Wicklow Festival to Spin Some Yarns

Now in its 9th year, the YARN Storytelling festival is returning to Bray for over a week.

From November 10-18, the Wicklow town will host a series of interviews, plays and workshops all focusing on bringing people together to share and hear stories. Taking place the first day upstairs in the Town Hall is Frances Quinn’s The Cúchulainn Saga.

The acclaimed actress grew up in Armagh with a keen sense of the history of the county. Putting that knowledge to practice she will be delivering the rite of passage stories of Cúchulainn, introducing the audience to King Conor Mac Nessa, Feargus Mac Roech, his wife Eimear and the warrior Aoife among many others. She will be joined in the show by fiddler Ultan O’Brien.

Continuing the theme of Celtic mythology November 11 in the same venue is Aengus & Caer which recounts the classic Irish romance tale through verbal storytelling, music and dance.  Also, much loved brother-sister storytelling duo Candlelit Tales will be upstairs in The Harbour Bar, November 15 with The Book of Invasions, describing the first tribes to arrive in Ireland.

Telling a more contemporary Irish story at the festival is John Connors, lead of the smash hits Cardboard Gangsters and Love/Hate, with one-man show Ireland’s Call. Written by and starring the actor, the play follows the lives and family histories of three young men as they grow up in Coolock on Dublin’s northside and what entices them to a life of crime. Examining issues of class, religion and identity, this new play is an unflinching exploration of the Irish psyche, bringing collective guilts, secrets and flaws to the surface. The performance – taking place November 15 at the Mermaid Arts Centre – will be followed by a post-show discussion with Connors.

On November 16, the Mermaid Arts Centre will host musical Tea Dance, described by organisers as Under Milk Wood meets Twin Peaks with music by Cab Calloway and the Velvet Underground. The enigmatic plot synopsis reads: “For a long time world-weary beatniks, bomb-makers, old hippies, anarcho-punks, outsider artists, suffragettes and fugitives have retreated to rural locations to start afresh. Tullyglen is one such place; a remote Donegal village where everyone has a story no one wants to tell and a hidden dread their chickens will come home to roost.”

Also to be showcased is some local storytelling.  At the Little Bray Community Centre there is Heritage Orchard Tales on November 17. Inspired by old Persian, Syrian, Greek and Roman traditions of telling stories amongst the trees, join storyteller Philip Byrne for some tales drawing inspiration from Bray’s own heritage orchard.

There are events aimed at children too. Taking place November 17 at the Killruddery Farm Market is Monsters, Fairies & Silly Jack. Scottish storyteller Tom Muir brings his audience on a journey to islands created from the body of a terrible monster, where a woman’s kindness wins her the blessing of the fairies and where Silly Jack makes his fortune by doing exactly what he is told. According to the host, these stories were told by Muir’s Pictish and Viking ancestors long ago.

The same day in The Mermaid Arts Centre, Muir is also part of a storytelling evening entitled People of the Sea. Inspired by Celtic Legends, the tales involve seals, selchies, mermaids and mermen, as well as the people who live side by side with them.

YARN closes with two events at the Mermaid Arts Centre, November 18, bringing the festival’s unifying theme of the power of music as a storytelling device to the fore. Acclaimed French artist Abbi Patrix – renowned for blending spoken word with dance, music and mime – will host a workshop. Titled The Musical Skills of the Storyteller, the masterclass will explore how, with or without an instrument, the storyteller can search for and find a new perspective on the art of storytelling, through rhythm and tones.

As part of Music and Me, members of The Little Bray Writers Group share their insights into the music in their everyday lives. The readings will be enhanced by guitar playing of Gerry Anderson, using his own compositions while a themed slide-show by Deirdre Ridgeway compliments the performances.

Worth noting is the Mermaid Gallery’s exhibition taking place during YARN. It highlights the story of local woman Josephine Heffernan, whose bracelet was lost in France 100 years ago during World War I and was recently returned to her family in Bray.

In 2002, a young boy found jewellery in the French village of Rimaucourt, marked Josephine G Heffernan, ABH 59 (American Base Hospital) and USANC (United States Army Nursing Corps). Thus, began a search to find out more about the mysterious Josephine – in which some amazing discoveries were made.

For more details, other events at YARN and ticket prices, visit www.mermaidartscentre.ie/whats-on/events/category/yarn-storytelling-festival-bray or call 01-2724030.

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