Both the Festivals with which I am involved this year are, though very different in style and content, closely tied to place. Many of the authors appearing at the Clapham Book Festival are based in or around Clapham and write, or have written, about that particular part of south London. In Storytelling at Crystal Palace Overground Festival the performers are focussing very much on place and personal stories.
The CPO Storytelling, as opposed to (mainly) discussing books and writing at Clapham, is very much performance based. So we have Twice Shy Theatre, winners of the Best Alternative Act, London Cabaret Awards 2015, who create impromptu stories using suggestions from and the experiences of members of the audience. Zoie weaves her wordy magic, while Des creates an underpinning sound scape.
Jo Clayton, the StoryCycler, formerly Practitioner in Residence at the Globe Theatre on London’s Bankside, kicks off the day in Storytelling at 11 o’clock in the morning, with her South London Fairy Tales, suitable for ages from 9 to 90. At midday Twice Shy take over the tent ( I’m hoping for a real Mongolian yurt, if it’s owner will lend it to us ) to develop some tales with the audience (they will be back to develop some more at 2.30).
In between we have Story Places, the stories devised by local story tellers specifically set in or about Crystal Palace Park ( working with the Southampton University team ). A specially commissioned story from writer and actress Katie Lyons ( who, it is hoped, will perform it ) will start things off. Listeners can leave the tent and load the app on to their phones in order to ‘walk the stories’ in the park. Verity and Story Places will appear again, with some different, very local, stories at 3.45.
At some point in the afternoon we hope to be starting another walk from the tent, the Adventure Maze procession, for any younger folk who will enter the Maze with their story books in hand, to meet magical characters, the spirits of the trees and places in the Park, as well as people who have lived there or been associated with it. An analogue version of the Story Places app, but with ‘real’ characters within the maze.
Then, at five o’clock it’s Reconquista time. I am hopeful of acquiring a ‘galleon’ as well as a few helpers, rather better readers than yours truly, to re-create scenes from the story. I will, however, be signing copies of the book in the Book Tent earlier in the day.
To end, Beckenham Storytellers conduct a Story Circle with stories for everyone, from local and personal history. So far, four of their number have confirmed that they’ll be coming along, but there may be more. If you want to catch this group, they meet regularly in the Goldsmiths Arms, Penge on the fourth Wednesday of every month.
So, a day full of story magic. Local magic, with stories about Crystal Palace Park and wider south London and a splash of exotic story magic, with dangerous derring-do in Moorish Spain.