Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Travels

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.

No slouching!

With two weeks of preparation to go, I’m already conscious of the need not to take anything for granted. Travels With My Welsh Aunt consists of a sequence of stories, legends of place as well as personal tales. All are stories I came to know either because my Aunty Mali told me them herself or because they are in some way associated with her. The stories live on in my mind. Yet I must not assume I remember them fully. I must not be lazy about them. I must check them out, in some cases looking back at my old notes or original sources. As with the narrative that connects them about Aunty Mali herself, I must re-visualise every aspect in its detail, emotion and theme. Why am I telling these particular stories? What am I wanting to convey by telling them? Has that changed?

One aspect of meaning has certainly become stronger for me. When Aunty Mali died in 1995 just before her 95th birthday, I was totally shocked. To my mind, in becoming so old, she had also somehow become immortal, someone who’d always been there and would always remain. In many ways she was larger than life. I couldn’t imagine her gone. When I first put my show about her together, it was my personal tribute to her. She was smart, fussy, demanding and completely extraordinary and she had been a huge influence on me. All these years later, I’m now even more highly aware of her influence and I realise ever more strongly the extent to which she did not die. She is still alive in my mind and my memory. Realising this, I see how deeply storytelling is an act of resurrection, a way of exploring and keeping alive an awareness of meaning and importance.

How to book:

Travels With My Welsh Aunt is part of a whole feast of London Welsh Literature Festival events from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, October 5th. Day tickets cost £20 and are available online from the London Welsh Centre or by phone to 020 7837 3722. (Unfortunately, there’s no separate booking for Travels With My Welsh Aunt.)

Photos this week?  They’re of Aunty Mali of course!



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3 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Travels”

  1. Jean Says:

    Thank you for this Mary – thought provoking and how i wish i could hear these stories – will be thinking about you and Aunt Mali on the 5th Oct.

  2. Vincent Says:

    How can I be informed each time a brand-new article has been released?
    I simply love this blog!

  3. admin Says:

    Vincent, thanks so much for your comment and question. I’m working on it and will let you know when I’ve got the appropriate plug-in on my site. (I’m a bit distracted right now because of some family illness.)

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