Walking into Guid Crack would fill anyone with an immensely warming feeling. Another instalment in a series of storytelling events, tonight we sit upstairs in Edinburgh’s Waverley Bar, as stories of people and place are told in hushed and excited tones. Whether you hail from Scotland or not, this evening of traditional folk tales is enough to make you fall in love with the country all over again.
The event is led by Tim Porteus, who is raconteur incarnate. From his brightly-coloured trousers to his trilby hat and cragged wooden staff, he looks the part as he tells us charming stories from his childhood, about travelling to the Isle of Skye and the people he met there. Events like Guid Crack, he tells us, are the epitome of ‘DIY entertainment’: the maintaining of a historic tradition of oral culture. These stories of people and place are an integral part of Scottish culture, and it is people like Porteus and the other storytellers in the room that keep the tradition alive.
Scottish folk tales abound in the room, but are intertwined with some more unusual stories from audience volunteers. One volunteer tells a traditional Indian folk story about a cracked pot, which leaks water as it is carried back from the well. Although it doesn’t fulfil its designed purpose, the water it drips allows many flowers grow on the path, and so its owner never replaces it. It was a charming story with a moral that your flaws can be your best qualities, even if you are blind to it yourself. This juxtaposition between different cultures’ stories makes for an exciting and novel outlook on folklore, even for the seasoned storytellers in the room.
Unfortunately, the very nature of Guid Crack’s format, whereby all members of the audience are invited to present their own songs and stories, results in some pieces being more enjoyable than others. On this particular evening, the weak link is a crude song about the relationship between a farmer and a troll. Looking around the room, there are some smiles at the sheer absurdity, but overall the song’s failure to fit in with the theme of the evening breaks the audience’s immersion. In a sea of beautifully told tales and traditional songs, however, one weaker piece hardly matters.
Ultimately, each Guid Crack event is absolutely unique, meaning that whether you’ve been once or dozens of times you will always hear something new and intriguing. If you want to get in touch with Scotland’s roots, really get to know the history of beautiful Edinburgh, or just sit quietly and listen to folk tales from the world over – all for free, it should be added – Guid Crack should be your next port of call.
Image: karendesuyo via Flickr