"Tales told in a tent"
by Michael Gray for remotegoat on 25/07/15

This Festival of Fairytales for Grown-ups and Myths for Kids opened on the rainiest day in July, in a massive “contemporary yurt” just by the Oxo Tower.

The first event features that doyen of story-tellers, Ben Haggarty, with The Blacksmith at the Bridge of Bones. It's a quintessential story of master and disciple, good and evil, supernatural skills and magical powers.
Haggarty takes us with him to a world of shape-shifting serpents, a wolf in a wheel, golden legs and silver wings, towers and eagles, and a cold, coffined bride woken with a kiss. And all brought back at the end to the river Wye, just down the road from Haggarty's Herefordshire home.
The ancient art of story-telling is in the surest, safest hands here. He uses mime – conjuring the wolf, the spider's web out of thin air - humour, repetition and surprise to hold his audience entranced for almost an hour, weaving familiar elements - seven years, the power of three [three white metals, three trials, three days] – into a compelling narrative, craftily structured for the most satisfying effect. Like children, we enjoy the familiar, love a clever twist and a happy ending.
Direct speech too – this man in black becomes the youthful hero [named Jack, naturally], his widowed mother, the eponymous smith – a mighty man indeed – and the sensual serpent queen with forked tongue.
As the rain patters on the contemporary canvas roof, Haggarty introduces his story, and warms up his audience, with a traditional Haiti welcome. His listeners are divided into teachers and sleepers, students and nuisances. All high-tech life support is banned, the phones, the pods and the pads, the "tweets and the twattering". The spoken word rules, the imagination roams free, in a ritual exchange as old as mankind itself.

This pop-up extravaganza continues, rain or shine, until August 2, with a fine roster of fabulatori and different tales every day.

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