Storyteller, writer and book illustrator Peter Stevenson began his year-long project with a performance at the Friendship Inn with musicians Elsa Davies (ffidl) and Ceri Owen-Jones (telyn) telling the old fairytales about the Borth coast: tales of inundation, flooding and mermaids from centuries ago. He followed this by making a film (embedded below) with the artist and filmmaker Jacob Whittaker, telling the story of Plant Rhys Ddwfn [The Children of Rhys Ddwfn], a two hundred year old fairytale which tells of an environmental utopia in the middle of Cardigan Bay: not below the sea, but in our memory and fantasies. Peter then undertook a series of story-walks on Cors Fochno in the company of Reserve Manager, Justin Lyons of Natural Resources Wales, telling the fairytales unique to Borth and the Bog, of the Hen Wrach and the Old Toad, alongside the contemporary environmental stories of the Rosy Marsh Moth and the ures who inhabit the Cors now. Peter and Justin have taken several groups of people on these story-walks around the mysterious and magical Cors Fochno nature reserve, helping them to engage with an environment that depends on water.
The project culminated in ‘Stories, Songs, Science & the Sea’, an event at Borth Youth Hostel for the Cymerau Spring Gathering on Sunday 29 May 2016 in collaboration with singer Lynne Denman and archaeologist Erin Kavanagh. In the morning, participants walked along the beach to hear stories, poems and songs local to the area. In the afternoon, the group – which included a good mix of local residents and visitors from as far away as Welshpool, Lampeter and Milton Keynes! – collaboratively created drawings of the tales they had been told on the beach for an evening re-telling using a ‘crankie’.This is a device of Appalachian origin whereby a series of images are created on a long scroll of paper. This is then placed on the frame and turned using handles, so that one image moves on to the next as the story is told. This crankie was made by a local carpenter out of wood from the former Borth sea defences and driftwood from the beach.
The project demonstrated the key significance of story in making sense of the world and our place in it, and particularly in a coastal community with a complex relationship to water. As Peter writes:
"Storytelling is an art form that naturally involves the community in the issues that engage them. The sheer number of old fairytales I have collected from Cors Fochno and Borth tells me that folk tales have been a fundamental part of life in this area, and will continue to be In the future, as they will allow the locals to express their concerns and create their community" – Peter Stevenson.
ARTWORK(S) & DOCUMENTATION
Plant Rhys Ddwfn on Vimeo
Two blogs reflecting on participation in the Stories, Songs event - by Caroline Freeman and Katherine Phillips - are also available as PDFs below.
Image credits: Caroline Freeman (images 1-3), remainder from the Cymerau Facebook page.
ENGAGEMENT & PARTICIPATION
June 10 2015 – Story walk on Cors Fochno/Borth Bog, with Justin Lyons, warden at Ynys Las. <20 participants.
June 17 2015 – Story walk on Cors Fochno/Borth Bog, with Justin Lyons. 20-25 participants.
July 16 2015 – Story walk on Cors Fochno/Borth Bog, with musicians Elsa, Ceri and Justin. 20-25 participants.
May 29 2016 – Stories, Songs, Science and the Sea with Lynne Denman and Erin Kavanagh. In the morning a story-walk between Ynys Las and Borth with tales, songs and poems from Cardigan Bay (~30 participants). In the afternoon, a workshop to draw/make the crankie for evening storytelling (12-15 participants). In the evening, storytelling with the crankie (~30 attendees).
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Peter Stevenson is a storyteller, children's writer, book illustrator, folklorist, purveyor of Magical Lantern Shows, concertina and banjo player, organiser of the annual 3 day Aberystwyth Storytelling Festival and Y Mabinogi Project in collaboration with Aberystwyth Arts Centre, and runs Stories by Gaslight, a storytelling club that encourages collaborations with visual artists, musicians, dancers, puppeteers. He has illustrated, compiled and written many children's books, travelled the country with storytelling shows for adults that use hundreds of projected illustrations and live music, has just finished collecting and writing The Ceredigion Folk Tales for the History Press, and tramps the roads with mud on his boots and his head in the clouds. Peter is an associate partner with Aberystwyth Arts Centre.
Erin Kavanagh I am a poet, artist and archaeologist. My research concentrates upon the space between disciplines, where narrative is transformed. This encompasses geomythology, art'chaeology, theory and site specific performance. I am currently working under two grants, one directing a deep map of Cardigan Bay under the ISRF and the other a collaboration under Cymerau in which I am engaging poetry as archaeological method for public engagement. Both are intrinsically interdisciplinary and are concerned with the subject of deluge myths through applied epistemology.
Lynne Denman performs music deeply rooted in the landscapes of the British Isles. She has sung for audiences in five continents and her repertoire includes traditional and new songs in Welsh, English and French. She is a founder member of Ffynnon. For bookings contact her at email@example.com.
Jacob Whittaker lives and works in Cardigan, Ceredigion. A committee member of the Rhôd Artist's Group and co-founder of sonic arts group GWRANDO and Capel Y Graig art space, work includes sound and video installation, as well as documentary film for artists, local groups and community organisations. His work is primarily concerned with documentary, recording and re-presentation often combining history and art, recording everyday personal experiences of the people of Wales and their relationships to changing landscapes and culture. www.jacobwhittaker.co.uk