Beyond the Border Wales International Storytelling Festival

By Limor Shiponi

Whewww… work grabbed me away from this space for quite a while, but I’ll have to go back a month and tell you a little about the festival. I’m not going to write about the program, just about the general experience I think you should be aware of if you care about storytelling.

To get there we leave our homes in the middle of the night, mount the train, ride to the airport, go through check points, take a flight to London, collect the car we hired, drive out of the big city along the M4, across Bristol’s bridge into Wales, continue past Cardiff off the highway onto smaller country roads, not miss the right turn that will bring us closer to a tiny place called Llantwit Major, through the right turns along the meadows populating the coastline, find the hilarious castle signs, turn once more even closer to the ocean until we arrive in front of the gates of St. Donats Castle. It’s the tenth time I’ve been through this voyage.

Since no recordings or photos are allowed during sessions you’ll have to rely on my words or come and see for yourself. I think any storyteller in the world should visit this festival at least once in a lifetime. It is where you can witness storytelling in its purest form, performed to such a level no other medium can match. It might shatter what you have come to learn and believe about the art. If you care for it – be brave and go. You might at the same time win a ride into your own existence.

Comparing to the event’s artistic capacity, the audience is small. The opening event takes place in a modest circus tent, humid after the rain and hot to stir inconvenience. But who cares; something very different is going on. For two days and a little, ancient sounds and words will live again through modern time’s storytellers and musicians serving the soul of our biggest questions; in life and death, joy and longing, grief and power. The vibrancy is enough to keep everybody beyond the border far longer than the telling.

Low stages await the arrival of performers. The atmosphere gets dense as time brings you closer to the opening note. Underneath the pleasant welcoming of various characters walking the castle grounds I can always sense “let the stories beguine”.  When it comes to storytelling in this event there is no diluting, no unnecessary words. A thought crossed my mind: what many modern technicians try to create on various platforms in order to “improve storytelling’s interactivity” is a misfortunate misunderstanding of what interactivity in storytelling really is. In storytelling the audience creates the platform. It’s not a stage, a digital interface or a canvas; it’s the attention of people and the capacity they lend to the event second after second.

Most performances are brilliant, full of beauty and sorrow, profound even if they are hilarious. The audience knows how to listen even when it’s 4 years old. What I like to do is track storytellers as years go by, see them cope with professional issues, refine the ability to tell to the limit, find new places within themselves, combine forms of existence in storytelling, check-out the tiniest issues, find solutions. Superb.

What more can I say? go.

5 thoughts on “Beyond the Border Wales International Storytelling Festival”

  1. Is there any way I can correspond directly with you by email or is this it?
    still telling at 85!

  2. Hey Limor

    I was at Festival at the Edge, just two weeks later! Did you fly straight home. SO sorry to miss you,

    I do hope that next time you are over we can cross paths. Thanks for writing up your experience. I have started to do the same on Professional Storyteller, blogging about festivals and the like. I believe it is important to share these experiences, building better community.

    I will have a website soon and will blog on there about festivals I attend and perform at…share the wealth. Thank you as always for your Agora, I love it, a haven of brilliant thoughts and ideas.


    1. Hi Clare,
      I was dying to stay since I never managed to get to Festival at the Edge and even had the idea of renting a caravan and wondering through Wales for the days between the two festivals. Eventually I had to return home after Beyond the Border, but my plan is still there. One day… thanks for everything you are doing.

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