Jonesborough may be the storytelling capital of the world, but Ireland—the land of fairies, banshees, and ghosts—has to be the oral tradition’s spiritual home. Liz Weir, a Northern Ireland native who’s been telling stories for more than 40 years now, will bring a little of that magic to her upcoming residency at the International Storytelling Center (ISC), where she’ll share traditional tales, along with a few originals, during a week’s worth of live matinees.
Weir will appear courtesy of ISC’s popular Storytelling Live! series, a unique program that brings some of the industry’s top talent to town for weeklong stints through the end of October.
At home, Weir is the storyteller in residence for the entire library system of Northern Ireland, a network of 96 facilities. Over the last two years, she’s performed at 76 of them. But even when she’s home, Weir’s on storytelling duty as the proprietor of the Ballyeamon Barn, a hostel and local gathering spot for anyone who enjoys a tale well told.
“It’s like the United Nations,” she says of her modern-day inn. “We’ve got backpackers and walking groups of people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. You never know who’s going to be sitting around the table.”
Weir has been performing in Jonesborough since 1996, and has welcomed many of her Tennessee friends to Ballyeamon over the years. The relatively long format of Storytelling Live! gives artists the chance to really settle in, as opposed to just stopping through. Weir describes working with ISC as like going home. “I love the Teller-in-Residency program because you’re really part of the community,” she says. “You’re walking up the street, talking to people. You’re going in and having coffee. The people in town are so welcoming. I really look forward to that.”
In terms of history, though, even Tennessee’s oldest town has nothing on her homeland. “In Ireland, every building has a story to tell,” she observes. “Every stone of every building has a story to tell. It’s just deeply ingrained in our psyche.”
Throughout Weir’s weeklong residency, she’ll offer daily concerts, Tuesday through Saturday, May 30 – June 3 in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall, on ISC’s downtown campus. All performances begin at 2:00 p.m. sharp. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Storytelling Live! will bring a new storyteller to Jonesborough each week during its 2017 season, which extends a few weeks after the National Storytelling Festival. Tickets for matinee performances are just $12 for adults and $11 for seniors, students, and children under 18 for all performances. Ticketholders can present their ticket stubs for a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at JJ’s Eatery and Ice Cream or Main Street Café, two popular eateries in Jonesborough.
Information about all performers, as well as a detailed schedule for 2017, is available at www.storytellingcenter.net. The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276.