For Beyond the Border Festival 2021 we commissioned Hugh Lupton, Daniel Morden and composer Sarah Lianne Lewis to create a new project Stars and their Consolations. We asked Hugh to share more about the Storyteller Adventurer commission which will be performed at the festival and available online between 2-3 July.
Stars and their Consolations is a new commissioned project with myself, Daniel Morden and Welsh composer Sarah Lianne Lewis.
A few years ago Daniel Morden and I taught a course on the mythology of the constellations at Stella Kassimati’s ‘Amari Centre’ on Crete. Afterwards we thought it would be interesting and enjoyable to put together a performance of a set of these stories. We wondered about making it multi-cultural, but that raised questions of cultural appropriation (especially as there are many wonderful American Indian constellation tales).
We’ve been working for years with Greek mythology and we knew that there’s a rich seam of star stories in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. We saw that staying within one culture would give a coherence to the piece – everything would inhabit the same imaginative world. So we settled on the Greeks.
We approached Beyond the Border with the idea. Naomi Wilds was interested in forging cross discipline connections and suggested we might work with a composer. We did some research and found Sarah Lianne Lewis. We felt that her compositions could complement and augment and make an aural space for the stories to inhabit. She was interested, and the festival was able to commission the piece.
It’s been a fascinating process, not least re-approaching Greek Mythology in the wake of the ‘Me-Too’ movement. We’re still six weeks away from our first performance at the festival, we’ve been working on-line and next week we’ll be meeting up in flesh and blood for the first time and rehearsing together. It’s proved to be an exciting collaboration. The show will be a rich mixture of storytelling and soundscape.
We’re doing two performances at BtB, one in a marquee, one outside under the stars with the audience listening on headphones. It’ll be available for live-streaming too as part of Beyond the Border’s Online Festival.
I’ve been telling stories as a living since the late 1970s. I’d been involved with street theatre, I was obsessed by the ballads, I was writing (stories & poetry) and doing the odd bit of teaching to make ends meet. Storytelling was a sort of logical conclusion and drawing together of strands. I started working mostly in schools (the best possible apprenticeship). Then in 1985 I formed ‘The Company of Storytellers’ with Ben Haggarty and Sally Pomme Clayton. Our plan was to bring storytelling to adult audiences. We toured together for years. At that time a revival of the art-form seemed to be spontaneously combusting as people all over the country (often unknown to each other) began to experiment with storytelling. Since then I’ve collaborated with Daniel, Chris Wood, Helen Chadwick, Rick Wilson, Nick Hennessey, Sam Sweeney (among others)… and worked solo. I live in Norfolk, but have found myself performing all over the world.
I’m also a writer. I’ve written two novels ‘The Ballad of John Clare’ & ‘The Assembly of the Severed Head’. I’ve had many collections of folk and fairy tales published (most of them for children). But storytelling is my passion – something happens to the word when it’s spoken aloud, it reaches a different place from the written word. It has the power to evoke and invoke.
During lockdown I’ve been writing my third novel, developing the two pieces I’ll be performing at BtB (the other one’s called ‘Crying like a Fire in the Sun’), and working on the small-holding I live on. I’m looking forward to shaking off zoom and getting back to real live performance.
Screen-wise, over the last year I’ve enjoyed trawling through Jools Holland’s incredible back catalogue in the company of his various guests in his lockdown ‘Later’. I’ve finally worked my way through a box set of the ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ (magnificent), I admired ‘Normal People’, and online my favourite events have been Tracey Collins’ (Wild about Story) ‘Storyteller’s Bookclubs’.
Stars and their Consolations will be performed on Friday 2 July 9pm and Saturday 4 July 10pm at Beyond the Border Festival at Dinefwr. It will also be available online on Saturday 4 July 10pm.
Tickets for live festival and online events available from our Box Office.