Real Life: Storytelling, Sustainability And Outdoor Crafts At MythFest
Festival season might be over for the year, but with days as glorious as these autumn ones, who wants to stay at home when they could be out playing with all the wonderful things that Mother Nature has to offer?
Many of our craft and DIY posts include sticks, leaves, feathers and other things that can be found on an ordinary walk outside, but for extra inspiration, we spoke to Vanessa Warrington, founder of the brand new family-friendly storytelling and crafts festival, MythFest.
We asked Vanessa to tell us a little bit about how MythFest came to be, the very serious message behind the festival, and also to share her top tips on storytelling and recreating a little bit of festival magic in your very own garden.
Can you tell us a little bit about MythFest and what prompted you to set it up?
I wanted to create an event that included all of my favourite things to do as a family. One that combined magic, creatures, making things, movement, music and laughter while being a fun, educational and healthy family experience.
I wanted families to be absorbed in a meaningful story, to be mindful, and to create powerful objects out of natural materials in the woods that they could then use to channel their ancestral magic and help defeat the King of the Otherworld and ultimately save the world!
We are lucky enough to be in a country that understands the importance of culture, heritage and landscape, and environmental and economical sustainability. With the backing of the Clwydian Range Tourism Group, we applied for, and were fortunate to receive, the necessary funding from VisitWales to go ahead with MythFest.
Storytelling was a really big part of the festival. Do you think bringing myths and legends to life has become a bit of a lost art? What can we do to change that?
Myths and legends flow like water through our culture. They are continually evolving; they feed our beliefs, fuel our traditions and inspire film and TV globally. This is a hugely popular genre at the moment for adults and children, as people try to reconnect with the stories of our ancestors; our heroes and happy endings and a gentler way of living on our planet. I’ve always been fascinated with myths and legends and superstitions and believe it is something that should be celebrated and preserved as part of our cultural heritage.
Storytelling is one of the things that makes us human - it is entertainment and learning, a powerful combination. The media has changed with technology and the ancient art of verbal storytelling has been the one to suffer. It allows for interaction with your imagination, stimulating creativity, ideas, questions and conversations. Watching a film is fabulous but it paints the picture for you. Storytelling brings a simple happiness and enjoyment to you, similar to when you read to a child, you do the voices, actions, describe the scenes and laugh together.
MythFest drew on techniques used in forest schools. What do you think are the main benefits of children of having outdoor woodland experiences?
I’m passionate about being outdoors and believe it is essential for children and families to spend quality time with nature. I also see the outdoors as the place to learn everything. You can take your children on a walk or just play in the garden and you can count and make up poems and discover. You get the added, undisputed benefits that come from being away from toxic plastics, artificial light, screens and the anxiety that grows with our busy, manufactured lives.
There’s overwhelming evidence that time spent outdoors can build physical and mental strength, improve family and community relationships and foster a care and connection with the world around us. That’s why it was important that MythFest was completely unplugged; no amplification, no artificial lights, minimal stuff and maximum natural setting and stimulation.
This year's festival touched on pollution and sustainability. Why was it important to you to weave in a more serious message amongst the fun and theatre?
It wasn’t even a conscious choice. Every day I try my best to lessen my negative impact on the planet and I find it frustrating that I’m unable to do enough. My house is full of the unwanted materials that I’m forced to collect and for the last few years we’ve taken to turning them into things that are quite pretty or useful but most importantly are not ending up in landfill. MythFest was certainly not going to create waste and it had to fit my ethos.
2018 is the Year of the Sea in Wales so it made perfect sense to weave water into our story. When I was researching the myths and legends of North East Wales, I found that many of the characters and creatures lived in or had links to water. With the release of Blue Planet II early in 2017, we joined the growing movement to inspire families to help to clean and conserve our waters.
Here at GLTC, we're also huge advocates of learning through play. Drawing on your experiences, do you have any top tips for parents on the best way to go about this?
Play is essential for developing all of the skills needed to become a rounded individual. I meet so many children and families that don’t know what to do with a selection of ‘things’ or ‘loose parts’ at first and they need to be given the time, unsupervised, to remember how to bring their imaginations and creativity back to the surface.
In this crazy world everything is instant and shiny and sometimes our brains can’t keep up. I really believe that this inability to play and ‘just be’ is contributing to anxiety and the physical ailments and negative behaviours that result. GLTC’s collection ignites imaginative play, one of the ingredients in making happy, healthy children.
GLTC are passionate about high quality wooden toys that can be passed down through the generations. Are there any that have caught your eye and that you'd recommend?
I love them all. I’m a huge fan of using wood products and the quality is great. I love the festival food van which would be great outdoors. I can see my children setting up their own festival, music in the background, air guitars and drums going and a lovely selection of festival mud pies. The teepees are great too, we definitely need a few of them as chill out tents. They are perfect for role play and learning social skills and just having fun.
Will MythFest be returning in 2019? And can you give us any hints as to what we can expect?
We’ve had interest from different venues hoping they can host one, and we’ve had interest from teachers keen for us to do a school tour. One of the best bits about this whole process is that we’ve got a great team of creative people who are now passionate about and committed to MythFest and really want to do more events. I think we’ve got a winning model for an excellent family experience. You can keep up to date with our plans and events by checking the MythFest website and following us on social media: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Do you have any tips for parents who want to recreate a little bit of the MythFest magic at home?
Definitely act out your favourite stories or better still make up your own, encourage dressing up and improvising. Ask children to think about characters and plots and what the good message is going to be, and make props and create a performance space. Try to get outside and use the things in the garden or in the park as free craft materials. Take your time, there’s no rush, no correct way to do anything, just enjoy it.
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