A Storytelling Festival at Dynefwr

Beyond the Border festival 21I have just spent three glorious days at Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival. It was all outdoors, in sunshine and rain, beneath the towers of Dynefwr, a ruined Welsh castle. The atmosphere could not have been more fitting for my first post-covid literary event. Numbers were limited, of course, and there were social distancing rules in place, but it still felt truly magical.   

Storytelling is the oldest form of literature, and there is something mesmerising about it. You simply sit and listen, and you enter another world. A world full of magic, and living trees, and talking animals, and transformation, a world full of sorrow and delight, of castles and myths and music. There were Welsh folk tales, and Greek myths, stories from Africa and Russia, ancient tales that have many different versions, and stories from the storyteller’s own lives.

My highlight of the festival was ‘Gone Cuckoo’, performed by father and son Malcolm and Joshua Green. We followed the migration route of the cuckoo, from the North York Moors, down through Europe, over Libya and Chad to the Congo, and back again, with a mix of strange folk tales and personal memories of Malcolm’s own journey in search of this iconic bird, along with beautiful sound effects and music. It was incredibly moving, and a profound illustration of how human activity is having a significant impact on wildlife across the globe, reducing the numbers of songbirds at an alarming rate.

Another highlight was Phil Okwedy’s ‘The Gods Are All Here’, interweaving an old African folktale with his own life story. He told us of his experience growing up as a foster child, away from his Welsh mother and Nigerian father, based around a series of love letters written by his father to his mother, which he discovered after her death. It was utterly compelling.

Along the walk to the castle...I went on two different story walks around the beautiful Dinefwr site. The Hallows Queen story walk involved meeting four different storytellers along the route. We made our way up a winding woodland path, and ended up in the castle ruins with Cath Little, setting the scene perfectly for a tale of medieval knights and magic.

Malcolm Green’s story walk took us through the deer park, combining nature and stories along the way.

There were truly hilarious, moving, enchanting tales, some with musical accompaniement, others told only through the power of words. We heard an enthralling Welsh folktale from Ffion Phillips, a combination of Bob Dylan songs, ancient myths and bible stories from Hugh Lupton, grim fairytales from Ben Haggarty, and other incredible stories from Michael Harvey and Daniel Morden.

It is impossible to express in words just how wonderful this festival was, after a year and a half of social isolation. As everything was outside, and even the performance tents were open to the elements, we were able to relax and to enjoy being in the moment, in a beautiful location, with live entertainment. The need for constant ventilation did mean that we were walking around in many many layers of clothing, in order to stay warm in the changeable Welsh weather, but it was worth it.

festival site - wide view

You can see the castle ruins in the background.

view from the castle

Looking down on the festival site from the castle.

Visit the Beyond the Border website for more information about the festival.

Read my review of the 2016 Beyond the Border festival, which took place at St Donats.



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