What We Did Last Year
Following discussions in the previous year, in May 2019 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with University Centre Shrewsbury, part of the University of Chester. Thereafter the museum in Wem closed to allow relocation of the collection to the University premises in Guildhall, Shrewsbury.
Over 70 volunteers assisted in the relocation. We are grateful to them all for donating their time and transporting the smaller items in their own vehicles. We are especially grateful to members of the Grand Order of Guizers who travelled from across Europe to dismantle and re-assemble the processional giants, and to local firm Boys & Boden who provided a vehicle and driver to transport the giants and other larger and heavier items. As a result of the generosity of all our volunteers, the entire relocation was achieved in three months and at minimal cost.
After the relocation volunteers began the immense task of verifying and updating the location database for nearly 3,000 items.
From August 2019 the Mythstories collection has been displayed in the public spaces and in the corridors and seminar rooms of University Centre Shrewsbury. In addition to the students, approx. 1,000 individuals visit the Centre each week and all have free access to those items on display.
In October 2020 the museum was pleased to host the Shropshire Arts Café, and give local artists and arts professionals an inaugural curator-led tour of the collection. In January 2020 staff from the West Midlands Museums Development team visited the new museum and gave specific advice on collections management and accreditation procedures with reference to the new location.
Chargeable curator-led public tours and school and group visits were due to commence in March 2020, this was not possible due to the closure of the building as part of Covid-19 Lockdown measures
During the year Mythstories in-house events transferred to UCS. Initially events were supported by a successful grant application to Arts Council England and the Shropshire Community Council Grassroots Fund.
The events were designed to highlight some of Mythstories’ past work and to publicise its relocation to Shrewsbury.
In April we held a cartoon workshop as part of Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival and thereafter commissioned cartoonist Graham Higgins to produce drawings for an auca, based on a previous commission – a 2002 poem by Michael Rosen retelling the life of Fouke Fitz Waryne, the Shropshire-born Robin Hood. The auca is now on display as part of the Shropshire constellation of exhibits.
Also in April we initiated a regular day for Home Educated children and their partners-in-education. Up to ten families attended each meeting to explore stories and ways of storytelling. This Group continues to meet and is now led by volunteers with participants paying a small contribution to cover expenses.
In May the group worked with craftsman John Grayson, who last worked with Mythstories in 2005. This year he was commissioned to create a set of enamelled boxes retelling a ‘3-sister/3-brother’ archetype. We are proud that much of the young people’s work is featured on the resulting commissioned piece, which shows the Siberian tale Kotura, Lord of the Winds.
During the summer term curators held ‘Lunchtime Encounters’ at UCS, giving the public an opportunity to learn about and handle some of the exhibits that were being relocated. These proved popular events and attendees asked that they be repeated during 2020.
Over the summer holiday period, storyteller Amy Douglas revisited her 2000 ‘Year Of The Artist’ work and created a new walking trail of Shrewsbury’s Shuts which was enjoyed by tourists and residents of the town.
Also over the summer period Mythstories’ former apprentice, storyteller Jake Evans got on his bike for a three-day cycle tour of the Shropshire sites associated with King Arthur. His journey was chronicled on Facebook, meeting people on the sites and live-streaming videos of the storytellings and incidental incidents. Prior to his journey we held a guided research session at Shropshire Archives to delve into the history of the sites, which proved immensely popular and sold out. A new permanent display of pictures of the story sites was added to the Shropshire constellation.
The final part of this funded project took place in the Autumn term and highlighted the work of Joseph Coyle (aka Joseph Scrobb) on the story ‘The Death of Cock Robin’. An exhibition of Joseph’s work illustrating the well-known rhyme was held at Shrewsbury Library and he gave a talk at UCS detailing his researches into the creatures and customs that feature in the tale.
During the year artists and volunteers continued to work on the Heritage Lottery Fund project Montgomeryshire Folk Tales, completing this on time with a celebratory event in February 2020. It was an ambitious project, working across Montgomeryshire with three community groups and establishing a fourth, involving more than 60 volunteers whose ages ranged from 6 – 70+ and co-ordinating the work of five main artists. It was further complicated when one venue proved unviable and another had to be found. One artist was unable to work due to injury and others stepped in for the final month’s delivery, battling with floods to reach the venues and ensure all commitments were met. The postcard illustrator was diagnosed with a fatal illness. A final year student, who had previously volunteered on the project, completed his work and the postcards were printed in time for distribution at the original illustrator’s memorial celebrations in January 2020.
Despite these challenges it was a highly successful project. This was due in large part to the volunteers who engaged with the oral heritage of the area, participating with enthusiasm. The new community club created continued after the project end, 1,000 illustrated postcards carrying dual language story précis were distributed across the UK. Most importantly the volunteers have produced a young-people led on-line teaching resource to replace the 1947 book that inspired the project.
Since year-end we have been contacted by the descendants of the author of that book, who are thrilled that the work is now reaching a new generation, and by other young people who have added to the teaching resource by retelling two of the stories in Welsh.
During the year the Telling Space storytelling club held ten family storywalks in different parts of Shropshire and North Powys. These volunteer-led events are an opportunity for people to share tales inspired by the landscape.
Mythstories volunteers played an active part in the planning of the February 2020 Shrewsbury Darwin Festival. Many events of the week-long festival were affected by severe weather and flooding, but the museum was able to hold three special curator-led collection tours.
In March 2020 the University held a Diversity Festival and Mythstories arranged for former Young Storyteller and Three Lions Pride founder, Joe White to speak about homophobia in football.
Mythstories supports environmentally-friendly ways of working. Our staff, volunteers and visitors are encouraged to use public transport, with opening hours and outside events being timed to minimise the need for travel by car. Staff recycle all materials only when re-use is not possible. The University buildings in Shrewsbury where the collection is housed are a modern design, incorporating solar energy.