It’s Crystal Palace Overground Festival tomorrow and the Storytelling tent will be open for business. You can find us on the edge of the Family Zone, just behind the Youth Takeover sound stage. Nearly six months in the planning, with Arts Council funding, hundreds of volunteers, a giant logistical challenge and the prospect of keeping upwards of ten thousand people safe, happy and engaged from 11:00 on 17th June in Crystal Palace Park. Tomorrow is it!
One or two last minute wrinkles – the Book tent won’t, apparently, have room to do book signings. Not that much of a problem for Storytelling, there’s only one author involved, me. I can sign and sell my own books in situ ( it would have been something of a slog over to the Book Tent in any case ). Ines is happy to take over the running of the tent while I do this ( if, indeed, it is required ).
The weather forecast is good – the ‘Azores high’ makes a welcome re-appearance for a mini-heat wave starting tomorrow and going on into next week. I had enough of wandering around a sodden show ground last week so it’s good to know that it’s going to be dry.
I’ve been practising my own session. Having a Bedouin tent does lend itself to my story, set in Al Andalus, though it’s also very appropriate for Storytelling in general, if one thinks of the Arabian Nights, One Thousand and One Nights, Sheherazade and Omar Khayam.
But ‘performing’ a story is a new experience for me. I’m used to having intellectual discussions about writing, subtly leading a panel or even doing a formal reading. But a reading just won’t do. Especially not for thirty minutes – everyone would either be asleep or have walked out! I’ve taken lots of advice from experienced and professional storytellers and I’ll be watching closely those people performing before me tomorrow afternoon. I guess that I will be performing for about twenty minutes maximum, with shifts between the story of Reconquista and the ‘envelope’ story about the genesis of the book and then ‘ll taking questions and talking to the audience for the remainder.
But there’s lots to do before then, starting at 9.30 on Saturday morning when we all don our hi-vis jackets ( and headsets for those who want the official look ) and put the finishing touches to the tents which should, by that time, have been erected. Storytelling has bunting for outside as well as hangings and lanterns inside. Check that the sound system is working, test the mics and make sure that there’s plenty of bottled water for the performers ( plus fresh fruit ). Find out where the ‘back-stage’ area is ( close to our tent apparently ) so there’s somewhere to escape to if needed.
I’ll have to keep an eye out for delivery of our Storytelling Chair – the buttoned behemoth was not available ( the shop is using it for its own stand at the Festival ). But we are promised another one by Andy of Bambino Antiques – what it looks like nobody knows. I look forward to finding out.
Then it’s everyone to the main stage for a final briefing and gee-up before the gates open. Eleven o’clock – here we go!