The Art Of Chwedleua - Tamar Eluned Williams At Settle Stories
Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent
The art of good, old-fashioned storytelling is where Settle Stories excel. The yoking of myth, fable and yarn to modern performance opens a window on the social and cultural mores of the often ancient past, whilst investing that past with contemporary relevance.
And in the hands of a practitioner as skilled as award-winning Welsh storyteller Tamar Eluned Williams, who injects as much colour and vigour into her performing style as her name might indicate, the art form reaches a new level of accessibility and engagement.
Tamar, who will be appearing at the Settle Stories Festival in April, gives a perfect rendering of old and new, of stories which cross and sometimes transcend cultural and national boundaries, and which re-invigorate interpretation for children and adults alike.
Together with the presentation of a storytellers' workshop, Tamar will be performing 'The Cauldron of Ceridwen' and 'Stories for the Silver Tree' on consecutive days over the festival weekend, each of which will take her audience on a journey of discovery into the dark forests and interior landscapes of the imagination.
In a recent interview we learned what piques an interest, fires a vocation, and inscribes a storyteller's gravestone !
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I think I'm still learning what achievements look like for me: they're different for every person. When I grow up, which I haven't quite done yet because no one ever feels "grown up", I might have children, or write a book, or circumnavigate the world in a yacht.
Right now, my greatest achievement is doing a job that I love and that means every day is different and wonderful. It's can be a scary job because it often feels unsettled but I keep doing it because I think it's important to do something every day that scares you or challenges you.
So, maybe, my greatest achievement is that I keep setting myself new challenges: to make new shows or find new stories to tell or run half marathons or, like last year, to go travelling around South East Asia on my own for a month. (Right now, my biggest challenge is working out how to use a wallpaper steamer. Who knew that being an adult involved so much decorating?)
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More than anything, the landscape. I love being outside, and I spent my childhood roaming the hills of Wales with my family, so now if I'm ever in need of a bit of inspiration, I take a drive out of Cardiff into the Brecon Beacons. It doesn't matter what time of year, or even if it's raining (as it often is), just being in the presence of ancient mountains calms me down, and gives me ideas.
Give one piece of advice to your younger self.
Don't compare your journey to the journeys of others. Plough your own furrow, and things will fall into place.
Who is your artistic idol and why?
There are too many to choose from! Anybody who makes work because they love what happens when people get together in a room and share something is an idol. Women who have strived in the years that came before me to make their voices heard. Emma Rice for theatre, because I love the joyful messy spectacular work of Kneehigh.
Storytellers like Taffy Thomas who tell the old tales because they love them and want to share them with everybody, and storytellers like Debs Newbold who take hold of tradition and shake it up and find new ways of shaping it for the present.
What is your key goal with your artistic practice?
I want to tell stories in lots of different ways. I want to tell stories to as many people as possible. I want to tell the stories that make my heart beat fast. I want to keep on telling stories for as long as I can, in lots of different places, and always strive for that perfect moment of equilibrium when you and the spectator and the story are all singing in tune with each other.
What are the stakes? What happens if you fail?
I am a storyteller, so the story rests with me to begin with, and I have to know it and tell it well and be responsible for the spectators who are hearing it for the first time. That said, failing is fine. We all have to fail to get better. Taking a risk is far better than playing it safe.
If you could be any literary character, who would you be and why?
I'd be Jo March from Little Women. I'm always scribbling something, and I find it hard sometimes to keep my temper in check, and I long for the extraordinary when the mundane becomes a little bit too much.
What would your epitaph say?
I'd have a quote from Ewan MacColl. "Never lose sight of the thrill and the joy of living."
Settle Stories Festival: 6th to 8th April, 2018
The Art Of Chwedleua - Tamar Eluned Williams At Settle Stories, 11th February 2018, 12:15 PM