by the writer Robert Westall into a storytelling form, a very atmospheric spooky tale set on a Suffolk beach. Helen Palmer gave an African tale of how the ravages of famine can create opportunities where you least expect them. Newcomer Sarah Jane shared a work in progress of her own tale from the Louisiana bayou, concerning Madame Telemon's attempts to have the sun to herself. Russell finished us off with a delightful Indian story of a merchant who lent his scales to an unscrupulous neighbour and found himself the target of a much needed lesson. In between there was lots of fascinating discussion and a good many laughs.
The Piper's Tale - Stories and Music in July
Word of Mouth burst into life when Tom Hughes struck up on his pipes and gave us the first taste of a splendid evening to come. Stories of pipers are legion, and Tom probably knows every one. Certainly he gave us a great selection, told with panache and interspersed with tunes. Appropriately for the centenary falling that day, the most recently composed tale and tune was The Battle of the Somme, a deeply moving lament. Pipers seem to encounter fairies at every turn and have a tendency to be lured by them into uncompromising positions, but the vision of the boy who had to French kiss an old fairy man in order to gain the skills to play the pipes was definitely one of the odder tales that we heard. It was an enchanted and enchanting evening.
Springing to Life Storyround in June
A small but perfectly formed ennead fetched up at The Britons Protection for this springtime storyround. Some were regulars and some were new to the storytelling scene. Helen S started the evening promising that the hands of the clock would fly as we enjoyed the tales and it was to be true. She gave us a favourite tale of the little monkey who wanted more misery, he certainly had it. Wendy told us an African tale of pride, greed, arrogance and how Nkoso the snake met his end. Tom gave us two folk tales from Over in Cheshire, of how the Devil stole the Church and of the ironic demise of the Cheshire Prophet. Martin gave us fairy cakes, made with real fairies. I kid you not. You had to be there, absolutely brilliant! Russell gave us a beautiful fable of two birds defying the ocean to protect their young. Tom then gave another tale, this time of a palmer, his meeting with St James and some ill-used wishes. Wendy gave us some hilarious but touching anecdotes of her mariner father, before Martin waxed lyrical about Norman the kleptomaniac accountant. The evening ended with discussion and celebration of storytelling in its myriad wonderful forms.
Medieval Mayhem in May
We were delighted to welcome back John Sullivan-Blakeney and delighted that he chose us to be the first to hear his latest set 'The Beggar Beneath the Cloak'. He introduced his series of stories with the age-old tale of Truth and Story, which was an excellent way to initiate the varied tales that followed in the first half. All had the underlying theme that truth can be found in many unexpected places - the actions of a young child, a wish for too much, a young man with little brain but a kind heart and the boggart who turned hero when it most mattered. John's second half followed the same theme - but with a stronger political message. We had the tale of the weaver who was convinced by three baddies, called Dave, George and Rupert, that he didn't know what he was talking about, and African story about women's place in their society and finally, a Romanian version of Cinderella, told to prove that beautiful things often come from that country.
As it was April 1st, we also had some great stories to celebrate the Fool. Russell gave us a Lithuanian tale of the fool who fooled his two brothers, provoking a lot of laughter and discussion in the audience about the sequences of the fool rubbing his stomach with ash and lard. Steffie proved how the boy may seem to be a fool, but gets the last laugh, and Tom told us the delightful and very silly tale of Mr and Mrs Vinegar.
21st Birthday Mini-Festival, Friday Night
What a fabulous night we had, a brilliant beginning to our 21st festivities. Our guest storytellers, Amy Douglas and Lucy Wells did us proud with a beautiful evocation of the south Shropshire landscape, its people, their history and the folk-lore that continues to grow with the stories. The songs and music blended seamlessly into the telling of the tale throughout.
Thanks to them for launching our celebration and thanks to Clive Hopwood and Pauline Bennett for their stories and interactive songs - a great reminder of their early influence on the club with their warmth and sense of fun.
It was very heart-warming to see some of the people who had attended the club in its very early days and to share the memories with so many old friends. Equally heart-warming to welcome new friends, and particularly to welcome Tom Hughes as a new member of the Word of Mouth team. We hope he finds the experience as fulfilling and life-enhancing as we have done!
On the next day, we enjoyed a packed story round session in the afternoon with Word of Mouth regulars, old friends and new visitors. Over the space of three hours we enjoyed no less than a dozen wonderful tales, ranging over the continents and spanning the centuries from the ancient world to the present day.
Shonaleigh is no stranger to the club and her performances have always entranced and inspired, but this was something else! The great cycle of Jewish stories which make up the tale of the Diamond Girl and the Goat Horn Bee unfolded before us, stretching out across time, and yet enfolding us in a warm and inclusive blanket so that we could follow the thread. Its seemingly never-ending twists and turns tantalised us with possibilities for stories for another time. Some of these were told there and then by audience decree, but others waited until the third day...
With a very appropriate way to end our special weekend, Shonaleigh gathered up our enthusiastic band of listeners and introduced them to the Drut'syla tradition of storytelling. The strands of the tale of the Diamond Girl and Goat Horn Bee were drawn together as it came to its conclusion. Shonaleigh then worked through the stories for another time along with an informal sharing of ideas and fellowship amongst storytellers and listeners. It was a very special experience and a wonderful way to bring our celebration weekend to its close.