Just before Christmas, my time in France came to an end when everything needed for the move to England fell suddenly into place. Way back when my husband and I first decided to return to his country of birth, I set my sights on Haworth, having visited several times as a tourist and fallen completely in love with the cobbled streets, the landscape, and of course the history. Haworth was the home of the Brontë family. In the days when Charlotte, Emily, and Anne were writing their poems and novels, Haworth was a dreadful place, bleak and filthy with little to recommend it except for the glorious moors which inspired the sisters just as they inspired me.
And now here we are, my husband and I, living in this remarkable place, where tales are still told in front of roaring hearths and the wind whistles across the valley. Last night I ventured forth into the darkness, following the string of streetlamps down one hill and up another, to the Haworth Old Hall, a four hundred-year old Tudor manor house, lured out by the promise of a fairy tale told told by one of the most enchanting performers I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. While visions of Billy scampering through the hall flitted through my mind, I got myself settled in with a glass of wine and waited for the tale of The Bard’s Bridge to begin.
Ursula Holden Gill was introduced as a “shape-shifting scalliwag” by our hosts, the Worth Valley Storytelling Guild, and that is exactly what she was. At first she appeared as an ordinary woman wearing a pair of clogs, but then she was a deer in the forest, and then a witch, and then an ogre’s wife. She began by leading us to the threshold, and then farther in to where fairyland meets the human world and the light grows dim. Wide-eyed I watched her sing and dance and play her shruti box, and when in the middle of the tale she stopped for a break, we were all amazed that an hour had passed us by. Back in we went, farther still, to a hut in the center of the forest, where several strands of story were finally woven into one.
On Ursula’s website it says:
The Bard’s Bridge is an intricately self – penned, traditionally inspired fairy tale. Woven from various sources; including a 17th century witching tale, a children’s classic, a contemporary Italian folktale and a silly little anecdote she learned down the pub, through the story Ursula challenges listeners to consider their relationship with archetype and loss, desire, sense of place, death, dreams and ultimately, transformation.
And it was a fairy tale in every sense of the word.
Here Ursula is telling the story of “The Princess and the Pigeon”. This is just a small taste of what we experienced last night as she held her audience spellbound.
If you have a chance to see Ursula perform, don’t miss it.