We are a new mid-Wales company called Emergency Turtle that combine storytelling, Shadow Puppetry, live music and song. It has been an exciting journey for the three of us as artists. I come from a theatre background but making theatre in rural mid Wales is hard when there are so few performers to work with. I felt energised when I started telling stories- I suddenly had a clear contribution that I knew was ripe for cross art form collaboration and quickly connected with two local friends who I knew I would love to work with.
James Jones-Morris, is the Shadow puppet artist. He is a brilliant animator; having made work for companies like Wild Works, Coney and Rough Fiction as well as a raft of music videos across Europe. He already used a lot of shadow puppetry in his work.
I had worked with Jim Elliott several times as a musical director for plays I had directed or otherwise supported. He is a multi- instrumentalist and a brilliant guitarist and singer. He is an intuitive composer and collaborator and took to working with story like a duck to water.
The show follows three river spirits; Ystwyth, Hafren and Wye who are born from their Giant father, Plynlimon’s, broken heart. When they grow too big for the mountain, their father makes them three enchanted cloaks that help carry them off the mountain. The show tracks their adventures as they each carve their own paths across lands and oceans.
Our focus in making the work was to tell an exciting and engaging story, that we cared about and that could be enjoyed by all- regardless of age. We say that it is suitable for 8yrs to adult. It suits a family audience well, as adults will take a different layer of meaning from it. It has got broad appeal – partly as a result of the multiple disciplines it involves. We have found that this has encouraged audiences to engage with storytelling, for example, who wouldn’t usually because of the appeal of the shadow puppetry or musical element. Local people, especially those with a connection with the rivers in question have had especially meaningful experiences with the piece.
The show has had two Night Out bookings, has been performed at The Isle of Wight Storytelling Festival, on a barge at 6 Music festival and was due to tour to Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Wyeside Arts Centre this summer.
We are currently working out how we can adapt the piece to suit Covid restrictions- we are exploring performing it out of the back of a van so that it can be shown in outdoor spaces and are also experimenting with the idea of digitising it- as a filmed production or via Zoom; we have a booking for either a live performance or digital at the Isle of Wight Storytelling festival in February and hope that we can tour the piece again to community venues and festivals before too long.
I trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. I have since moved back to mid Wales to raise a family. Over the past 15 years I have worked variously as an actor, as an arts manager at the Willow Globe Theatre, as a theatre workshop facilitator, as a theatre director with Mid Powys Youth Theatre and most recently a storyteller. As an actor I worked regularly with Pentabus in Shropshire and Theatr Powys in Llandrindod before they closed.
I started telling stories about three years ago following a week-long course at Bleddfa run by Jane Flood and Michael Harvey. I have since told stories in schools and holiday clubs, at private parties and festivals. I have developed an outdoor immersive story walk for children at the Willow Globe, been commissioned by Elan Links to run night-time star story walks in collaboration with a local Astronomer and day-time tours of the Elan Valley; telling stories from and of the landscape.
I am particularly interested in local places and landscape and stories that have been born out of place. I am interested in how this intersects with my personal experiences of the local area and of others who inhabit these landscapes in the here and now. A recent National Theatre Wales LAB has supported me in developing this work.
Lockdown has been great for me in terms of professional development and building networks- the latter is usually quite challenging when living in mid Wales.
At the top of my list is Casglu. I have loved hearing from other storytellers and looking at storytelling from different perspectives; stretching my thinking about what storytelling is and can be and how it can be used. It has given time for reflection and has already spurred experiment with my telling; especially exploring environmental themes.
I am currently doing a MOOC (Massive, Open, Online Course) with Articulture in West Wales which is about creating in public spaces. It has been developed by In Situ and Fai-ar. It has been great to expand ideas around creating work outdoors while connecting with artists and producers from across Wales through weekly Zoom discussions.
I have been really enjoying online story circles and events run by Scottish Storytelling Centre and Maria Watton; amongst others. This has connected me with other storytellers and recently resulted in a Celtic knot being formed between myself, Irish teller Marie Gillen and Scottish teller Shona Cowie as we told stories from our Celtic Homelands for Calan Gaeaf/Samhain. We are connecting again for Winter Solstice and are toying with the idea of completing the whole of the Celtic Calendar! It is exciting that this is a connection which wouldn’t have happened without Covid.