Storytelling has always had its place within Girvan Folk Festival. In 2019 we are spreading our wings a little and embracing storytelling in a slightly different way. Perhaps the most obvious new venture is the inclusion of Jock’s Jocks in our event schedule.
Jock’s Jocks is a show put together around the collection of interviews made with returning soldiers from World War I and lovingly transcribed by Jock Duncan. (Jock Duncan is well known to many of us as one of the great traditional singers from the north-east of Scotland). The show, which includes stories, songs, music and a fair bit of humour, was put together by Gary West a musician well known through his work with Clan Alba, Ceolbeg, Far, Far from Ypres and also as a presenter of BBC Radio Scotland’s piping program Pipeline. Another familiar voice in the show is that of Scott Gardiner, a singer also renowned for his singing of bothy ballads.
Another storyteller who is joining us this year is Heather Yule. Heather is the daughter of Barbara McDermitt who is one of the earliest tellers to appear regularly at Girvan. Heather has fond memories of coming to Girvan as a child and is delighted to now be associated with the festival. Heather is currently working on a major collection of songs and stories from Stanley Robertson. Her mother, Barbara McDermitt did her University PHD thesis on the songs and stories of Stanley Robertson and Heather is currently working with that extensive archive.
There are a number of other storytellers among our guests who might normally be associated more with singing or musical performance. These include Bob Blair, a noted ballad singer who has embraced the art of storytelling in recent years. Another is Colum Sands who is certainly a teller of tales both in his introductions to his songs and in his songs themselves. Some of our other Irish visitors are also skilled tellers of stories.
Girvan Writers Group
We are also embracing a more literary style of storytelling through a new connection with the Girvan Writers Group who will be launching a book of short stories during the festival.
And more: Within our ranks we have people who are knowledgeable about some of the local history of Girvan including its smuggling, fishing and maritime history. Peter Henderson first came to Girvan as a lighthouse keeper and is one of the few people you may meet who has actually been shot at by modern day smugglers. We are encouraging Peter to share some of his knowledge throughout the festival.
People interested in Jock’s Jocks are also likely to be interested in another important Girvan connection with World War I. Turnberry airfield, just a few miles north of Girvan, was home to men of the Royal Flying Corps, later to become the Royal Air Force. The son of one of the senior commanders of the Royal Flying Corps, effectively the founder of the Royal Air Force, unfortunately died in a flying accident whilst training and was buried in Girvan. When his father died many years later, he requested that he be buried next to his son in Girvan. Their graves, together with some other airmen, can be found within the Old Cemetery in Girvan.
As we embrace and develop our storytelling program, we are attempting to integrate it more with other closely related interests. Poetry, storytelling, ballads and songwriting are all variants of the same seeds.
The paintings, poetry and music
Are all merely water drawn from the well of mankind
And must be returned to him in a cup of beauty
So that he may drink and in drinking, come to know himself