It was always going to be a nerve wracking festival this year for me. To be chosen as one of the five members of the Club Mix was an honour, it really was. And I was already suffering. It was the weight of representing both my club, The Speakeasy in Liskeard and Strong Words in Bodmin, could I do them justice and make them proud of me? It was also the thought ‘Here I am, people used to know me telling in the clubs in the Midlands, they haven’t seen me for over eighteen months, what will they make of me? Have I developed or was I stuck in time?’
The choice of story was crucial. We had been given two themes: trees and a twist in the tale. Did I know any tree stories? Well if I didn’t the time between being chosen and the festival was extremely productive. I now have a vast array of tree stories to suit any age group, most of which I have performed in my fortnightly spot in Liskerrett Community Garden- come and have your lunch whilst I regale you with tales- appropriate- no?
I found, what I thought was the perfect tale, and then I told it. It didn’t stand up to the pressure. So I changed it- I modernised it. My references were too specific and couldn’t take the strain of the tree. I adapted again, bringing it back to the ‘original’ but keeping bits of the modern in. It worked- but was it suitable for a family audience? And the timing- was it under 10 minutes? I wasn’t sure.
In the Tales in the Garden, I told a tale I had been gifted by my tour guide in Lithuania. I loved this tale, it sang to me. Perfect! Except the tree motif didn’t come in until right at the end. Would it work? I drove my friends mad- which one should I go with? This one is more tree-y than the other, but I love the other. I practised them both. The answer came from all sides: Tell the one your heart feels more comfortable with. Right up until the last minute I still dithered and questioned and worried and dreyed. And then I chose. And then I worried that I hadn’t chosen the right one.
And then there was the problem of what I was going to wear? I’m not the brightest colour in the paintbox. I tend to think things match when they are just a slight shade off. Peculiar, eh? I had brought items that I had, in my naivety, thought went well together. They did in the dark of my bedroom. They didn’t in the bright sunlight of the fields. It took my mind off which story to tell for a good hour!
Should I change my mind at the last minute? I listened to the others and found that they had taken a broad view of the theme too. What did it matter? It wasn’t a competition; it was a sharing of tales. We had worried that our voices wouldn’t carry acoustically in the tent. Our MC, Shonaleigh, was supportive, caring and helpful. We played with the space the night before, trying out the boards, giving a couple of lines and seeing if we could be heard in the empty tent, knowing that the sound would be deadened more if… when the tent was full.
The time came. The Club Mixers told with grace and aplomb, their words drifting over my mind like leaves in autumn. I piled them up and every now and then an image pokes its foot out and reminds me of the tale, the teller. Each one different, each one had the spice of its teller, its taste familiar yet exciting. It was comforting. When my turn came I stood up and felt the warmth of the audience, the support of the Cornish massive ranged across the back of the tent and the willing push of my fellow Club Mixers. I told the tale I loved.
The following day was the Twist in the Tale, nothing mattered except the story now. My fellow Club Mixers were relaxed and open, the day was dry but not too hot, the audience, new. There was not the weight of expectation that the first day held and yet… and yet… the need to do justice to the tale, to give it its own place, the reason why it was chosen, to allow the audience to see what the teller saw in it, was ever present. Wonder of wonders, we were diverse: distinctive styles, different attitudes, variety of story and yet all with a twist. Everyone enjoyed the tellings; performers and audience alike, the smiling faces, the applause, the relief.
Would I do it again, if asked? I’d bite the hand off, I would be there so quick. So don’t hesitate to call me. And then I’ll be dreying and worrying and suffering, but I’d enjoy it.
Many thanks to all suffered with me, uncomplaining.

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