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Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 17:48 UK
West Stow stages a Suffolk storytelling competition

The Gippeswyk Storytellers used to meet at The Brewery Tap in Ipswich

A new competition is being held to find the best storyteller in Suffolk.

The Anglo-Saxon village at West Stow near Bury St Edmunds is the venue for the inaugural Eisteddfod.

Professional and amateur wordsmiths will take part in the event which aims to crown and enthrone the Chief Skald of Suffolk.

"A scald is an old Swedish term for a storyteller and poet," said Robin Herne, of the Gippeswyk Storytellers, who is organising the competition.

Robin has held the title Chief Bard of the Fens, following a competition he won at Flag Fen near Peterborough.

"To the best of my knowledge, there's never been anything like that in Suffolk, certainly not in living memory or in any historic records I could track down," he said.

Robin will be the MC and judge at the West Stow event which takes place on Sunday, 1 August, 2010.

"The only guideline is that the theme for this first year is Suffolk.

"So it could be stories set in Suffolk, historic events in Suffolk or even something set in the year 5010.

"A storyteller has to create a unique work. So even if they're talking about, for example, the Green Children of Woolpit, they might choose that theme but have to put their own spin on it.

"They can't just recite a story that someone else wrote. It's got to be done in their own words, their own way and their own approach.

"It could be a tale of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll on the sordid streets of Ipswich for all I know!

"Some may be doing poetry, some a bit of singing - it's entirely down to them what they do to fill their 15 minute slot.

"I promise not to be the Simon Cowell of the panel!"

Robin Herne
Robin Herne is a member of the Gippeswyk Storytellers group

Storytelling circle

Robin is the organiser of Ipswich's Gippeswyk Storytellers which meets on the first Monday of every month at The Railway pub on Foxhall Road.

"We are gradually getting more members," he said. "We get new faces each month. Occasionally we get comic poems as well.

"Recently, I went down to Hadleigh in Essex at a roundhouse and at the end of it a lad of about 17 or 18 came up and said how much he'd enjoyed it.

"A lot of people from the 'techie generation' are quite keen and interested.

"With the computer, you get the illusion of human interaction, but you lack body language, tone of voice and all that sort of thing which is why, I suspect, you get so many arguments on the internet.

"People never quite know how to read each other without that human interface.

"Things that are said in joke, seem to be serious when you take it out of the context of body language.

"Storytelling and poetry reintroduces that, especially if you do it spontaneously."

The first Suffolk Eisteddfod runs 10am-5pm with the last entry to the competition at 4pm.

West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village
West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village is run by St Edmundsbury Borough Council

"The first year we're going to start fairly small and get an idea of how it all works," said Robin.

"The Chief Skald will be encouraged to take part in other events, some at West Stow.

"There's an iron age roundhouse being built out in Tunstall Forest and I'm hoping we'll be able to get a few storytellers out there to build up the touristy side of it.

"You do get storytelling 'groupies' who will travel quite a long way to listen to a decent storyteller!

"The hope is that next year the Eisteddfod will be slightly bigger and we'll have a youth competition as well as an adult one.

"I've roped in a teenager called Tom from the Mildenhall area who's promised he'll help co-ordinate that side of things."

Sunday update: the first King Skald is Matt Kimpton, an author from Cambridge, who told a story about rival Saxons battling a wolf.

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