Many of the villages in Gedling borough have a long history dating back to the Iron age.
The villages were always very self contained being situated in the centre of Sherwood Forest. People did not travel much due to the dangers that the forest offered.
Homespun entertainment was created in these villages with the Anglo Saxon mead hall at the centre of the village, near to the church. This hall would act as the village hall, the pub, the council building and the Lord’s home all rolled into one.
The Saxons were always up for a good time and there were people more than ready to entertain their fellow villagers.
Storytelling probably originates in simple chants as the people worked at grinding corn or sharpening tools – all repetitive tasks. From these came the work songs and sailors shanties that still survive today.
I remember while working in a musical production in the 70s about the Spanish Civil War that we had to move 20 tons of sand as part of the set. The crew doing the spade work spontaneously broke into the work songs from the show. It helped the co-ordination of the task considerably and showed just how these songs were employed.
Our early ancestors created myths to explain natural occurrences and assigned superhuman qualities to ordinary people. This was the origin of the hero tales still loved today, with Superman, Batman and Spider-Man being modern examples – I say ‘modern’ but Superman actually dates back to 1938!
Early storytelling combined all the present day forms of entertainment, stories, poetry, music, and dance.
Those who excelled at storytelling became the village entertainers. They played music to accompany their songs and acted out the stories wearing masks and costumes to show the different characters in the tale. These acted-out tales were the beginnings of theatre.
These people also became the educators, cultural advisors, and historians for the community since there were few who could read and write.Through these storytellers, the history of a culture was handed down from generation to generation. The storyteller often passed this occupation on to their own children to carry on the tradition.
The significance of these tales and performances throughout human history can be seen in the near reverence in which these professional storytellers were held. In the 9th century, the fictional teller of tales, Scheherazade, told her stories to the King. As a result, she saved herself from death. This is but one example illustrating the value placed on storytelling in days of old.
There were also strolling musicians who would some times visit the villages across Gedling borough. As well as songs and stories, they would tell the news from around the country becoming the travelling newspapers of their day. The picture above show two such visitors to a village in the 1600s.
The local priest and his servants and fellow band of travellers would go on pilgrimages to important religious sites. They would also visit abbeys and Christian shrines and bring back their tales.
If the lord of the manor was called on to fight, then those who went with him would, on their return, tell of their adventures in these expeditions to foreign lands.
The population of our villages would hang on every word from the storytellers as everyday life rarely changed, so anything new was a great distraction from their rather mundane lives. In time these story were written down and form many of our folk tales today.
As a local historian in normal times, I talk to groups and organisations around the country. I also conduct talks in the pub dressed in costume of the period setting for the historic stories I am telling. By so doing, I and many more performers in the pubs around the country, are carrying on the traditions started around the fires of our stone age ancestors.
Not perhaps the oldest profession but certainly one of them!