Andy Johnson – Bleddfa Storyteller

Andy Jonhnson has done both the Bleddfa Week of Stoytelling and the Intensive Performance Workshop and we were so impressed we have invited him to be one of our featured tellers for one of the public performances at this years week long course. Andy shares something of his storytelling journey below…

My storytelling journey started in March 2012 when I attended a 5 Rhythms Dancing retreat in Tal Y Bont, near Conway. One evening I was sitting with others in the lounge when some people started a singalong. There was a Scottish storyteller, Mags Smith, who said she would also tell a story but needed a few moments to sort it out. At that point a voice in my head said “Andy, why don’t you tell a story?”, as I had worked as a librarian all my working life & knew two stories I could tell.  I told one of them. People liked it & Mags came over and stated talking storytelling with me. This pleased me as I was looking for an interesting direction to take as the previous year I had taken a redundancy & retirement deal from Liverpool City Council. When I got home I googled ‘storytelling’ and top of the list was the Society for Storytelling which I knew about from my library days. There I found information about clubs, festivals and courses. All of which I have since explored.

I went to Liverpool’s ‘Mouth of the Mersey’ where I was welcomed as I had booked tellers from there for the library. Sadly it closed a few years later. However it encouraged me to find other clubs and places to tell. I’ve been to clubs in towns such as Altrincham, Sale, Sheffield, Stafford and Hebden Bridge and although varied, they are always welcoming.

I also started to go to open mics in pubs. The m.c.s often say they like the change of pace storytelling brings. Musicians say it creates an atmosphere where people will listen instead of talk and I find it really hones the craft of telling because if you don’t draw the audience in they will stop listening. People often are hearing storytelling for the first time and really like it. Also, a number of musicians I have met this way have set some of the stories I tell to music which is a real privilege.

Arncliffe open mic 2018.jpg

I love going to the festivals. The ones I have gone to so far are: Settle, Festival at the Edge and Beyond the Border. I was lucky to tell at the Club Mix stage at FatE in 2013 and love telling at the open stages in BtB.

Courses are great for meeting like-minded people, who often become supportive friends and they push forward the craft and art of telling. All the longer ones I have been to have been in beautiful settings – Halsey Manor in Devon; Cae Mabon in Snowdonia; Emerson College in Forest Row & Bleddfa in Mid Wales. I’ve been to Bleddfa three times and really like how the space is held, the chance to work with and listen to world class storytellers and tell stories to appreciative audiences.
Who knows where my storytelling will take me in the future but I’m really glad I took those first steps back in 2012.

That said I’m looking forward to doing an evening of storytelling at Bleddfa this July.  I’m really grateful for being asked and thought I would start by recounting how I started this journey and telling a few tales that got me going. This will include the tale I told at the Five Rhythms Dancing retreat. Incidentally I first heard that story 30 years earlier in a community arts centre in Liverpool, told by a combination of an African and an Indian storyteller.  I also told the tale when I was selected to tell on the Club Mix stage at the Festival at the Edge in 2013.

While storytelling I try to draw on my Liverpool heritage using the warmth & humour of Scousers (people from Liverpool) in the way I present the stories. I’ve found there is a rich vein of tales from the region and I will tell a few of my favourites.  One of them I developed when I attended a Intensive Performance Course at Bleddfa, so it will be great to retell it in the place where it first hatched.

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