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I got to the end of the 8 days and realised the only time I had actually reached into my wallet was to buy a beer at the beach. I think I spent 3 Euros in the whole week. These courses are never about money but we were generously taught, hosted and accommodated and fed for a modest fee. The course formed part of a quest for understanding our relationship to concepts of destiny and choice and relatedness to the natural world. Stella began by telling us stories from the Pantheon of the Greek Gods. Her voice was sure and she carried these stories that I had often found bewildering, to a new level.

As the week unfolded we had a rhythm of meeting from 9am — 1. Following a siesta we would regather from 5 — 8pm. The afternoon rest period provided time to absorb and reflect and a fresh beginning in the evening. As the week passed we were heading toward that nervous pointy end where each of the 15 course participants would tell their own autobiographical story.

A JOURNEY OF UNCERTAIN IDENTITY (part 2)

How would this ever happen, people wondered. Our teachers kept a steady focus and firmness. We would do this and the stories that needed to be told would reveal themselves through the activities and exercises. People protested, they had no story, they could not do it, and so on. In the event we did a final telling that began on the last afternoon at 5pm under a large Prinos tree behind which the huge valley of Amari unfolded in shades of green and mauve. We gathered in a semi circle offering our attention to each teller by turn.

Fifteen storytellers and two intervals later we finished at 9pm. You would think it might be exhausting listening to so many stories. It was not. It was exhilarating, extraordinary, ordinary, human and filled with wonder.

A JOURNEY OF UNCERTAIN IDENTITY (part 2) - Ifimes

I think the mark of a great teacher is a humility that takes things in its stride. Roi has this in spades. Another mark is the reciprocity that takes up learnings from the group. Stella did this with clarity and openness. We remain indebted to them both for gifts shared and exchanged. We drank from the spring, we climbed mountains and leapt over river rocks and spoke to the stars. We were not disappointed. Julie Perrin August If you want a space to take stock, try Amari.

Thoughtfully and very efficiently organised. I always end up learning different things than I thought I came for. But working on this material The Odyssey in this landscape is really special. Sitting around the table I felt like I was with good friends that I'd known a long time.


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To be here with such lovely people - sharing stories - each other's lives. Get away from it all - find yourself. Amari is a remote village in the mountainous area of Crete, west of Heraklion. Hugh and Daniel guided us step by step through the whole process of making the Odyssey our own. We worked hard, but in between times Stella had organised trips to interesting places associated with the Greek myths. We crept into the cool darkness, feeling our way.

A feint whiff of goats cheese hung in the air for this was where the shepherds until very recently, had matured cheese for many years. Another afternoon we visited a spectacular gorge where there was a cave said to be linked with Hermes, now overlayed, by Christianity, and St Anthony in particular. We explored the dramatic rockiness and murmuring stream casting our minds back to what it must have felt like to be surrounded by all these ancient Gods and Goddesses. Back in the village schoolroom we continued our progress into the heart of the Odyssey.

We worked in pairs, and Hugh and Daniel allocated each pair a section to work on, and to ultimately present on the final evening. Our first run through was scary, I remember saying to Daniel. More hard work. The time soon came for the performance. Hugh and Daniel started with a background story — the death of Achilles, and then it was over to us. Somehow and miraculously everything flowed, and there was a very real and vital energy. It is so good to wander round this village, to see the ancient gnarled old olive trees, to explore the shepherd tracks, and to hear the quiet goatbells.

It is important. The work of Amari is vital in a world with ever increasing connections which seem to have lost its most basic and fundamental human ability to truely connect.

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Sarah Vaughan. Hannah MacDowall. It's opened the door into storytelling and shown me how to step through. It's planted the sound of sheep bells and the blue of the mountains right in the middle of my heart. Michael Harvey: Mixing the Muses Amari, Crete 1 - 8 June Having visited Amari several times including twice as writer-in-residence I travelled there in early June to participate in Mixing the Muses, a storytelling course run by master storyteller Michael Harvey at the Amari International Centre for Storytelling.

Eight of us arrived from U.


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  • The first thing you notice when you arrive in Amari is that the valley and the surrounding mountains are achingly beautiful. Olive and Cedar trees, pink oleander and a profusion of yellow and blue wild flowers fill your eyes. Psiloritis the highest mountain in Crete at 2, metres stands to the north, still - in June - with patches of snow visible near the summit.

    As if all this was not enough to gladden a storyteller's heart, the landscape is impregnated with stories of gods and men: Zeus himself, we were told, played on the mountain slopes as a boy and had his Golden Throne nearby at Ancient Syvritos. The Hestia is modest and comfortable with mostly shared accommodation and a communal kitchen and eating areas where our amazing local cook Maria plied us daily with Cretan delicacies and substantial meals of chicken, lamb, vegetables and salads - all local produce - and we drank organic red wine and raki made in the village.

    During the week we visited Pan's Cave high up on Psiloritis with 4 x 4 off-road vehicles courtesy of the Mayor of the Valley of Amari - 26 villages ; we climbed the hill at Syvritos with our local guide Ari to sit on Zeus's Golden Throne and to see where the pre-Olympian Goddess was worshipped, exploring the local flora and fauna as we went; and we drove to the dramatic Patsos Gorge to visit the cave where it is said that Hermes once lived, followed by a sociable Sunday lunch at the Taverna at the head of the gorge.

    The brochure had promised: A practical course that brings together the sublime and the earthy in a celebration of the fullness of life, enriches one's unique individual voice and explores ways to increase the audience's engagement and response. I'm delighted to say that it more than lived up to its word.

    Michael Harvey is a skilled and generous teacher as well as being an outstandingly good storyteller. He led us through a well-structured and progressive process that enabled each of us to work at our learning edges. The work was profound, subtle and hugely enjoyable. All of us, from newcomer to professional storyteller, made great strides towards that elusive goal of finding our own unique and natural styles of performance.

    We had all brought stories to work on that were untried and relatively new to us. What we learned during the week enabled us to tell them with greater boldness, genuine wonder, authentic presence and a lively connection with the audience. Michael complemented the storytelling sessions with an introduction to the Franklin Method: an easeful and non-strenuous form of bodywork that develops a more sensitive and embodied awareness of how our bodies actually want to move.

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    Like storytelling, the method requires the active use of imagination and visualization so that the internal gesture and the external movement become congruent. I will certainly continue to use its techniques to prepare and warm-up for performances.

    What makes a storytelling course in Amari unique - apart from excellent courses and superb teachers - is the whole experience of being there: drinking raki at the Taverna in the village square, walking in the hills, enjoying local food and wine, meeting the year old man who planted the huge tree in the school courtyard when he was a child, enthusing with the Mayor about the economic and cultural benefits we bring as visitors as opposed to the casual tourists who occasionally pass through, telling stories in the landscape to which they belong. I can think of no better place for a beginning storyteller to learn the basics or for an experienced storyteller to deepen, refresh and renew their craft.

    As for me? It seems that I have become an honorary Cretan! As I came back home from a bracing walk on the Sussex Downs just after Christmas my thoughts went back to June last year when I spent a week staying in the glorious warmth of Amari up in the Cretan Mountains. I can still remember the week vividly.