Tall Tales in a Long House

Ah Knockengorroch World ceilidh.
Scotland’s undisputed, premier music festival to those familiar with such muddy foot-stomping field gatherings, and a quizzical mouthful for those unacquainted.

It was a special year according to many folk.  Maybe the music, the people gathered there, the absence of rain for an entire day, a refreshing dunk in the river post sauna….the crazyness of club mud, or one of the various other unorthodox shenanigans.  Each will have their own sweet cocktail of reasons…  I’ve got a few, but for the sake of this post I’ll keep it story-wise, for at this particular Knockengorroch I got to tell in the Longhouse- undisputed, understated champion of intimate venues, and a place crying out to have stories shared within its lime-coated stone walls.

With an impromptu set to open the venue at 1.30 on the Sunday, I was a wee bit concerned that it’d be a low turnout. And as I sat there in the relative darkness, with one enthusiast and his kids, I was anticipating a fairly low profile affair.  May as well just talk about faeries I supposed.

So there we started, differentiating between the sweet, winged, flower-fairies of Victorian England, and their larger, altogether more mischievous, occasionally helpful, and sometimes downright evil, hillock dwelling Scottish counterparts.  Best left a bowl of creamy porridge to be kept on board, and resisting their riotous fiddle fuelled parties, lest we disappear for 100 years or more.

Maybe it was the wee folk themselves, pulling the elemental strings outside, and drumming up a crowd to hear of their cultural prowess & historical stature, or maybe it was a bout of rain that brought people into the Longhouse, but soon enough we were full, and at the end of a Healing story from Skye, with a faery clan and a dearly loved cow, I was pleased to feel the eagerness of those gathered and be given the nod for another tale.

Witches this time, and of to Kintail.  Out at sea, through the forest, into strange dwellings, a stranger journey, and Kintail again, fit for the sea.  One of my favourites, and again popular with those gathered.

It struck me how the setting adds so much to the story, and reminded me that although the storytelling aspect of our folk culture and heritage has played second fiddle (excuse the pun!) to the songs and tunes of old, maybe its time is coming again.  There’s a thirst for it for sure, and when the right place, right people and right stories come together like that there’s a tangible magic….whether by faery blessing, or some more pragmatic alchemy.

Anyways, knock was great, and sharing Highland tales in the Longhouse a personal highlight.  Its a long way off to be thinking about doing it again next year, but that’d be a fine way to see out of May annually I reckon.  In the meantime, there’s an intention brewing like the contents of Stine Bheag’s iron pot.  For other such venues must surely be waiting, more folk curious for the tales, and as much lore as one could ever hope to carry for the sake of sharing.  Until next May, I’ll be leaving the metaphorical porridge bowl out for the Wee Folk, and hoping they conjure these elements together for an alchemical ceilidh or three.

Hopefully I’ll see you there, in the warm glow of the hearth.

In fine fettle and good health.
Happily sitting on the Wild Edge.

Stories and Scarecrows in Glasgow

Last week I was invited to share stories through in a country park outside Glasgow.
The theme of the event was Scarecrows, and a number of community groups, schools and ethnic groups had participated in the project by creating their own scarecrow to be exhibited at this event.  We had plant-pot people-crows a giant bat-crow, and even a rather endearing little hedgehog-crow, so the audience for the stories was even more eclectic than usual!

I was to gather groups as they arrived, leading them past the owl handling site, through the hawthorns to the scarecrow grove for a story, one befitting to the themes of the day.

Well, I didn’t have any scarecrow stories, but there was plenty around for inspiration, with the hawthorn being a tree of the Faeries the first group of woman listened eagerly to the tale of Tormad Crupach (Crippled Norman) and his venture into the faery realms, the autistic group mixed with another primary school and lapped up the Magic Garden from Kazakhstan, the owls and other birds of prey featuring strongly.

Being on the West Coast, I felt it only right to share the creation story of the Midgie, born of of the remains of Norway’s most loathsome giant, and was reminded of the dearness of being 8 when anything is believable!
The forests of Kintail, and the witches who live on the fringes, and the mountainous North of Scandinavia, where snow bears and trolls dwell completed the afternoon.

Each group responded warmly, and I’m sure would have been at home in any ceilidh, and each left with an invite, as they had heard a story that day, maybe they had a story of their own to tell someone else.

I’ve been invited back in June, and am hopeful there’ll be a tale or two coming back at me.

Stories For A Better Nation

Friday past (24/4/15) saw the successful launch of a project exploring the synergistic relationship between folk culture, and the modern socio-political landscape.

Myself, Janis Mackay, David Campbell and David Francis, played with the hypothesis, that our folk stories and song have something current, or maybe timeless to offer as a means of building cultural resilience, and giving an engaging narrative to sit alongside the drab economic yarns of the political realm.  In hindsight, this could have aptly been titled “Myth as Mirror” as we drew upon tales of sea monsters and selkies and mused their echoes in the current state of affairs.

It was something of an assurance that the audience responded warmly to our hypothesis that folk culture has something to offer in this context, and that by weaving classic old tales with song, poetry, music, academic quotations & audience participation something rich and satisfying can be created.

This was the first outing for The Story Collective, and sensing the receptivity of folk for this style of delivery, the potential potency of this marriage of worlds, and knowing how much we each enjoyed creating and sharing it, it seems we could have a busy year ahead.

Next up, rejuvenation of the old style ceilidh culture, a place of sharing, and then maybe a wee tour of Stories For a Better Nation in the autumn.  That’d make me smile anyway.  Hope to see you at the hairthside.

Stories on the Way

This is the online home of Wild Edge Storytelling, weaving myth, legend and oral history to offer a rich cultural experience for folk of all ages and interests.

Inspired by Scots and Gaelic heritage, and the traditional Ceilidh in particular, we love stories and song as a way of sharing rich experiences in community, activating imagination, connecting to roots and nourishing the soul.

me didge