Saturday, August 13, 2011

Words in Winter...

So, on Friday morning I asked Sean the way to Daylesford. Sean is my Irish GPS guide. Every time he tells me to turn right in 300mts, it makes me laugh and I find myself arguing with him. “Oh Sean, you’ve got no idea at all how to find your way around the Australian bush. Who do you think you are kidding, right you say, right. “

That’s how we usually chat with one another and I must day he is very persistent. So this morning when I asked the way to Daylesford, I had already worked it out on my map. I just thought it was time to give Sean a chance to lead me astray. Well, he certainly did that! He took me across hill and dale, through some of the most hidden roadways. I would never have taken the chance to go that way myself, it was far too obscure. But I have to say, Sean came up trumps. It was a spectacular journey from Shepparton, through Heathcote and the State Forest to Daylesford – and so much shorter, even for the meandering way. At first I was a bit worried about the kangaroos as the path was heavily wooded and Toot Toot is not really used to dodging wildlife. But after a while the road became an avenue of old eucalypts on the edge and pasture beyond. It was hilly but so beautiful.

Until we got to Annie’s place at Daylseford…

And here the stories started…Annie has been a storyteller as long as me, starting back in the eighties in public libraries, then making the leap to freelance work about 88, like me. She has worked all around Victoria, particularly Daylesford and Ballarat where she has lived for 20 years and raised her kids too. Annie has worked in schools and libraries, on local radio and

at galleries. She has developed lots of wonderful stories from historical material and tells the stories that have just sat on library shelves neglected, or have lingered in the minds of folk, waiting for a teller to draw them out and let others hear…

So when tellers get together that’s what we do, tumbling over each other with ideas and hare brained schemes that may take some time to find their voice. But they usually do, eventually. Annie is telling at the Daylesford Words in Winter festival. She started last night with her show, “So who was the first gay in the village” about the history of gay culture in Daylesford. I cannot believe I missed this – but just could not make it in time. Never mind, there will be other times, and anyway I am here for the next few days so we are sure to be telling late into the night. Tomorrow, three Melbourne tellers will be here – my great pal, Jackie Kerin, and two of the oldest fairy tellers, Marylou Keaney and Mattheo. One of the strange phenomema of the Australian storytelling scene is that quite a few of us worked a lot in the early days in the Fairy Shops. In Melbourne the first Fairy Shop was Wonder Wings, in Richmond, and it offered steady work for tellers at children’s parties and the Adult Only nights on the weekends. Annie, Mattheo, Mary Lou, Suzanne Sandow and of course, Nell Bell, all told at Wonder Wings in the early nineties. Fairy parties were very popular for kids then – it has dwindled these days. I also told at Brisbane’s first Fairy Shop, on Latrobe Tce, in Paddington, for a while, but this work was really developed by another Brisbane teller Suzanne Harris. Telling at children’s parties is hard work because the kids are so beside themselves with excitement. They are also pretty little, so it is as tough a training ground in working with audiences that you can get. If you don’t tell well for small children they just give you the flick. It is not easy to engage fully with their imaginative life – the teller has to lead for a bit, then be prepared to follow and take them on a truly wondrous journey, bringing them back safe to eat cake and blow out the candles.

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