Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Aunty Mali’

Storytelling Starters ~ Talk about remembering!

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Storytelling workshops I used to run had one noticeable effect on some of the people who attended. They’d suddenly acquire a new interest in their own past. No doubt this was partly prompted by the fact that I take a wide view of story: in my storytelling world, personal and family story co-exist with myth and folk-tale and legend. The new interest of people coming to workshops would doubtless arise from a fresh perception of how influential memory is in our lives and how strongly it is linked with imagination.

I remember several who attended workshops subsequently deciding to investigate their own parents’ lives and perhaps write books about them. Now I’m hoist with my own petard. Or should I put that differently and say similarly challenged? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Flying, falling

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

No good signals have been received from Chris the Cuckoo since 5 August. At that point, Chris the Cuckoo was crossing the Meditarranean Sea after stopping in the Po Valley area of Italy on his annual migration south to Africa to the Congo.  Four complete migratory cycles of his have been recorded by the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) using the tracking device with which he was fitted. Now it is feared he has died and the probable reason is the severe drought the Po Valley area has been experiencing this summer.  

Falling – poor cuckoo!

P1070575Severe drought is also what’s causing enormous problems for salmon in the Vancouver area of Canada. As we were hearing from a friend there this week, the rivers are going dry and salmon trying to get upriver to reach their breeding places are not going to be able to do so.

For salmon and cuckoos, it’s a sorry tale. Already the Po Valley area drought is thought to have been responsible for the probable deaths of several others of the cuckoos that the BTO has been tracking this year. To discover the difficulties migrating cuckoos are facing is precisely why their tracking programme was devised. Drought, of course, is one of the worst of the problems: it means the feeding places where the cuckoos stop on their journeys cannot provide them with the sustenance they need for their onward flight.

The cuckoos were much on my mind when we went for a walk around the lovely North Pembrokeshire village of Nevern this week. The 6th century saint, Saint Brynach, founded the church in the village and, among the ancient yew trees leading to the church entrance is the famous Bleeding Yew that attracts many visitors. Nearer the entrance is the beautiful Celtic cross which figures in a sad little local legend in which the cuckoo is central.

 On St Brynach’s day each springtime, according to the legend, a service used to be held around that Celtic Cross. Every year, the vicar and the congregation would  gather for the service in front of that Celtic Cross and wait until, as invariably happened, a cuckoo would fly down and settle on top of the cross. At that point, the service could begin. One year, however, the people waited and waited until they were on the point of despair. Just as they were about to give up, a very wind-blown and battered cuckoo arrived and settled briefly on the cross only to fall dead on the ground below it as the service started. 

Flying – lovely swifts! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Light of an Eye

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

P1070330My photos this week are of a carved head. But it’s painting that’s on my mind as I write. For when I’ve  posted this, I’ll be going to look at a painting.  A message about it arrived this week from the owner of an art gallery in Fishguard, the town where I spent the first fourteen years of my life. He is in the process of selling a number of works by Elizabeth Cramp, a very fine Fishguard artist who achieved a good deal of success while she lived. As he told me in his email this week,  the works of hers that he is now selling include a painting of my Aunty Mali.

Aunty Mali was a considerable influence in my life. A friend of my parents rather than an actual relation, she was a personality, a music teacher, a choral conductor,  a traveller and, wherever she travelled, an informal ambassadress of Wales and Welsh culture. She was also a redoubtable storyteller with innumerable stories to tell. After her death, Aunty Mali became the subject of my storytelling piece, Travels With My Welsh Aunt. It was my tribute to her. When I performed it in Fishguard, the same art-gallery owner, Myles Pepper, who’s now selling Elizabeth Cramp’s  paintings was the organiser of the occasion.

So when I get to Myles’s gallery,  I’ll see ‘a very fine watercolour painting’  which I didn’t even know existed. What will its impact be? Aunty Mali has been dead nearly twenty years. I have many, many photographs of her as well as boxes full of her papers. But a painting? Will it feel too powerful, as if she’s come back to life? Or might it be a disappointment by not being the Aunty Mali I knew?

The prospect is daunting. What will I see? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Travels

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Between 4 and 5 p.m. on Saturday 5th October, I’ll be giving a performance at the London Welsh Centre. My session is part of the London Welsh Literature Festival, three days of Welsh culture with poetry, fiction, music, drama and talks as well as my storytelling.

My preparations have made me think about what revisiting a sequence of stories involves. Do come along! See booking details below.

Travels With My Welsh Aunt

Travels With My Welsh Aunt was the first whole-evening, one-woman show that I did. Actually, it wasn’t quite a one-woman show: the storytelling all came from me, but there were points where singing welled up from the audience from some of my fellow-members of the London Welsh Chorale, the choir in which I sing. Of course, this had been prepared. I’d asked them if they’d be willing to participate and their apparently spontaneous joining-in with some hymns and songs added greatly to the evening’s atmosphere. It added too to my theme. For my Aunty Mali, on whom Travels With My Welsh Aunt is based, was a notable music teacher also well known for her conducting of hymn-singing Cymanfa Ganu festivals in Wales long before it was normal for a woman to be seen in that role.

Travels With My Welsh Aunt first got performed in full in 1999. (I’d previously done a pilot at Festival at the Edge.)

Revisiting it now on October 5th, it’s going to feel very different. For a start, it will be up in the bar at the London Welsh Centre and not in the main hall so less formal. Also, the piece will be shorter. Back in 1999, as on subsequent occasions in Village Halls and other venues , it consisted of two halves, each of about three-quarters of an hour. This time, it will last an hour.

Besides, I’ll be returning to a piece that has lived in my mind for a long time since I first brought my conception of it into being. So I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what happens when a storyteller revisits a favourite story or stories. Of course, it’s something storytellers do frequently. You have stories you love: you retell them and, in the process, you observe how much they’ve changed or stayed the same as the last time. You also become highly aware of how venues, the weather, season and different audiences affect the telling. However, specifically setting out to revisit a whole series of stories in a piece that’s especially important to you – well, maybe that involves a process all of its own. (more…)