Ann Gerety Smyth, and, Annette Corkery, are my cousins, my friends, and have worked on a few projects with me. They run their business in Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre, in Ardagh, County Longford. http://creativeardagh.blogspot.com/ This was originally a school where our grandfather, Patrick Corkery, taught.
I will let them tell you about it…
1. Tell us about Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre and its connection to the art of storytelling.
Since opening in 2011 Creative Ardagh have hosted over 30000 visitors at events as diverse as heritage tours, educational tours and drama with active age groups to the visit of President Higgins in 2014. We regularly have groups of up to 50 tourists from all over the world. We’ve hosted speakers and facilitators from Germany, Bulgaria and New Zealand. We network with schools across the region and with authors, artists and craftspeople from all over the country to provide opportunities for high quality audience participation in the arts. In 2016 we were nominated for a Pride of Place award for reaching out to marginalised groups and offering creative cultural experiences to all ages. Storytelling is a big part of what we do in that we have been sharing the stories of the area to all who visit and we have hosted many other storytellers, writers, poets and musicians. We even shared a very magical story from the most famous of Bards when we performed A Midsummer’s Night Dream in the garden.
2. What initiated you to do your live storytelling as Scealta Beo?
Scéalta Beo means living stories and we have been living the story since we began in 2011. We have been researching the local mythology and history for decades and are members of many groups interested in this and in particular translating and discussing the original, Old Irish versions of our legends. We discovered that there aren’t many storytellers in Ireland anymore when we had the first Scéalta Beo storytelling festival in 2018. We had to bring some from the UK. When they were with us we realised that they are our tribe and that they consider us equals in our knowledge. This reaffirmed what we had already discovered in ourselves while at the Bard Summer School on Clare Island which we felt compelled to attend because the theme that year was Midir and Etain, the legend of Longford. We discovered we were, and had always been, storytellers, and that we had been in training to bring the legends to the people while running Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre. We had been telling the history, stories and myths at all of our events within the centre and now it was time to bring them further afield. We bring them to life by dressing in the clothes of the time and bring props and crafts of the time with us so that we can transport the audience to the past.
3, Why do you love storytelling and why is storytelling so important?
We love storytelling because we love the stories and we love to share them. It is so enjoyable to see the wonder and awakening of interest in the myths and legends of Ireland in the eyes of our audience. Stories help us all understand life and the why of it all. They help to encourage empathy and they take us away from the reality we live in to another world. They deal with huge issues in a safe way and are how our ancestors imparted the knowledge needed to survive and thrive. In these uncertain times we need storytelling more than ever.
4. What are your ambitions for Scealta Beo?
We are compelled to bring the stories to schools and festivals around the country. We are now Experts on the Panel for the Heritage in Schools scheme and we had our first festival performance last year at Rooskey Heritage Festival. Who knows maybe we will bring them to the world.