Helena Byrne to appear at Yarn Storytelling Festival

Helena Byrne has been fascinated by performing ever since watching her father in local musicals as a child in Kilkenny. A talented actor and musician who once came second in the 2FM Young Songwriter’s Competition, Helena fell into storytelling almost by accident when she started her first job in Dublin. It was only recently, when researching stories for her album Scéal that she discovered that storytelling runs in the blood.

“I only discovered last year that my grandfather was a storyteller,” she says. After Helena put a call out on Facebook for stories for her album, one of her cousins got in touch. “I was asking people if they had any stories and she said ‘Oh, my dad has stories that our grandfather used to tell’ and it was then that I discovered that he was a bit of a storyteller,” says Helena. “He’d have people coming over to the house, sitting around and getting them to tell stories so I guess I must have caught the bug from him, even though I didn’t know it.”

Many of Helena’s grandfather’s stories found their way into her album Scéal – a compilation of stories and songs from the past, when fairies and banshees reputedly roamed Ireland. The album has been a great success and as well as featuring regularly at the storytelling nights in the Brazen Head in Dublin, Helena has just returned from a tour of the USA, a tour which opened up her eyes to the wide appeal of the old Irish stories.

“It went great,” Helena says of the tour. “I had a lot of audiences with Irish diaspora, ex-pats and that sort of thing but then other audiences, like in Georgia, didn’t really have much of an Irish connection but they really enjoyed the stories anyway.”

Next up for Helena is a show in the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray on 19 November as part of the Yarn Storytelling Festival. This show will be based on Scéal but will also incorporate elements of music and theatre – effectively combining Helena’s three great passions.

“I will still be telling the story as I would usually tell a story but my father is going to be performing with me as well,” she says. “So there’s going to be certain moments of the story where on the other side of the stage, he’s acting it out as well and there will be music also.”

The Yarn Storytelling Festival will take place at various venues around Bray from 12 to 20 November. It’s aim is to keep alive the great Irish tradition of storytelling, with events for the whole family to enjoy. Helena is looking forward to the festival and she shares the organiser’s passion for keeping the art of storytelling alive.

“There’s a danger of storytelling being forgotten a little bit,” she says. “It would be a shame to neglect the storytelling tradition because it is such an important part of our culture.”

With brilliant performers like Helena Byrne and dedicated people such as those behind the Yarn Storytelling Festival, it’s unlikely that this great Irish tradition will be dying out any time soon.

For further information on the Yarn Storytelling Festival, visit www.mermaidartscentre.ie

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