Friday, 27 May 2022

The Marvellous Mabinogi by Claire Fayers


This month saw the return of my favourite book festival. It happens in the little South Wales town of Pontypridd, a few miles from Cardiff. 

The Ponty Kids Bookfest began when organisers, Jeff and Cerith, realised that local children had very little access to books outside of school, and they decided to do something about it.

There are many reasons I love the festival.

1. They pay the authors, In these days of discussions over author pay, it's refreshing to find a festival that made the decision to pay a fee right from the start.

2. They always have a great programme, mixing local authors with bigger names. (This year we had Matt Brown, Tracy Darnton and Eloise Williams amongst others.)

3. There is cake! Carol the Cake (not her real name, though it should be) always brings a selection, tailored to the authors' specific requirements. 

4. The knock-on effects - these have been huge.

The festival's success has led to the organisers launching a bookshop in the town and it's done so well they have plans to expand. The combination of the bookshop and the refurbished library means that access to books has never been better.

And now, in 2022, stories have leaped out of bookshop and library onto the streets. To celebrate the publication of The Mab, a new retelling of the ancient Welsh stories of The Mabinogi, the town council sponsored a story trail. Visit Pontypridd and you'll find eleven permanent story stones, each stone representing a different story and featuring Max Low's artwork from The Mab.

Stone from The Amazing Eight by Hanna Issa

Stone from Peredur, the Monster, and the Serpent of the Cairn by Darren Chetty

Author PG Bell with his stone, Geraint, Enid and the Big Knight Fight

I was lucky enough to lead tours around part of the trail during the festival. The stones are beautifully tactile and children are encouraged to take rubbings and make up their own stories as they explore.

My own stone is The Strange and Spectacular Dream of Rhonabwy the Restless, which you'll find on Pontypridd common. 

You can find out more about the trail here. If you're in the area, take time to have a walk around and immerse yourself in tales of bandits and knights, heroic queens and murderous flowers. It's a tremendous way to celebrate the enduring power of stories.

Claire Fayers


Sue Purkiss said...

This sounds marvellous! I love the stones. Will send for the book - I read the Mabinogion many years ago, so will be really interested to see a new version of it.

Penny Dolan said...

What a wonderful festival and outcome! So inspiring.

The story-stones rubbing is a brilliant idea and activity, Claire. Great work by everyone, including the town council.