What is the project you are working on?
You mean you want me to choose one? My main obsession is The Tale of Jaufre, which is a 13th century Arthurian story, originally written in Occitan for a king of Aragon. I’ve loved this since I first came across it as an undergraduate in the 70s, and I’ve been researching it since 2015 as a piece of storytelling (as part of my PhD from Cardiff University in 2019) and telling it in English to all manner of audiences, from academics to storytelling clubs and festivals. “Jaufre” is very long and episodic, and a major project during lockdown has been to write and then record a full English adaptation of the original. There is a good academic English translation available, but I wanted to convey the essential vivid narrative style of the original, as well as the humour and quirkiness.
In addition to the adaptation, I’ve been looking into the background history to the creation of “Jaufre”, which turns out to be fascinating, and I’m now contemplating how to write a historical novel about some of my discoveries. In the meantime I’ve also finished my second novel, which is a portal fantasy and includes some of the characters from “Jaufre” as well as some others from the Mabinogion, the romances of Chrétien de Troyes and some of the (real) writers from the 12th century such as Gerald of Wales and Walter Map. And I’ve been writing more songs, and running some songwriting workshops on line.
How can people get involved?
I’ve been telling episodes from the story in various storytelling events, and I’m looking forward to taking part in Casglu, but if you would like to hear the story, I have completed recording it as a podcast in 12 episodes. It’s available via Spotify and Google Podcasts as well as its home site on anchor.fm, and I have also written a blog on my website (www.annelister.com) giving some background information on each “chapter”.
Tell us a little bit more about you?
I’ve been “writing” songs since before I could actually write, and performing professionally on the folk music circuit for over 50 years. My songs have always told stories, and my introductions to the songs have got longer as time has gone on, so that by the early 1980s I was being asked to do some storytelling gigs and projects in schools. I’ve toured with the music and the stories, and the workshops about both, in the UK, Ireland, the US and Europe, and some of my songs have been taken up by other singers. The best known of these is probably “Icarus”, but there are others out there too, travelling without me. I’ve been a teacher and worked with every age group, and also devised and run some storytelling workshops in prisons for Kids Out and Storytelling Dads. As a child I was frequently uprooted because of my Dad’s job, but we settled in Cardiff when I was 10. I went to Warwick University, and then lived in Lyon, France and then in London for a few decades, with a tiny flat in St Katharine’s Dock. I was lucky enough to find true love on the internet, back at the turn of the millennium, and now live with my husband Steve (a Cardiff lad) and two cats in Blaenavon in south east Wales. I was planning to relaunch my singing and telling career in 2020, after the slog of the PhD, and released my 9th album “Astrolabe” in December 2019. Well, that went well, didn’t it?
What has been your lockdown watch online? Anything you have seen you think others should be watching?
My husband is a huge Star Wars fan (and has spent lockdown building his Shoretrooper armour on our kitchen table) and he introduced me to The Mandalorian, which I loved. A cross between sci-fi, Westerns and more mythic Arthurian themes. We don’t watch a lot of television but I’ve also been hooked on “Dix Pour Cent”, or “Call my Agent”, which is also good to keep brushing up my French, and we’re slowly catching up with “Schitt’s Creek”. On the radio I have been loving Natalie Haynes and her take on Greek mythology, and the most recent series of John Finnemore’s “Souvenir Programme” which has been a remarkable jigsaw puzzle of inter-connecting family scenes. I’ve needed to listen to each programme more than once but absolutely love the way in which he has linked storytelling, family eccentricities and poignancy. There is a lot of good drama and history on Radio 4 and 4Extra so I’m a bit of a radio addict.