Pathways / Llwybrau is a story walk in your pocket – a performance to be listened to while you walk a planned route. There are currently four performances available, all crafted around walking routes in Cardiff, taking in parts of the Taff Trail, the Greenbelt, the Penrhys Pilgrimage Trail and the Ely Trail, different pathways that explore different parts of the city. While exploring these routes, listeners are invited to “walk through the story” – to listen to a curated collection of stories, to reflect on what’s around them, what they can see, and how story adds a new dimension to landscape. While the story routes are designed to be walked in Cardiff, lots of people have also been choosing to walk through story in their own parts of the world: from Aberystwyth to Ireland, California to Indiana.
The idea for the project really came about during the first lockdown. I was spending a lot of time out walking and, because the travel restrictions were quite strict here in Wales for a considerable time, I couldn’t drive to the national park or the coast, where I normally hike. So, instead, I started to explore my local area, digging out my old map of Cardiff, and I came across all these wonderful walking routes and trails that explore industrial, suburban, and green parts of the city. As I walked, I also listened to a lot of podcasts, and I started to think about how when you walk and listen to stories, something new is added to your experience of landscape. You start to attach new significance to the things you’re looking at, the smells, the sounds, the shifting seasons. Pathways / Llwybrau is all about exploring that idea and inviting people to pay attention to what’s around them, as it takes on a mythical or magical dimension through story.
We’re now heading into the next phase of the project, during which I’ll be collaborating with six emerging storytellers from all over Wales. The performances will become less place-specific and will instead explore pathways all over the country.
It’s for anyone and everyone! I invite people to walk through the story even if they are not based in Cardiff, and each story walk also has an accessible option: I know people who have listened at home, or in their gardens, or created their own routes to walk while listening to the stories.
You can find links to all the story performances and details of the routes on the website here: www.pathways-llwybrau.com. And when people have listened and walked, I would love to hear from them! They can contact me to chat about their experiences either via the website contact form, my Twitter @tamareluned, or my email address firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s been wonderful hearing about people’s experiences of the stories, what they’ve been reminded of while listening to them, and how, when they’ve returned to the place where they walked through the story, it’s taken on a new feel for them: there’s a new emotional attachment or imaginative element to that place that wasn’t there before.
I was born and brought up in Cardiff, Wales, and returned here after five years spent studying and living in the Midlands. I studied theatre at university and wanted to become an actor or a director, but while I was studying, I discovered storytelling. I say discovered, it was more a “rediscovery”: I had been around storytelling all my life, hearing people tell stories at festivals, and being told the Welsh Mabinogi stories in school. But I had no idea it was possible to be a storyteller – as a job – until I started going to the Birmingham Storytelling Café and seeing all these people telling stories from memory, and I was immediately hooked. That same year, I told a story at the national Young Storyteller of the Year competition, and to my huge surprise, I won. Part of my prize was that I was given lots of performance opportunities, so I started gigging, telling stories at festivals and story clubs, and building my repertoire.
When I returned to Wales, I started to pursue a full-time career as a freelance storyteller. I have always had what’s known as a “portfolio career”: I’ve worked across the performance arts in a range of different capacities – theatre direction, puppeteering, running workshops, producing – and I think that helped me a lot when it came to starting out as a freelancer. Freelancing in the arts is hard but if you can turn your hand to lots of different things, you have more of a chance of surviving. So, for the past five years, I’ve told stories in schools, performed at festivals, run workshops, and developed storytelling commissions and shows. Now, I also work for Beyond the Border as a freelance engagement coordinator, which I love!
I work bilingually in Welsh and English. A lot of the stories I tell are ones that I remember being told when I was small: the folktales of Wales, the myths and legends from the Mabinogi. I am drawn to reworking old stories and making them speak to contemporary audiences; I’ve no interest in rehashing tired stereotypes about princesses needing to be rescued. I think storytelling is all about connection and sharing with other people. I’m addicted to it. I love hearing stories, telling stories, and finding new stories to tell.
Two standout online events that I’ve attended in the past few months were Bellowhead’s revival gig – https://stabal.com/stabal_media/bellowhead-on-sale/ – and the screening of Emilia the Play: https://www.emilialive.com/, this barnstorming feminist story of a black woman’s fight to get her voice heard. I also listen to a lot of podcasts: IWeigh with Jameela Jamil, Crooked Media’s Pod Save America (very useful when trying to navigate the news about the US election), and How to Fail with Elizabeth Day. And I love running Casglu for Beyond the Border, our weekly online discussion group with storytellers on a Friday morning. I always leave feeling really inspired and ready to start creating!