New Contemporary Cyfarwydd to be based in Llandeilo, Beyond the Border’s Festival home

The Mycelium Storytelling Hub and Beyond the Border – Wales’ International Storytelling Festival are delighted to announce they have been successful in gaining funding awarded through the People’s Postcode Lottery to support local storyteller, Ceri Phillips, as a new Contemporary Cyfarwydd, who will be working in Llandeilo as part of the Mycelium Storytelling Hub.

The Mycelium Storytelling Hub is a national network of storytellers locally rooted within their communities with the aim of enabling and empowering people and communities to use storytelling to connect with one another, and connect with diverse traditions, heritage, languages, cultures locally and in Wales.

The Mycelium Storytelling Hub has developed a framework to create, support and develop Contemporary Cyfarwyddion. In medieval Wales the role of the Cyfarwydd, the old Welsh storyteller, captured and reflected what was happening in their communities, through story, offering subtle guidance though the stories they told.  Each Cyfarwydd would have an apprenticeship and go on to become a highly respected member of society, travelling and bringing back news to the courts, reflecting the society of their time.

In 2021, the Hub was launched in partnership with People Speak Up, Citrus Arts, Menter Iaith, Eisteddfod, Theatr Soar and Head 4 Arts thanks to support from the Arts Council of Wales’s Connect and Flourish fund.  Initial appointments were made in Powys, Neath Port Talbot, Dinas Mawddwy as well as a programme developed to support online Welsh learners. All the Cyfarwyddion are Welsh speakers delivering activity in both Welsh and English in these communities.

There are also two Associate Cyfarwydd roles working in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire in partnership with People Speak Up. Ceri Phillips’ Cyfarwydd role in Llandeilo will complement the work already being delivered in Llanelli and Pembrokeshire by Phil Okwedy and Deb Winter.

Later this year the Hub is supporting Peter Stevenson and Aberystwyth Storytelling Festival to inspire new storytelling festivals throughout Wales.

This additional support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery will specifically support the role of a modern Cyfarwydd based in Llandeilo, the home of the Beyond the Border Festival.

Ceri John Phillips is a storyteller, writer and comic who finds himself settled in Llandeilo after a long journey from Morriston, near Swansea via Richmond, London. He has worked extensively in the media in Wales and across Britain, from gigging in dingy comedy clubs to starring in and writing shows for the BBC, ITV and S4C.

In 2020-2021 he was part of Beyond the Border’s New Voices programme, a project supporting new voices in storytelling and was mentored by one of the Wales’s established storytellers, Daniel Morden.  As part of the New Voices programme Ceri explored the intersection between the bardic tradition of Cymru and modern storytelling in ‘Stori’r Gerdd – The Poem’s Tale’ which he then shared some of the developments as part of Beyond the Border – Wales International Storytelling Festival at National Trust Dinefwr in July 2021.

I’m beyond thrilled to have been selected to be the Cyfarwydd in Llandeilo. It gives me the space and breathing room to be able to think bigger, be more ambitious and consider how do we create a storytelling culture in Llandeilo. I want to start projects that can last across the next ten years, and I want to build relationships with local groups, organisations and business. It’s great that we now have the biggest storytelling festival in the UK happening here and that is definitely going to make it possible to make Llandeilo the home of Welsh storytelling. I’m so grateful to Beyond the Border. A few years ago I didn’t even know that storytelling as a career was possible until I saw their event at National Trust Dinefwr. I was then chosen as one of their New Voices and now to be supported to be the Cyfarwydd in my own community.”

Sandra Bendelow, Beyond the Border’s Festival Manager said, “We were delighted that Ceri Phillips applied to be a Cyfarwydd – especially to work in the Llandeilo community. To be able to support one of Beyond the Border’s New Voices at the start of what we’re sure will be a very long career in storytelling, to work in the town, which is the new home of the festival at National Trust Dinefwr, is perfect. Now, more than ever communities need a Cyfarwydd to tell them stories, help them tell their own stories and gather stories of the area to help them make sense of the challenges of life.”

Beyond the Border International Storytelling Festival supported by NT Dinefwr sits within two years of engagement and locally rooted participatory projects like the Mycelium Story Hub. The next festival will take place at National Trust Dinefwr from 7-9 July 2023.

The Mycelium Storytelling Hub is supported by Arts Council Wales Connect & Flourish.

This work has been made possible by an award from People’s Postcode Trust, a grant giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

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