On 19 August 2018 we gathered in the Ale House in Stroud to celebrate two things: the launch of Awen’s newest title, Silver Branch: Bardic Poems & Letters to a Young Bard by Kevan Manwaring – and also the author’s birthday!
Kevan organised the evening with his usual generosity of spirit, giving us a showcase of bardic talent from Stroud and Bath – and beyond. There were poets, musicians and storytellers sharing many different versions of the bardic arts that Kevan has worked in and encouraged for 25 years, representing a cross-section of his acquaintance with bards from his youth in Northampton, through his time living in Bath and now in Stroud.
He started the evening himself, with a rendition of ‘Taliesin’, from the poetry cycle The Taliesin Soliloquies, about the tale of the legendry British bard who is said to have lived in the sixth century. Kevan has taken great inspiration from the tale, the poetry and the man himself over the years.
Next up was Kevan’s partner in the storytelling and music duo Brighid’s Flame, and fellow Fire Spring, singer-songwriter Chantelle Smith, performing her song about the banshee.
Another Fire Spring followed, Kirsty Hartsiotis, bringing in the third bardic art of storytelling with a rendition of the tale of Mabon son of Modron in the Welsh story of Culwch and Olwen.
Two Stroud-based poets came next, Tim Bannon and Jehanne Mehta.
Then publisher and fellow Fire Spring Anthony Nanson with another bardic piece – a storytelling rendering of the Song of Amergin, one of the legendry forefathers of the Gaels of Ireland.
Kevan acknowledged the inspiration he had had from the next performer, his old friend Marko Gallaidhe, who continued the Irish theme with a song and a tune.
Marko was followed by one of Kevan’s students in the bardic arts, Wayland the Skald, who said that Kevan was one of his favourite people – and thus gifted him with his favourite folktale, a Yorkshire tale in which the Devil comes good!
He was followed by Earthwards, who are Jehanne and Rob Mehta and Will Mercer, who sang a song about Runnymede – the ‘rune meadow’ where the Magna Carta was signed.
Two more Stroud poets followed, Robin Collins, and Jay Ramsay, who delivered from memory a bardic poem about the fire in the head of bardic inspiration.
Current Bard of Bath – the 20th, Kevan was the third – Kirsten Bolwig gave us a true tale from her work with teenagers, which had us on the edge of seats – a tale of tempers, stories and stolen double-decker buses on the Mile End Road!
Recent Stroudie, but old Northampton friend, Simon Andrews gave us a song about unity. Jeff Cloves contributed a poem about book launches – and Nina Simone – from his own recent collection.
Then Peter Please told a spine-tingling story of dream and connection and birthdays and resonation through the generations – all the way back to the Ice Age. The evening was rounded off with a poem of Rumi’s, performed by storyteller Fiona Eadie, and then finished with a bang with another song by Simon.
We’d like to thank the Ale House in Stroud for providing a venue, and we thank all the performers and all the listeners!
If you missed the Stroud launch, Kevan will be launching the book in Bath at Poetry and a Pint at St James’s Wine Vaults in Bath on Wednesday 19 September, 7.30pm.
If you’d like to see some videos from the evening head on over to our Twitter account @Awen_Books, and you’ll discover Kevan and friends there!
All images copyright Kirsty Hartsiotis, save for the image of Kirsty, copyright Chantelle Smith and that of Peter Please, copyright Kevan Manwaring, all 2018.