The festival featured over twenty storytellers from around the world including France, England, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Holland and Ireland, with audience numbers reaching towards twenty thousand.
“The festival took place in the Castle complex of Alden Biesen, founded by the Teutonic Order in the 1500’s, in the Flemmish region of Belgium. It was an incredible location and perfect for storytelling,” said Joe, speaking on his return.
“There were various rooms used for telling from the riding stables, a cellar and rooms within the main castle. The whole complex is given over to cultural events and the storytelling festival is one of the biggest.”
Many of the performances were for second level students and adults learning English.
There is a huge interest in learning foreign languages in the area.
According to Joe their level of comprehension was excellent.
“There’s a riddle type story I tell about a man escaping from a dungeon across a moate, that plays with the meaning of words and is complex. I had to tell it in the castle with the moate outside. We had great fun with it and they got the meaning of it,” he said.
The highlight of the trip was an Irish night when Joe performed with his good friend Clare Muireann Murphy.
“It was a massive success,” says Joe. “We had a packed house and it was just an incredible evening. It was very special to share a stage with Clare, something we hadn’t done since performing in Vienna some years ago. It was a very special evening of telling and the atmosphere was both magical and electric. The response from the audience was so warm.”
According to Joe such festivals gives him a chance to promote Ireland, and especially Donegal abroad.
“People are really interested in Ireland. Sometimes their knowledge is limited so sharing stories and the place they come from really gives them a glimpse of the county,” says Joe.
“It’s also a great opportunity for me to meet with old friends and to make new ones. It is a chance to hear new stories and encounter new styles of telling. I also get to appreciate the richness of our storytelling tradition. In many other countries people are rediscovering their storytelling traditions. Ours is alive and well.”
Joe will be performing at a number of venues locally over the summer so keep an eye out for further details in what promises to be a great night out for locals and visitors alike.