If you like folk music and other folky things - or need to hone skills for professional reasons - then there are some good training opportunities on offer in Somerset.
Halsway Manor is a lovely old manor house in the heart of the Quantock Hills in West Somerset. It was set up as a charity and a folk centre in 1965 and puts on a year round programme of residential courses, events and activities to get people involved in folk dance, music, song, storytelling and arts and crafts. It has a large folk library in a 16th century panelled room. The food and accommodation are great, it has a bar, and lots of parking, lovely gardens and the staff are friendly and helpful.
I have a particular affection for it because my folk fiddler father Ken Hillyer (who would have been 90 this week) was often involved in courses and events there in the late 1960s and 70s.
Today, I see, the range of what Halsway is offering is both diverse and imaginative. For example from July 20 to 22 there’s a new workshop weekend event for musicians and dancers who want to learn more about the treasure trove of music and dances published by John Playford in the English Dancing Master in 1651.
Led by the band Boldwood, accordionist Paul Hutchinson (pictured above) and dance teacher/practitioner Stuart Marsden (who trained with the Royal Ballet and the Rambert School of Ballet), this is a course about discovery and experimentation. It is aimed largely at musicians, dancers and dance teachers who have little or even no previous experience of this material.
Music workshops will include interpreting the music in different, exciting and danceable ways and working effectively with dance teachers and dancers. For dancers there will be lots of opportunities to learn dances and work with, and give feedback to, the musicians about what makes these dances really take off.
The other event, which should appeal to teachers across the board, including those who specialise in Early Years, Child Development, Language and Linguistics, English and Drama - and actors - is Halsway’s “Just Talkin’ On” storytelling weekend. It takes place September 21 to 23.
It is a weekend of workshops, performances, Q&A and informal story sessions with the First Laureate for Storytelling Taffy Thomas. He is joined by his “Laureate Consort” Shonaleigh and storytelling clinical psychologist Dr Steve Killick, who co-wrote Telling Tales a book about the importance of storytelling in the development of emotional literacy in young people.
This weekend is suitable for storytelling beginners, intermediate or indeed experienced storytellers, or those just intrigued at the idea of this ancient activity, as all will go home with a new story, having told a story, or just having been entertained in good company. And it sounds to me like a good opportunity for any actor wanting to develop story telling skills.
There’s more information about fees, accommodation and so on Halsway’s website www.halswaymanor.org.uk or phone 01984 618274.