A number of years ago, I was working with another storyteller called Peter Stevenson. He has a PHD in folklore and was researching in Aberystwyth archive library for a book he was writing. He came across fragments of really old fairytales from Gower and said "these are your stories, you have to have them". There were 4 stories all together 'Pennard castle' (a well known local story), 'Come and come again beer' based in Llanmadoc, 'Old Moll' based in the Parkmill area and 'The Ox of Eynonsford farm' based near Reynoldson.
Speaking to a friend of mine Stef (who's family have been on Gower for generations), her Grandmother used to tell her 'The Ox of Eynonsford farm'. It turned out I had about a third of the story, the lovely Stef gave me the rest.
Stef took me to the places associated with the stories, we placed them back into the landscape. I then worked with the fragments of each story and with their renewed landscape connection, they became whole again.
This is the well known Pennard Castle.
I've been telling these stories to all ages locally, for a number of years now. Adult audiences have thanked me afterwards saying "Thank-you! I feel more connected to the land, people and history of Gower now". They'd moved here and had more of a sense of belonging because of these stories. Children have become princesses and warriors, enchanted by the fairytale world.
There are always people who still want to hear them, but most local people have heard them a number of times now. There isn't always a big enough audience for me to keep hiring a venue and covering costs.
I've been telling these stories to small audiences at my home, to keep them alive, but I began to worry what would happen if I wasn't telling them. To hear how much these stories mean to others, as well as myself made me want to preserve them.
I decided to write them down a few years ago and have been waiting for the right illustrator to come along ever since. A month or so ago an incredibly talented painter friend of mine popped into my head. The amazing Beth Marsden.
I told her about my idea and she said "I'd love to illustrate them! I happen to be working on some illustrations at the moment, come and see what you think!". I loved them.
This is part of my favourite one.
I've made a short film to illustrate Beth's work, so people who don't know her can get an idea of the style and quality of her painting.
(Beth's website: www.bethmarsden.com and Instagram account:bethanawenmarsden)
This book is written for adults to read to children, although it will have illustrations, its not a picture book. That way the book and stories will grow with each child, as they become old enough to read it for themselves. Its also for older children and adults alike, these stories are timeless and beautiful.
I've spoken to Gomer press to get a quote for printing the books and to get a sense of the quality of their work. They sent me a hardback copy of a book that was a similar size and quality to what I wanted and its stunning.
I wanted a teal colour, with copper foil writing, but unfortunately the cloth covering doesn't come in that colour. The nearest I can get is another favourite colour of mine, a rich blue. So I thought 'old gold' foil lettering would work better than the copper with this colour.
These are close to the colours available.
In writing the stories down, I don't want them to lose the magic of being told. So in the back of the book I'm going to put how as storytellers we work with a story, so we can 'make bits up', then if parents or grandparents or friends want to try telling these stories, as well as reading them they can.
I'm also going to put a map of Gower, with a dot of where each story is set, so people can visit these enchanting places.
I want the book to be a beautiful gift in its own right, that people would want to look at it because its beautiful, as well as enjoy the stories. If I get the crowdfunding amount I can make this dream come true.