This week has been a rollercoaster – nail-biting, terrifying and exhilarating – now I’ve stepped off, my legs are a bit wobbly, but I want to do it again!

I have dived headlong into the world of Zoom – hosting three very different events.

1) Taking The Tradition On(TTTO) a storytelling chat show – every Tuesday at 8pm.

Taking the Tradition On, 7th April 2020
Amy interviewing the wonderful David Campbell

As part of my ACE bid I was planning to do 3 interview based podcasts – I’m really pleased with the one I did with Helen East, but doing any more is not feasible for the foreseeable future…so I came up with the mad idea of a storytelling chat show!

I can still meet storytellers to discuss storytelling, Duncan and swap stories, I just have to do it virtually.  I’ve hosted two so far – one with Nick Hennessey and one with David Campbell – and both have been fascinating.  It’s been wonderful to make the space for focused conversation and ask all those questions you want to ask, but somehow never find the time. Continue reading “Live Online!”

Summer is coming and with it, was supposed to be a wonderful tour of festivals, storytelling centres and universities. Performances to share what I’ve learned; memories and reflections of studying with Duncan; stories and songs and lots of questions and discussion.  I was just about to announce my summer dates… and now the summer is looking very different.  Cancellations and postponements have been pouring in – I have to say big love and thank you to The Scottish Storytelling Centre, who paid all their artists in full for the cancelled events before closing the centre, wanting to support the community they celebrate.

However, my project has been about challenging me to tackle the digital world.  It’s been about taking a deep breath and learning the skills to enable me to use the technology available to be creative.  Now events have pushed me in at the deep end! Continue reading “Zooming Into Summer”

Here in Bishops Castle, it is the calm before the storm.  Over the last couple of days, the sun has been shining and people have been out doing their usual things.  But you can feel a breeze springing up, the great ominous cloud looming, birds going silent in the lull before the full weight of the storm breaks.

The dress rehearsal for the school play went ahead yesterday and the shows are still planned for later in the week, everyone was out shopping, cheap paracetamol has sold out everywhere, but the expensive versions and toilet rolls are still freely available. Half my shopping was for a friend who has self-isolated with her children.

Green Road Amy in Motion BLASTGreen Road Lucy gazing BLASTGreen Road Amy Stretching BLAST

We had our last BLAST! of the season on Friday night, Beautiful Lies and Startling Truths, a performance storytelling club that I run with Suzanne Thomas from September to March. With the combination of fear of the virus and our storyteller having to pull out at the last minute, I was deeply doubtful what audience we would have.  Although a little bit down on numbers, we still had a decent turnout and Lucy Wells and I really enjoyed getting to perform The Green Road again.  It was a warm, beautiful celebration of story and a fitting end to our season.  But the signs were still there – one lady came with disposable gloves to pay and is taking all her change home and washing it before putting it in her purse. Continue reading “Keep Calm and Don’t Carry The Coronavirus”

taking the tradition on logo

When I first starting thinking about venturing into the world of podcasts, I assumed that I would get a decent phone, load an app onto it and record on that. How wrong I was!

I knew I needed some decent training.  Although I used to work for Radio Shropshire and have some experience in interviewing, I learned on reel to reel and edited with razor blades…over time I upgraded to minidisc, but that was as far as I got. I didn’t have the first idea of how or where to put up a podcast once it was put together.  I was pointed in the direction of Hannah Hethmon, author of ‘Your museum needs a podcast’ – a very helpful, step-by-step podcast manual – even if you have nothing to do with a museum. Continue reading “Playing with Podcasts”

 

The story of digitising and listening to Scottish Traveller Duncan Williamson’s archive tapes continues…

I am huddled under my blanket on the sofa.  The fire is on, dog by my side, late night telly to keep me company.  I am full of cold – aches, shivers, headache, sore throat, temperature.  It is a good time to be weak, I have the privilege of hiding inside and recuperating, until I feel fit to stand up again.  Storm Chiara whirled through last weekend and even before she’s finished wreaking her chaos, here is Storm Dennis, adding to the flooding and devastation.

I’ve been spending my time listening to Duncan’s tapes.  I don’t know what I’m going to hear in advance… although I have photos of the tape boxes with notes from Linda, the digitised recordings have new identification numbers and I need to match them up with the notes from Linda.  So, I never know quite what I’m going to hear.   What I am listening to at the moment – and have been for some time – are not traditional stories, but Duncan talking about his own life.  He has been describing growing up, his growing independence and leaving home to travel with his brother, Sandy. Continue reading “Streaming windows and a streaming nose!”

Hurrah! My tapes of Duncan have been digitised.

Stuart Robinson at the School of Scottish Studies has worked incredibly hard, baking tapes, finding the correct playing speeds and has digitised all the tapes not previously entered into the archives.  At last I can let out an inner breath that I have been holding for years: the tapes are safe.  I can let go of the secret fear that the tapes would be too old and unplayable. All the time, while writing and submitting the ACE bid and driving the tapes to Scotland, at the back of my mind a small voice was panicking – what will I do if it’s too late?!

Now I am full of relief and excitement.  My computer and phone are full of downloads of Duncan.  My ears and mind are full of Duncan’s voice.  It is the Duncan I knew – and yet at the same time, it isn’t. When I knew Duncan, I was in my teens and 20s while he was in his 60s and 70s.  Now I am in my 40s – and so is Duncan.  He is telling many of the stories for the first time… I am hearing stories I know inside out, but they are full of a raw freshness. Continue reading “Digitisation is Done!”

This autumn marks 30 years of the storytelling club, ‘Tales at the Edge’.

Until I was invited to the party on Tuesday, the significant date had completely passed me by.  I told my first story at the first meeting of the club and so this is also my 30th anniversary of telling stories!

‘Tales at the Edge’ was the first regular storyround of its type.  Obviously, people have always told stories, but it was the first in the modern model of a monthly, advertised, ‘come all ye and bring a shortish story to tell’ session.  To begin with, the rules were rather strict – no poetry, no readings, no songs or music!  But we needed those rules, we were trying to establish storytelling in its own right and without those rules it could have easily slipped into another folk club with an occasional sprinkling of stories.

The first club night at Wenlock Edge Inn was busy, packed full of well-wishers.  In those days, you needed to be 14 to be allowed into the bar, so I scraped in by a couple of months.  I was nervous.  I’d always loved traditional stories and authors like Alan Garner, C.S. Lewis and Susan Cooper.  I loved the idea of storytellers, but until I met Taffy Thomas at ‘All Folk Around the Wrekin’, I didn’t think there were any left.  Taffy introduced me to Mike Rust, the possibility of a storytelling club and a door opened.  That summer, I went to more folk festivals and spent an entire weekend at ‘Towersey Festival’, trailing round after Pat Ryan and Terry Mann, listening to every story they told. It was a story from Pat Ryan that I told that first night and Taffy Thomas came to kick off the club Continue reading “Thirty Years of Storytelling!”

Whenever I visit Linda Williamson, it feels like coming home.  She was waiting for me in Edinburgh with roast chicken, conversation and company.  We talked of my children, her children and the man who brought us together, Duncan Williamson.

I was staying with Linda for the week so that we could take the tapes to The School of Scottish Studies, to sort out between us exactly what the tapes were and to begin the process of transferring them to a digital format.

However, my first port of call was The Scottish Storytelling Centre, www.scottishstorytellingcentre.com.  This is a marvellous building – right in the middle of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile, the first purpose built modern venue for live storytelling.  It has an exhibition/workshop space, gorgeous theatre, shop and café.  It is open all day, all week (except Sundays) and provides a physical heart for the storytelling scene in Scotland.  Donald Smith, the Director, was away and I’d meet him later in the week, but he connected me with Fiona MacDougall, who also works for the Centre.  I turned up expecting a half hour chat over a cuppa – a courtesy call to talk about my project; explain how I was digitising Duncan’s tapes and to talk about how and when a sharing performance at the Centre might work.  Three hours later we were still talking!

Fiona is relatively new to the Centre.  She moved from the School of Scottish Studies to the Scottish Storytelling Centre about three months ago, bringing with her a passionate love of Scottish Traveller culture and a vast knowledge of stories, songs, family connections and history. My notebook rapidly filled up with names, possible connections, similar projects, books, documentaries, websites and discussion groups to follow up.  Positivity, knowledge and enthusiasm radiated out from Fiona.  She was full of excitement on my behalf about my impending visit to the School of Scottish Studies, still missing her ex-colleagues and sure that I would have a great time the next day with Cathlin and Stuart, sorting out the tapes and exploring all the material available within the hallowed halls. Continue reading “Copyright and Collaboration”

 

At last!  My reel-to-reel recordings of Duncan are going to be digitised!

heritage tapes 1

With all the boxes of tapes safely loaded in the boot and heading north to Scotland, I could feel echoes of that day, over 20 years ago that I’d first loaded those tapes into the car.  I’d taken Simon Heywood up to visit Duncan.  The day we were due to leave, Duncan had dragged out a load of boxes and bin liners from a cupboard.

‘Will ye tak these with ye, Amy?  They’re nae use to me.  Ye can tak them, or I’ll chuck ‘em in the skip, wi the rest o’them’

All the bin liners and saggy boxes were stuffed full of open reel tapes, years’ worth of recordings of Duncan’s stories, songs and thoughts.  We loaded then into the back of my car – and it probably did look like we were going to the skip, but we felt like we were in an Indiana Jones film, rescuing a lost treasure from oblivion.  Not that we’d had to face any great trials, traps or monsters – the worst we’d had to cope with was being woken up at 6 in the morning after a late night drinking session and smoking 5 times as many cigarettes as we normally would. And, of course, we’d left the real treasure, Duncan, behind, though he had promised to come and visit. Continue reading “Travelling with the Tapes”