Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cuentos Los Silos - Stories for Everyone

Los Silos is an incredibly diverse festival, with the participation of pretty much the entire town, as well as people from all over the island, and (in my case) all over the world. I was impressed by how well it all fit together, and how seamlessly it incorporated events for all ages and all tastes. 2014 was the 19th year of the festival, and the practice definitely bore fruit.
Instead of a chronological account of the events, I decided I would like to mention some of my favorite parts of the weekend, to give you all a glimpse of what it felt like to be in the middle of such a colorful, busy, inspiring whirlwind of stories. So, if you ever decide to visit Los Silos early in December, here are some of the things you can encounter:
(All pictures come from the Cuentos Los Silos Facebook site. Go and like it.)

Storytelling concerts
We all had to bring several 50 minute shows to the festival. As for me, I had 3, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. It took me almost a year to piece them together, translate them, and practice telling them in Spanish, but the end result was absolutely worth the work.
Some shows took place late in the morning (11am) and were advertised for a family audience. For that, I presented my Strange Princesses program, filled with Hungarian folktales about brave, clever, and exceptional girls. The show took place in the theater room of the local Health Center (yep), and it was filled with families. After the show, little girls lined up to thank me for the stories and give me a kiss on the cheek. A few times I stumbled over words in the stories; I was delighted to find out that the audience was more than willing to help me find the right one, and smile in approval as the story continued on.
My two adult shows took place in the local high school on the two nights of the weekend. The first one was a new program of legends about Attila the Hun; the second a series of Hungarian folktales that had connections to Spain (and even, in a symbolic way, to the Canary Islands). The house was completely full both times (about 100 people), and to my great surprise I found out later that there was even a Hungarian lady in the audience!
Sadly, I didn't get to go to the big shows of anyone else over the weekend. I would have loved to see all of them, but we either told at the same time, or other things came up on the schedule. Pretty much all of our shows played to a full house, though, and we were overwhelmed by the love and support of the audiences.

Stories from the Balcony
I was so happy I got to do this one! In the evenings, under the light of the full moon and the lampions, storytellers told one story each from various balconies around the main square. People gathered below, sitting on stairs, benches, fences and chairs, and gazed up at the pretty wooden balconies where the storytellers were. It was tons of fun to walk up the creaking wooden stairs of the town hall (more than 200 years old) and walk out onto the balcony to impart some folklore upon the masses below. Made you feel like the Pope.
I got to hear two rounds of Balconies, and I was glad I did. A lot of the local tellers did them too. In my round I shared time with Luís and Fabio (who actually did the balcony thing twice; also, he is really good at picking the right story for the right audience); walking around in the evenings I got to hear Mar González and Laura Escuela as well. Since the weather was so warm, it was great fun to sit around on the square, waiting for storytellers to appear in a strange Romeo and Juliet fashion.

Stories on Couches
This one was truly unique and fun. At 5 in the afternoon people gathered in front of the town hall, holding their tickets to a show by one of the five storytellers listed on the program. When we all gathered, volunteers led us in different directions along winding alleys and around corners until we arrived to... someone's home. In the spacious living room, hidden from the noise of the main square and the spotlight of the stages, the chosen storyteller sat in an armchair, waiting of us, accompanied by drinks and cookies. I went to Luís' session; there were ten of us there, including the couple who owned the apartment, and that was really all the living room could fit. What resulted was a very nice, quiet, relaxed hour of stories, where the storyteller talked to us instead of at us, and we all got to sit back and enjoy a quiet hour of storytelling the way it most naturally works. Luís was graceful and funny and eloquent, and even played us a lullaby on his accordion in the end.
I am suddenly a big fan of small-scale storytelling festival events.

Stories in Patios
These kind of worked the same way the Couches did, except this time we took our seats in the small hidden patios of old apartment buildings. The audience consisted of about twenty adults and children. This time I got into Fabio's session, who did not only switch quickly between Inuit myths and colorful children's books, but even told a Fionn Mac Cool story, with which he totally won the festival, at least in my eyes.
(I noticed that Spanish tellers like to tell with picture books, which pretty much defeats everything I have learned about the art of oral storytelling. They do an amazing job bringing the stories to life with their own words, and the books they use I gorgeous. I spent a lot of money on picture books in the festival's bookstore. A lot.)

Lightning round!
The end of the festival was marked by a final show in front of about 300 people in the inner court of the old convent building. On this stage all of us featured tellers told one more 5 minute story each, to say a fitting farewell to our beloved audiences. I told second, and after I did I took my place in the back of the stage on a brightly painted bench, to watch the others. In the case of some of them it was the first time I heard them tell, and instantly regretted not getting around to go to more of their concerts. The Tapetes duo was lovely, and so was Arturo, who told his own funny story about saints running a race to decide who gets to stay in the canon (a very Spanish story for a very Spanish audience). As a former Catholic school student, I was very close to peeing myself from laughter on the stage. The lineup came to a closing with a tale told by the festival's main organizer, Ernesto Rodríguez Abad, who brought all of our tales into perspective. The full moon and the stars peered in from the night sky above. At the end of the show a marching band appeared out of nowhere, and we all filed out of the building and onto the square where everything erupted into a spontaneous dance party that lasted long into the night.

Poems and Umbrellas
 In addition to all the shows, circles, book signings and children's workshops, there were also many volunteers walking around the square, adding more color to the weekend. Some of them carried long cardboard tubes, and if you asked them, they put it to your ear and then whispered a poem into it for you, in a vibrating, mysterious voice. Others carried umbrellas decorated with colorful cards, and if you stopped them, they stood under the umbrella with you, reading you a story from one of the cards (and then pointed you to the bookstore where you could find the corresponding book). It was all good fun, and literally brought poetry, art, and storytelling to all the people on the streets.

All in all, the festival was packed with things to do, things to hear, and things to learn. It was extremely busy, and at the same time a whole enchanted weekend full of colors and words. It was one of the best storytelling events I have ever been to, and I am deeply honored to have been asked to be a part of it, and bring my stories from Hungary all the way to Tenerife. I will be re-living and re-telling this experience for a very long time.


  1. If only I spoke Spanish! It sounds like an exciting event for both the speakers and the audience.