On location with Culhwch and Olwen

Christine beside the stream at Nant Ceibwr

Christine at Ceibwr

Maybe for the first time in the history of Culhwch and Olwen, this ancient tale has been told at its genuine location, in a dramatic new performance by Christine Willison.

The tale of Culhwch and his pursuit of the entrancing Olwen, of his all-powerful knightly comrades, of Olwen’s grisly giant of a father and of his forty impossible challenges – all these are well known to lovers of the Mabinogion, Wales’ great contribution to the literature of early medieval Europe.

But to retell the tale for the launch of her new book, Pembrokeshire Folk Tales, Christine decided that nothing could be better than to record it at the original locations of the larger-than-life fable.

So this cold, sunny February found her climbing up the slopes of the Preseli Hills, wandering deep in the forests at the foot of Preseli, nestling beside Mother Oak, and clambering around the magical sea inlet where the stream Nant Ceibwr rushes into the sea – always accompanied by her audio recording team.

The result is a unique performance of an extraordinary tale that was always meant for performance. The audio performance will be available online, and will soon be on the History Press website to accompany publication of Christine’s book, Pembrokeshire Folk Tales. In the meantime you can read the first part of the story on the History Press website. It is available to subscribers – which means you should submit your details and open an account, then you can go to ‘free downloads’.

Christine says,This is a new departure for History Press, I hope you are able to read or hear this captivating story which has been prepared in three parts. A cd of the story will be available from May 2013. Let me know if you would like to buy a copy for £7 plus postage charges.

Christine in the middle of storytelling

taking Culhwch back to Ceibwr

Christine’s history

Christine at the Globe

all the world’s a stage

For over 25 years, Christine has entertained, intrigued and inspired people of all ages and abilities with her large repertoire of traditional and contemporary stories. Whether in schools, performance spaces, libraries or museums, in stately homes in Britain or at festivals worldwide, Christine shares her inexhaustible enthusiasm for the world of tales, legends, myths and riddles.

Some of these come from her family’s roots in Ireland and Eastern Europe; some from Wales where she lives, and others she gathers on her world travels.

As well as performing for children and adults (including special-needs students), she works with other specialists such as musicians and film animators, and delivers workshops in storytelling and performance skills.

Potted History Christine trained originally, in the sixties,  as a visual artist at Hornsey College of Art. She travelled to the US and Canada between 1968 and 1970. She spent the remainder of the seventies as a full-time Mother.

In the eighties, responding to a perceived need for children in rural areas , to have access to a bookshop,  she created The  Bookbug a children’s travelling bookshop, which toured the (then) six counties of  East Anglia.

She then created The Clock Bookshop in Lowesoft, which incorporated a small gallery and cafe.

In the nineties she was General Manager of Norwich Puppet Theatre, then Artistic Director of Community Arts northwest in Manchester. She then moved to Wales to take up the post of  Arts Development Officer for Torfaen CBC.

From 2004 – 2011 she was County Arts Officer for Pembrokeshire.  phew!

In April 2013 Her book Pembrokeshire Folk Tales, illustrated by the author, is published by History Press

performing at the Earth Lodge, Glastonbury


In 2012 Christine worked with family learning units in Bridgend Schools, telling stories and teaching the art of oral storytelling to parents, grandparents and siblings together with the children in their charge

Festival appearances include Austin International Poetry Festival (Texas), Bath Literature Festival and Glastonbury Festival, where she has been a regular for twenty years.

In 2005 she toured around Brisbane (Australia) for the Arts Council of Queensland, in 2006 she was resident storyteller at Zurich International School. She performs every year in schools, particularly in Steiner schools throughout Victoria (Australia).

She regularly visits schools to perform as a storyteller and to provide storytelling workshops, with an emphasis on informing pupils creative writing, visualisation, listening and speaking skills.

Schools in Wales can apply to Literature Wales for a subsidy towards her fees.