The Evans Girls

The Irish national television station, RTE, was “looking for a selection of funny, thrilling, magical and memorable Christmas Stories. Feel free to add your own Christmas sparkle and spice but your story should be based on a real life Christmas event, experience or family tradition.” The producer had heard about the Evans girls and contacted me, and I put her in touch with their mother, Carol. The result was that Zara (11), Nadia (9) and Danielle (7) were among 15 young people selected to tell a 2-minute story on Christmas Day 2012, and here it is, “A Tin of Sweets“. It’s 18MB, so might be slow loading. Their brother, Keith (5), is wearing a Santa hat in the photo in the car.

The girls and I were invited to give a demonstration of the theme of a conference at Dublin Castle, 9 February 2012: European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations 2012. There were about 250 attending. The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, addressed the conference but had to leave before the storytelling. We told 5 stories in 20 minutes, including 2 tandem stories, The Grain of Wheat (king and 3 daughters) and Silly Women (I told the frame and they told the 3 incidents). The girls told one story each, brilliantly. It was Nadia’s 11th public performance and Zara’s and Danielle’s 10th since April 2011.

Mrs Higgins, Girls, President Higgins, me

On stage (1)

On stage (2)

On stage (3)

The proud parents, Carol and Keith

Carol and Keith are enthusiastically supportive, and Carol tirelessly helps the girls practise telling.

Photos by Brenda Quigley of Age Action and Milk & Cookies Stories, who invited us to tell here and at an Age Action concert at Liberty Hall, Dublin, on October 1, 2011. Googling <Age Action Richard Marsh> will take you to the youtube site where you can see all the performers that day.

We were in the Irish Times on 10 February:

Nadia and Zara were special guests at the Milk & Cookies session 10 May 2011. The M&C audiences (mostly in their 20s; the venue is always packed to the legal limit of 150) are very responsive and enthusiastic, but I’ve never heard a louder or longer ovation than the one they gave to the girls. Nadia told Mary Culhaine, and Zara told The Grain of Wheat. I finally got a good photo of Zara.

Zara Evans
Zara Evans at Milk & Cookies 10 May 2011
I was so impressed with 7-year-old Nadia Evans’s ability to retell a story she had only heard once, when I visited her class in 2010, that I invited her to join adult tellers at the Chapters Bookstore session on 1 April  2011. Eight now, she impressed the other tellers with her poise and professionalism. (See The Tales They Used to Tell). I suggested she tell at the Dublin Yarnspinners on 12 April, and she told The Selfish Giant, which she had only heard once before, at the Chapters session. Her sister Zara (10) offered to tell The Doctor and Death, which she had learned from my CD. It’s a fairly long and complex story, but she handled it beautifully. I was invited to tell stories at The Big Fiddle Festival in Roundwood, County Wicklow, along with Philip Byrne on 1 May 2011. Philip does a wonderfully condensed and listenable version of the major set piece in Irish mythology, The Second Battle of Moytura. I suggested to the girls’ parents that they might make the trek to Roundwood, largely because I wanted them to hear Philip. Philip and I were the only invited tellers who turned up, so it was fortunate that the Evans girls were there. Nadia told The Man With No Luck, which she heard from me last year. Zara told The Red Dress, which she learned from Nadia, who learned it from me, who learned it from Liz Weir, who learned it from a Traveller woman. During the break, their younger sister, Danielle, who had just turned 6, told me she would like to tell The Gingerbread Man. I had never heard her tell a story, but I’d heard her rattle off the names of the 32 counties of Ireland, so I reckoned with that sort of memory she’d manage all right. She was more than all right. A new star is born. I tried to video Zara with my digital camera at Yarnspinners, but it didn’t work out, and I forgot to snap her today, but here’s Danielle’s debut.

Danielle Evans
Danielle Evans, Roundwood, Co. Wicklow, 1 May 2011

The girl in the brown shirt and blue jeans to the left of the photo, Megan, aged 9, told a version of Labraid Loingsigh’s Horse’s Ears, which she learned from Irish actress Rosaleen Linehan’s recording. She was wonderfully natural and animated.

The kids are OK. The future of storytelling is in good hands. I’ll try to get a good photo of Zara when the girls appear at Milk and Cookies next week. M&C is usually very edgy and “adult” themed, but they have promised to stick to PG material next week until the girls go home at the break.

The venue in Roundwood was in a room in the community centre on the main street where the Sunday Market is held. It’s a comfortable, bright space with a minimum of noise from outside. We might have more sessions there, so watch this space.

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