Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

 

 

Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

What is a Skald?

I could look it up, and perhaps I will, but there is almost no need of history, we are history, we are re-making it as we go along. Let ‘What is a Skald?’ be answered by what is needed of me.

Some of you are, like, yes but what is a Skald? I am storyteller to the chieftain so we can start from there.

Fame and respect I suppose. A storyteller and or poet would be noticed and enjoyable. They would be thanked loudly as well as being responded to as they go along. So it was with me I guess. I did many a performance in many a place before I was asked to be Skald. Poetry and story and most importantly, a mixture.

So audiences were aware of me. Any passing chieftains would be able to see that appreciation shown by the crowd at a glance. They would hear the applause and sometimes even cheers. They would hear laughter – but I do maintain that I am funnier over here in Norway than I was back home in Yorkshire.

There needs to be a little more than this when that chieftain comes along. He needs to like what he hears, to see where the performer is coming from with an air of expectation.

More than this though, they need to jell. So it was with Georg and I. We got along with mutual respect and anticipation right from the start. Not that we are alike, or at least not in every way; our views compliment each other. Also, as Georg says, we ‘look right’.

Not that the role is exclusive, parts of the job can be stepped into by others at times: storytellers, shamans, musicians, hosts, all play a part as happens.

Georg saw me perform at the Jorvik Viking Festival (many times in fact) and through that he invited me to go to Gudvangen.

My performances were a mixture of poetry and story and were tailored to fit the occasion, and the needs of the festival organisers. This arrangement is a happy compromise which also requires an effort to acknowledge the needs of the audience.

So it was in history and so it is that history repeats itself.

Yes, Skald, or Skalt, means poet. One needs to be a poet, experience shows however one needs to be so much more.

The praise poems are needed of course. Special occasions are marked, battles also. In this Viking town rather than just celebrating past battles the Skald needs to support in current ones; fighting the corner in more gentle or subtle ways than the battles of axe-wielding of old. One may also need to help bury the hatchet.

Other roles such as ceremonies we shall come to which often require poems; ‘poems of a purpose’ beyond the topic of the role of the chieftain.

I think my chieftain (or would-be king) continues in the role not just because of the massive levels of respect and expectation from thousands of supporters but also because it is fun.

One must have fun, one must also take ones role very seriously. I know I do. I couldn’t write for the job if I didn’t have a massive respect for the man, for his role, for our societies, and for all who come here.

I am not alone in the role, Georg has several singers, poets, tellers around him – I throw myself into the role and try to take up every challenge. I try.

I take my ‘job’ very seriously, that way it leads to a whole load of fun.

I am sure the Skalds of old had fun, I am also sure they were storytellers. It is said that their panegyrics (praise poems) were quite complicated. The main elements of skaldic verse ( to keep this brief and simple) are: beat rather than rhyme, resonance, assonance, alliteration, consonance and that uniquely Norse metaphoric construct the kenning. The naming-word structures kenning were chiefly used to refer to stories from the Norse belief system which we most often refer to as the myths.

It is believed that the Skald utilised a combination of skaldic verse and story; partly to enthral, partly to impress.

A poem would be spoken, not all of it would be understood so the Skald would look impressive, they would then tell the story or stories which related to the kennings, so being entertaining and explanatory they would now repeat the poem and the listeners would understand it and they could be impressed with themselves.

Some say there was vanity involved, even so far as to say that we only know of the myths / belief system because such as Snorri could feel immortal because we could understand his poetry.

I know that I am immensely proud of being humble and it is the only reason I have been so exceptionally successful.

My main topic here shall be my diversity within the complexities of the role it is an echo of the past in the present, and the skalds certainly diversified.

Beyond the many aspects of the role there is also the fact that it has come about through the natural occurrence of events to be perpetually entwined with occurrences of the past.

We are a rock. A bridge. A ship. A hog-back stone. We are a Heiti – A short replacement of description by metaphor.

We are a time-talker – death-spanner – eon-kin; we are interlinked by our use of kenning.

Our very panegyrics: our words of praise unite us across time.

We are the ‘sound’ from the Proto-Germanic skalliz = sound, voice, shout. The Old High German skal for sound; a skalsong was a song of praise.

Be aware we also have cross time connections in the field of mocking, insulting, word-sparing, with the current English word scold coming from the same root.

For good or bad as a skald you will be an influence, usually for the good of course. You will be an influence and may diversify further into other roles.

You will join the ranks of the keepers of culture and history and of old this often led to other roles.

Becoming a clerk or a scribe was common; a record keeper. Some became preachers, then, as of now, are different faiths and different groups. One now might be led into a role within a re-enactment society’s management, back then skalds would become representatives at a Thing; at the All-thing. You are a skald you are a prominent figure.

One thing is for certain, there were stories to tell, there was a wish to listen, be captivated, to learn. I am very glad to say there is still a place for story today; still a place for old tales and tradition always. Being the skald can definitely lead to stories being told.

One should come to this role through respect. I understand that in some societies, especially in Britain, one has to endure tests – it all sounds a bit Greek to me.

Back in the day, (The Norse day – our heyday), one might be tested by circumstance and be seen to rise above. Perhaps one may even take part in a skald-off – the old mock fights of mocking words, where you make the other look so bad that you rise to the fore – not for me that one, (unless pushed).

In many a re-enactment society to tell stories there are tests which one must. Forgive me if I have details wrong but it goes something like this… Apply to be a member, pay up a fee, arrange to go to the annual training weekend, do the village test, and acting test, three appearance tests and the skald test – you are now a skald. I would place the emphasis on ‘a’ skald and would better describe this as being tested to be a storyteller. There are other ways yet this is one way.

To become ‘the’ skald however this comes from respect.

By ‘the’ I mean the chosen representative of a leader or group; it may be a queen requiring great praise, it may be your local Vikingslag for berating the loser of a scrap or a skirmish. Be it live action role play or at a Viking activity centre it is best not to look at the role as a rank, a qualification or an employment; you deserve the role.

You will be busy.

We shall need to write and or memorise skaldic verse or stylized words for the sake of the occasion, achievements and celebration, (I use a leather binder rather than memory).

We may well help others; story circles, workshops, shares, we may even organise a vote to choose skald of the festival, of the market, of the year. We can create storytellers.

There shall be collaboration; with visiting dignitaries, event managers, business owners, societies. There will be creative collaborations with musicians, drummers, singers, chanters, marchers, actors – with bloggers, vloggers, media, artists, weavers.

Then, of course, there are the speeches, welcoming, declaring open, creating an atmosphere, thinking of fun ways of saying things – attempting to capture the essence of the atmosphere but also of what my chieftain will want to put across.

People should feel good – my chieftain’s golden rule is everyone is welcome except those who don’t make others feel welcome.

Then our chieftain shall speak and I shall have made everyone aware of how important his words shall be – I can put them in a nutshell for you though – It is all about love.

There is the blot or versions of same. This can be a ritualistic ceremony where everyone involved is deeply moved with the connection to the Aesir. The Asatru are the followers of Odin’s family, they are his family.

Such ceremonies are similar to many activities which many British would describe as Pagan.

A simple ceremony can be formed at an opening to bless and celebrate – this is often a mixture of light-hearted and or sentimentally moving. We fill the horn with mead and pass it round, as it circulates each person takes a sip (or gifts a little to the earth if they don’t drink alcohol); as I say these can be endearing and powerful or as simple as ‘Skol’!

One highly jocular comment seemed to be extremely popular when I was in the circle, “Cheerio Miss Sophie.” – this is seen by Norwegians as quintessentially English and yet, for years, was completely incomprehensible to me.

Everyone is welcome and ‘everyone’ is a wide-ranging set of people. – there is almost every belief here and many reasons to be here; Pagans may feel a connection to the place, Asatru to their gods, Muslims might be internally connecting in their own way, Jewish… – you get the idea.

We all have reasons for being here too, from the tourist to the re-enactor, from the site owner to the child of the drummer, traditionalists and newcomers, outsiders and originators, we can all get something out of this, and the nearest I can come to summarising is – timelessness.

There are specific ceremonies, ie funerals, naming days, blessings, weddings, initiations. How are these done? – By everyone sharing their expectations and wishes, to ensure that these elements are included.

You have jobs beyond the grand occasion, newcomers should feel welcome, they should not feel unsure, they should be guided and befriended. – Keep an eye out for them and point them at the right person (possibly yourself).

New ideas will come and you will seek to be encouraging and informative.

Off-shoots of my role have included, contributing to newsletters, blogging, arranging tapestry presentations across the globe.

The biggest thing perhaps is the parade; the background to it and the resultant ceremony.

Background indeed, often an aspect hardly noticed IE there are drummers and pipers hanging around wondering what’s going on. The film crews will be arriving in about five minutes. “Could you drum so they hear which way to come?” “Maybe blow horns when they are in sight?” “Could you be at either side so they walk through?”

To the chap with the three-metre spear, “Could you accompany the chieftain and I so you are his honour guard on the stage?”

“You warriors, when I hold up my hand for silence for the chieftain could you run in front of the stage roaring and clash your weapons to your shields?”

“Galda man, when the shields have been clashed and the horns have been blown could you make one of your spiritual screams?”

“The crew won’t be set up in front of the stage for ten or fifteen minutes so we all could parade around the full camp following our chieftain.”

I shall call onlookers to follow us so we have a crowd from the stalls.

So, everybody marches.

Being adaptable and able to respond ably to commission are vital skills.

People need to get there too. How is the place represented? Can you improve upon what is out there? During the course of writing this blog several people have enquired upon how to visit my chieftain’s town.

The getting there is a story in itself and can be made very entertaining, especially if you make it seem of the Viking age.

I was lost at a huge place with many stalls, all selling odours and alcohol, water was highly priced. I became lost in this accused place and passed many many gateways all leading to other worlds. When I found the right gate and donned Freyja’s feathers I landed in a place of many tunnels – no wonder you people believe in dwarves.

I am from the new lands and have returned to the old stone to remember they ways.

The narrative of the day is also important. Letting people know in a fun way what to expect and what they can take part in.

Activities can be acted out see………………….

I of the new lands must admit to forgetting the old ways – we no longer have grass on our rooves – we have done the terrible deed of missing with the others – Saxon! Angles! Even Parisii!

I may have an advantage; being fluent in English as the world of the Viking is multinational and English is a common tongue, giving me advantage of a Norwegian speaker slightly, possibly, maybe.

We have told multinational stories in over twenty languages and dialects. See Norway in a Nutshell.

Viking Saga in a Nutshell – As performed at Gudvangen Viking Market 2017

On the topic of tangential roles I have recently been asked to write a story to accompany every product on a Viking website.

My own blog keeps me busy with its various strings. This blog is part of the Storytelling is.. string. There is also a series of prose poems on the Gods and Goddesses. Plus another string on my many visits to Gudvangen; this set or series has recently been widened to include My Viking Dreamlife which mixes reality with myth and folklore.

The roles and off shoots I have described are the main elements defining the Skald in a timeless way through the needs of the community. As it must be so shall it be and so shall it always be in the before.

And that I show I ended up with a blood brother and living in a little hut next door.

 

 

 

Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle

Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

Storytelling is… #5 The Spendlow Lectures Part 1 The Chosen

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Storytelling is… #2 The Show

Storytelling is… #1 Show intro

 

 

 

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Skaldic Kennings for our Chieftain

Skaldic Kennings for our Chieftain

A film team from France were creating a documentary about the Cheiftain of the Viking town in Gudvangen, Norway and I was asked to write a poem in my role as skald to be part of the film…

Njardar Viking Town

Look around

What brings you here?

Dream-creator

World-shaker

Love-bringer

History-maker

Community-seer

Remove-fear

Happen-here

Team-steer

Freedom-father

Gudvangen-leader

Gift-sharer

All-carer

Past-weaver

Peace-caster

Doubt-killer

Hert-filler

Originator

Let love and growth sustain

All because of

Our Chieftain

A man who has no power

And no official role

Who makes things happen by the hour

And gives this place its soul

Let me say it here again

May your gods be thanked for

Our Chieftain.

 

AS

 

 

 

 

 

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

 

flag

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

LH – Living History characterisation tips for re-enactors – My most viewed blog.

A modern continuation of the Viking mythos, I scribble, artists from all over the world replace my images – The Hammer FliesOski and the AmuletThe Horned God and the Wild Hunt

Facts and Fiction storytelling magazine – I am grateful for so much from this by post magazine – in particular the Storytelling is.. poem is published there – The comic strip too.

I cannot wait to get to this amazing festival to perform…NHhorizontalheadline

http://hostfest.com/ – https://www.hostfest.com/experience/viking-village/

I am also looking forward to going on from there to University of Wisconsin Green Bay where I will be lecturing, running workshops and storytelling in their Viking longhouse. https://www.uwgb.edu/viking-house/

I have written prose poems and travelogue pieces as Skald to the Chieftain  click here for the beginning of the series and then click ‘Next in the current series’ on each of the 26 blogs on the topic!  The start of the skaldic writing links

I was commissioned to create an ‘It happened to me’ performance for school children attending Cliffords Tower on the effects of the Normans. Click here to enjoy the blog which is written in the style it was performed.

Under the wing of Viking Comics Inc. comes the quirky series OldMan Comics, here is a link to one of those where I actually change the course of the battle at Hastings, (oooops sorry OldMan does).

I actually am Hobb the Pig-man, originally created for a commission for Barley Hall in York ‘he’ tells tales from a medieval point of view. ‘He’ has also worked on many projects for Scarborough’s Create and here is a project created for the Fossil Festival. Fossils? Yes cos it is Hobb. Hobb the Pig-man, he has also been Hobb the Night-guard and here he is as Hobb the plough boy.

A big thank you to actor Graham Scarisbrick for voicing this piece from my, soon to be released, audio play – The Boat Rises – Click below to hear A Viking Trojan Horse…

 

 

 

Actor Donna Jones, (for those of you who know her, aka Donna Kitching), voices here, the possibly, first ever documentation of a UFO encounter, (of the third kind), in a six-thousand-year-old folk tale; The Bamboo Babe.

 

 

 

 

One of the most interesting jobs I’ve been given was to be paid to sit in pubs listening to people telling me stories. Hundreds of fascinating stories came from the experience, you can read them here.

The main tool I used to stimulate anecdotes was a set of prompt cards. You can see those prompts here.

I am always pleased to be able to work with Alda and to promote her music. Here is a link to her single A Real Good Time.

And of course her sister’s company SigRun Viking Art & Design.

The three of us together produced Alda’s Rock Opera Gods Bless Ya!

For my multinational stories I reduce a popular story to a few lines so those of many countries can help tell the sagas in a nutshell.

One of the roles of the Skald is to host Opening Ceremonies.

 

The Series…

Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle

Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

Storytelling is… #5 The Spendlow Lectures Part 1 The Chosen

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Storytelling is… #2 The Show

Storytelling is… #1 Show intro

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 3 Being Skaldic

 

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

 

Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle

Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

Storytelling is… #5 The Spendlow Lectures Part 1 The Chosen

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Storytelling is… #2 The Show

Storytelling is… #1 Show intro

red hat

 

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

You are a storyteller of great renown – it has been posited and it will be so

(If anyone can think of a way of describing my pontifications I would love to hear.)

There are proud moments though.

(You should strive to posit so, it may even be an expected role of the storyteller.)

Think.

Embrace.

Story.

Proud moments yes.

Odin was a giant.

He sought power.

He was Borrsson.

The All-father thing. It is all timeless and mixed up. This is the gods, they can be from whenever they wish.

One of the Vanir wasn’t even born when he turned up at the God-swap with the Aesir.

These are the things which I think in the dark of the night and these are the things I fit into my stories. Think of things for yourself, these are your things.

Those proud moments.

There on the tee vee is a pal of mine. He is telling the world of how his team of archaeologists have definitely recovered the bodies of Roman-age York-based gladiators. Next thing I know he is calling ‘hi’ across the street and I am going to him to thank him for a great presentation. They are hoping to find the arena so I commented that many Roman features were still around when the Vikings arrived; they commented on the roads, they will have utilised bathhouses and a temple as a palace. If there had been an arena they would have used it as their all-ting (circular government). He looked really excited at this and said when they find it the first thing he is going to do is look for Viking-age items.

Another archaeologist friend was very interested in my thoughts on Lindisfarne. I had picked up a tourist guide and saw it mention the 1500 Scottish Border Report which stated there was a large hidden natural harbour which could house a whole fleet as it prepares to invade. I pointed out that if it could hold ships then it could hold long ships and perhaps the Vikings hadn’t just raided the monastery they had set up camp there to do raids of the mainland. The next thing I know my friend has promoted a talk on a whole new look at the Vikings on Lindisfarne.

Proud moments yes, new lines of thinking too.

Adaptability is important. Places and events want storytellers. They have a theme or a period of time. You get some strange requests. So one needs to put stories and elements of stories together. A fitting set list.

The composite – the gathering of the information and the melding into one tale.

This can be a string of known tales but once you have researched the topic (within your own know how as well as in your sources) you may well have a collection of snippets and so. Folklore, history, characters. The most common way I weave these together is in an ‘It happened to me’ style. This works well in performance and allows one to ‘hide’ behind a persona. It is easier to act things out if you are a character.

You will need a fitting costume however.

Or at least a hat. Perhaps a few.

The sagas are bitty, the myths especially so. Partly due to being patched together from many sources and partly due to being frozen in time. I love a good index. Kevin Crossley-Holland comes to mind. His work on myths is a good source.

By working through all the references to a particular character or topic within the index you can piece together a fuller picture. Then you can see ways to tell. Stories leap out of your research and juxtapositioning. All new and always.

Vikings: We only have so much material and it is laid out in a certain way and we need to explore what we can do with it.

We can try and reach back to the teller of the time and try to gain their skills by studying thoughts of their motivations.

Let us look at their whole empire, the stories from it all are often hidden within the myths.

Let’s see what can be dug up.

I don’t sing. I don’t play an instrument (except the cave harp). I love to work with music. It changes everything. And with singers too. Melding my stories and prose poems in with their ballads etc.

In the Gods Bless Ya! show my stories set the scene for the songs of Alda Raven and I seek to fill in any gaps in the flow of narrative. I also perform her words (yes, I admit to the use of a script!). SigRun Viking Art & Design create the costumes and supply the models to be the goddesses, part of my job is to create a narrative to accompany them; to get the timing right and to direct their actions subtly.

Thus are stories dramatized.

We can take part together and play roles and allocate parts.

Re-enactment groups post up a story and say who would play which part? IE The priest was very angry about this and stormed off to the sea captain. The sea captain agreed a fee to ferry him and waved him aboard his ship bound for Normandy. You volunteer and you go along. Except for the odd word or two shouted from the field it is crowd scene acting with a narrator over the tannoy.

The ways the storyteller can be utilised, the roles expected, bring me to the idea of the skald.

I haven’t so much looked at the history of the Skald, as at the necessity of the Skald, by being one.

I have looked at skaldic verse with its beats and echoes and, of course, the kennings. It is believed that they were written in such a way you would not fully understand on the first listening, but then the Skald would tell the stories which are referred to in their poetry and then read the piece again. That way on the second listening the audience would understand.

As modern-day Skald to the Chieftain I have many roles, as we are seeking to echo Viking-age life as clearly as possible. I write praise poems for my chieftain and to mark occasions.

Practicality leads one towards storytelling and uses those skills as part of the needs of an occasion.

Leading parades with my chieftain. Opening festivals, markets and events. Collating other performers and introducing them along with course leaders etc. Acting as presenter at events and as entertainer at feasts.

Providing performance opportunities for members of courses and circles. Creating group dramas.

I find that circles draw in teenagers and young adults more than any other age which is very refreshing, they have seen the shows and want to experience more.

Getting others involved can be great fun. The walk by at opening ceremonies has caused great fun. As I talk of leather working classes a glamourous presentation of their produce parades back and forth in front of me. When I announced the timber has arrived for the new constructions two men with a plank hanging down between their legs groan their way across the arena. People clamour to take part with ideas of how to promote their activity. As I say, “Visitors are invited to take part in the Glima at their own risk,“ a huge wrestler whistles as he carries a ‘dead’ body.

The multi-national stories go down far better than I ever expected they would. I strip a saga down to a few dramatic sentences and then invite people of different nationalities or dialects to stand alongside me and translate one after the other. Great fun seeing them all acting it all out.

It is always an honour to be asked to take part in a ceremony; be it a naming day, a wedding, or an event blessing. I may accompany my chieftain’s activities with a relevant poem or tale. I might utilise the mead horn, statues, a mirror bowl, the chanter’s chair or the threads of the Norns.

One ancient tradition which must be respected is to do what the participants wish.

I am reminded of the words of Jane Harrison in Ancient Art and Ritual where she talks of the 1 2 3 of existence. The one being you. The two is you and the world and the three is: you perceiving the world, the world effecting you and you reacting to that. We are destined to perform ritual.

So, what is a Skald – imagine you are a chieftain – what do you want from me?

And so to my greatest powers; example and expectation. As simple as that, my work is inspiring and I have an expectation that you will be involved and develop.

You will grow and be

I am not an academic, I am not a reenactor, I not even a Viking if I am truthful; I am a storyteller. I seek to be true to the past I am part of and I seek to be very very good. I give you part of what I am and I ask you to be ready.

As we are drawing to the close of this section of the series I would remind of story points; you can’t do a story unless you have them. Slot them in a row in your mind and you are ready.

The next section of this series will be the feature on techniques. For groups and those intending to join one of my groups I would suggest the techniques section is looked upon as a hand out, a guide, to help empower you so you can help shape the sessions.

As for endings, look at some of ‘my’ endings. I lean towards throw away, I am not very strong on morals if you see what I mean and I find punch-line type endings take away from the believability.

As we draw to a close on the lecture and move on to the techniques section it is best to reiterate; I have always found that performance example inspires and encourages people.

To summarise my personal feelings, ‘Oh no I am going to have to learn all of this.’

 

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

 

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

 

Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle

Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

Storytelling is… #5 The Spendlow Lectures Part 1 The Chosen

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Storytelling is… #2 The Show

Storytelling is… #1 Show intro

 

with snake

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

Right, I am going to get strict now.

Storytellers must always tell traditional stories which they have learnt by listening to another storyteller. They must sit and not move and they must never ever utilise items – the sinful prop! Sit still and tell old things rigidly.

Well there we have a whole set of rules to be broken. I certainly break them all. It is a school of thought though, an old school of thought.

There is a vision of the teller in a big chair and everyone hushed and still looking up in awe. It does happen. These are moments to cherish.

My first thought would be, where to put that chair.

Space.

Put yourself in your space. Find the place where you feel right.

I like to get there early. I step into that school hall and I guess I am getting the vibe, I most usually walk straight to a spot, “I would like to stand here”. It isn’t always where they expect you to go.

It is the same on a ship, in cave or on a stage. Put yourself where you need to be.

“Can you put my chair here please?”

“And my table here if you are using ‘the dreaded prop’.

The inner translucent layer of a mammoth skin has been draped across near the rear of this cave, with a small fire behind, you step out of a hidden side alcove when they are distracted and you beat a hollow log with your talking staff; you are suddenly there, a misty figure in front of them.

And you have your place.

Your place in history.

Step around into the open and stamp your white staff to the ground. Stay silent for a moment while they take in the carvings and the natural twist leading to the gleaming crystal.

Play a little on your cave harp.

Or say but three words then lift up your bone flute.

If you are more modern than this you may be wishing to commune with Odin. Your fur-covered Chanter’s Stool is brought out for you and you flick your cloak as you sit.

The large seat.

The shamanic drum.

The soft toy – well, that is me.

Rocky the Dragon gets very sad because he never gets any kisses.

I might be better getting a white wood staff.

And so to sit.

Or stand.

Or both. I tend to be out of my chair most of the time but starting things off sitting seems to work for me. I am a bit all action and cannot keep still.

Silliness seems to happen. In among the gripping and the scary a bit of silliness too.

‘I have lived in the land of fairy – and I have never been the same since.’

Being trapped in a fairy ring causes one to have to dance and for all people laugh they are intrigued. For all the silliness of stories of meeting and even marrying beings from the realm of the Fey I tend to attract people who hang around to tell me of their real-life experiences of meeting or seeing creatures from the mystical lands.

You have to remember who is out there. I will look at the idea of being a ‘Skald’ in a little while, let it be said there is always a sense of ceremony. The way we conduct ourselves, be it at a ritual or on the content of our set lists should always seek to be inclusive. In your audience is someone who happens to have come along, a tourist who wants to see how we do things, a historian, an Odinist or Asatru who follows the ways of the old gods, a person of another religion.

Respect. Respect mixed with entertainment.

Art is always a compromise. There is the viewer the one experiencing the art. They are to be considered. And yet one must maintain their own integrity.

Yet you must always do what it says on the tin. If it says chocolate milk we don’t want root beer coming out into the glass.

Many circles are spontaneous of course. Chiefly though, you have been invited. The audience have come along because of what the publicity said.

The publicity has been written by the inviter, they wrote it after talking to you, but they also put their own needs into it.

You must try and fit with this description.

You might always try and describe yourself slightly differently from the last time.

What does it say on your tin?

We have talked a little of the oral tradition; that the content and possibly style of our ‘show’ come from the past.

If we talk to a ballad singer, someone from the folk world or perhaps a shanty singer, we will come across the school of thought; traditional means that nobody wrote it. An old song has gone through so many singings, been passed from one singer to another, that the version we hear now is no longer anything like the first song which somebody actually wrote.

The shanties or other work songs have been created by the group to fit a rhythm or a need so have really evolved and developed.

We do live in a modern world where information is available to all. So it is possible to go back to the root or at least dig deep.

We are also freed up a little by this information availability. We can ‘tell’ in our own way. As long as we are respectful to the story.

Some of the records of folklore etc are a little clumsy, they are a record for posterity, not a classic novel.

This is where that second storyteller by the universal fire comes into things. Making the story better, more fun, gripping, relevant to the original concept, getting it all across is a skill. A developed skill. This is just as much a tradition as passing along the accuracy of the tale. We are all somewhere in the middle of this quandary, this long drawn out ‘story’. That innovative storyteller is a tradition.

Take the responsibilities with you but bring that tale alive. It deserves you. It deserves you to be your very best.

Embrace the past in your own way.

Where are we in the timelessness of storytelling and can we become our self back then as if we are there.

There are old stories. They were not always written down, as they are now, yet they survived. The enjoyment of them survived. So, although we can be glad of those who recorded them and of those who share them today, it was never meant for such a rigid thing as text. Never let it be so.

Tens of thousands of people may have told of that dugout canoe the first people survived in before and spider taught written signs to any tribe.

(I am not too sure how the canoe got to every single nation in the world – but I have heard of it wherever I go!)

I cannot tell you what to do. I don’t know how your mind works. I do know one thing; every individual’s mind works in a different way.

Go with your failings.

Mine is names. So I allow myself to forget. I think of ways. His brother. The tall giantess. With a flick of her hair. You know; avoidance, distraction.

You might want to force yourself to digress. Or to get back onto topic quicker.

I’ve talked of being a collector. Here is an aspect which can make the whole audience die of groaning or can fill hearts with soaring fire, (not to be sexist, but I think I am talking blokes); details.

Factual information. I struggle here in the same way as I do with names to be honest. I did, however, experience a split of reactions recently.

My father drove steam engines. You can already see where this is going. I have told great stories from his experiences for many years. Before a recent performance I thought I should have a refreshing look through his book. There was all that information; fourteen-foot fireboxes, that sort of thing.

Then here among it all was, 40302.

Engines always had a number like this. To me it is just a number. Then I read in my own father’s book that there is a reason behind this number; a sense to it. It refers to the wheels; 40302. There are four axles, a space, three axles, a space, two axles.

I look quickly now at my (currently virtual) audience and half of them are raising their eyes at an obtuse angle and half are achingly keen to hear more of such things which will fill them with inner bliss.

Where do you sit in this factual quandary?

How are you going to challenge yourself!

(Or cope with yourself.)

To be fair to myself I managed to play on that division within my audience and they laughed as they re-enacted their reactions.

I actually challenged an audience member, (it was in a chatty circle event were sharing was encouraged – and there was beer.), “How can you be so sure?”

“Oh,” he replied, “I file all my memories in date order”.

We are all different.

Shout out a date, another friend of mine can tell you not only what day of the week it was but every little thing about what happened. I gave her a date from the seventies and she described the embroidered flowers on my yellow large-lapelled suit jacket.

Another friend cannot pick and choose she has to scroll. She can recall every single thing which happened to her from the age of three, every feeling, every sound, smells, the works.

Will your mind allow you to be spontaneous?

Find a way.

The Skalds did poetry. Bards too. Many say poetry is a means of remembering something. I say do not memorise poetry. It will rattle along like a maraca in a samba band.

Poetic works need the meaning emphasising not the rhythm, beats or rhymes.

For me, I have written thousands of poems, I have two I can do from memory.

Set me on with storytelling though.

I have worked a full week of six hour days and finished the story just in time to clock off.

(It was a queue constantly streaming into a museum so I had to be sure and make every element work alone.)

I am quirky.

Not being believed is another failing of mine. The whimsical way I portray tales makes people think I have made it all up, I think it is my cheekiness. The fact that I have spent hours on research and finding new ways to think are lost in the gag.

“You have made that up.”

We are quirky.

You are and you need to deal with it alright.

Reinterpret, research, reconsider, posit, discover.

Hours of research go into one snippet; a gag from hours.

This is a concept I have real difficulty explaining. There must be a word for it. There must.

Like there is for what Jung did. To posit. He explains how he was asked how the brain worked and he didn’t know. So he said there were two parts; the conscious and the unconscious. Now there is. There really is. He posited.

Say how something is and therefore it is forever so.

Edward De Bono reckoned that we posit all the time; especially politicians.

It is one aspect of what I mean.

I’ve described this idea in detail to someone whom was writing a thesis for academics to assess and she said what I meant was historical research.

That doesn’t seem quite right to someone plodding along in their own way hoping for the best.

If you talked to anyone going to a museum they would describe it as ‘the point’ because every single person who goes in an old place has a point to make. It is more important than looking to see what is in there. They have researched. They have thought. Here is the thought!

I am full of such thoughts.

(I try to address my stories with such things.)

I slip them in. I am the only person in history of Vikings to give the Gods surnames. Well, Patronyms. It took me ages to think about it and then I do a story and say Odin Borrsson and nobody notices. ‘Ah yes, that is his name.’

This is an inspirational talk so you can go away and not be motived either.

Yet…

 

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

 

Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle

Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

Storytelling is… #5 The Spendlow Lectures Part 1 The Chosen

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Storytelling is… #2 The Show

Storytelling is… #1 Show intro

drum n me

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

I became Skald to the Chieftain of Njardarheimr Viking Village in Gudvangen, Norway through a respect for my work.

Lively, moving, often light-hearted there is a depth which brings enlightenment through new thought.

Coming from performance and poetry with an independent approach can bring a refreshing new outlook.

We can all give to each other.

My storytelling developed as an interest following working in the position of Poet in Residence for York Archaeological Trust. The resultant storytelling was observed and appreciated leading to travels in Scandinavia.

I tell in far more forms that Viking, am known for bringing story alive in a unique way, in an interwoven performance.

An ability to nurture and develop bring a popularity in many fields from reminiscence to theatre. Above all known to be remarkable; never forgotten, always sought after and perpetually stimulating.

I hold courses, workshops, lectures and storytelling circles for whoever you are at whichever stage in life.

This series Storytelling is… has been created to be applied to currently planned work at Norsk Høstfest, North Dakota State Fairground, Minnesota and for University of Wisconsin Green Bay in their longhouse so is aimed primarily at those who wish to develop storytelling skills to present to their fellow Vikings; I am, though, ever adaptable.

Facts and anecdotes, also ancient things – I am a collector. Not of stamps, or of spotted things but of these such bits; couple these to whole chunks of experience and I just have to go out there and tell.

Everyone is a storyteller, knowing your audience / getting used to them makes one a whole lot better. Gaining an increased understanding of the oral tradition develops one even further.

Given time, each storyteller is marvellous. – Given a good platform each story lasts forever.

People who are quiet will enthral audiences. Those who have repertoires will thirst for more. Those who are entertainers will rise above themselves.

People who spend time in my groups are more able to storytell.

It is about knowing so let us pledge…

We shall be guided along our path. We shall increase the wealth levels of skill. We shall share. We shall grow.

We shall attend Adrian’s workshops, his atmospheric performances, his empowering story circles.

 

 

 

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

 

Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle

Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

Storytelling is… #5 The Spendlow Lectures Part 1 The Chosen

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Storytelling is… #2 The Show

Storytelling is… #1 Show intro

hob tent

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Adrian Spendlow

Storyteller – Poet – Writer – Presenter

adrianspendlowblog.com

I work widely to commission for performance and for display and publication.

I act as team leader and contributor for community based projects.

I am personal Skald to the chieftain of Viking Valley, Gudvangen, Norway.

I have written extensively from the experiences of many different groups within society: with prisoners, widely with the homeless, the elderly and those with mental health needs etc, (my background as a staff nurse in mental health continues to be an influence).

Festivals such as the Jorvik Festival and many schools have used me to draw inspiration from the thoughts and ideas of children to create displays, performances and publications. Outcomes are vital and I always seek to maximize the results in terms of displays, features and publications. I work with bands at many festivals, writing poems for each performance.

I have worked for many organizations including;

Archer Project in Sheffield

Beningborough Hall

Cape UK

City of York Arts and Culture

City of York Library Services

City of York Parks and Gardens

Hull and District MIND

Jorvik Viking Centre

Joseph Rowntree Trust

Leeds Museum Services

Peaseholme Centre for the Homeless

SigRun Viking Art & Design

Stockeld Park

Stockton Museum Services

The Poetry Society

We Are Theatre

York Archaeological Trust

York Festival of Light

York Literature Festival

York Museum Trust

York Stars

York Theatre Royal

I regularly perform at Festivals, both nationally and internationally, and at residential homes, schools, community groups, prisons and safe houses.

Past Festival performances include;

  • Gudvangen, Norway
  • Lygra, Norway
  • Jelling Festival of Mythology, Denmark
  • Beverley Music Festival
  • Buxton Fringe
  • Edinburgh Fringe
  • Glastonbury
  • Henley On Thames Festival of Music and the Arts
  • Ilkley Literature Festival
  • Jorvik Viking Festival
  • Otley Black Sheep Festival
  • Musicport World Music
  • Rollercoastival
  • Scarborough SeaFest,
  • Teesside University
  • York Festival of Storytelling

Much of my work, particularly for schools, museums and the community has been commissions, where I have developed interactive mixed media projects through research upon the commissioner’s chosen theme.

Projects include.

  • Action Towards Inclusion Team Leader and contributor empowering those with mental health needs utilizing storytelling to develop confidence and discover new directions.
  • Home to York; community based project leading to an exhibition of story related art with live performances, filmmaking and digital displays.
  • Centre establishment for the new Peaseholme Centre involving text with art and core philosophy development.
  • Circles and shares for many years at various establishments particularly around York.
  • Team Leader and performer for I’m Here project with an occupational theme around community homes resulting in a display, film and digital portfolio.
  • Storytelling courses, circles and courses at Viking festivals and schools in Norway and the UK.
  • Story walks created and performed for Bjorgvin Marknad near Bergen.
  • Community placement at Jacobs Well, York resulting in a publication of poetry relating to Alzheimer’s for circulation around doctors surgeries.
  • Collaborations with several artists and digital media artists to create text/poem/story integrated with their art including
      • Gods Bless Ya! Rock Opera with Alda Raven and SigRun Viking Art & Design.
      • Legendary; story and song duo with Olivia Jayne Newton.
      • Slim Knows Time fifties and sixties beat poetry band.

 

  • Co-writing / recording / narrating the Spendlow’s York series featuring Romans, Vikings, The Minster, Viking sculpture including the development of Christianity in early Britain and York Castle.
  • Week day residency on the Jerry Scott show; Radio York for three years.
  • Poet in residence at the Jorvik Centre for York Archaeological Trust; also many interactive projects within Coppergate Square and St Sampsons Square at their festivals.
  • Blind and Partially sighted tours and placements also incorporating other areas of need
  • Tourist walks for language schools and party bookings.
  • Access All Areas Music Awards, Presenter, London.
  • The Kirklevington Stones Project for Stockton Museum Service.
  • Student placements from York University for specific one to one projects.
  • Greek Myths and story development projects for St Olaves / St Peters schools.
  • The Viking Banner Project for York Archaeological Trust in cooperation with Arts Action York and artist Jo Pullar.
  • Many commissions for the Jorvik Viking Festival including Road to Ragnarok.
  • Andvari’s Gold Nordic myth CD for Jelling Dragon international sales site.
  • The Dolly and the Riverboat for York River Festival, (working closely with the Keelmen and descendants) Scenic sculpture with story and poetry.
  • Watery Tales initially for the York River Festival.
  • Streets Alive Concrete Poetry – interactive pavement art.
  • At Adrinskald’s Table for the Winter Festival, York.
  • Slavery for Arts in MIND, Hull, with school placements and a Ferens Gallery showing.
  • Light of an Ancient City for the Festival of Light.
  •  World War II reminiscence project, We Are Theatre.
  • Read All About It leading to a publication of people’s stories.
  • Ales and Tales, story gathering project for City of York Council resulting in a display of two hundred plus stories.
  • Yorkshire Folklore projects for Analogue.

 

Director for Telling Arts Community Interest Company.

A project with Telling Arts saw us creating an island in text, poetry, story, art, artefact and structures directly from the imaginations of the pupils of School in Nottingham.

 

Corporal Nym and Gloucester in Shakespeare’s Henry V for York Stars.

Branwell and the Brontes dramatized reading production

Oscar Wilde in a dramatized reading production

Dickensian narrator for We Are Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol

Maskerade and Mort by Terry Pratchett for We Are Theatre

Loonie Old Witch in the Footlights Theatre’s production of Robin Hood

Cameo role as Punch in We Are Theatre’s production of Pinocchio

The king in Kingdom of Neversleep, interactive storytelling show