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Meet Helena Byrne, Irish Storyteller, Singer in Montrose

Today we’d like to introduce you to Helena Byrne.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Helena. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I began performing as a singer and actress from a very young age, but my interest in storytelling came far later. I moved to Dublin city about eight years ago and began working as a guide in a folklore museum. I found that I really enjoyed including short stories in my tour. I loved how different a skill storytelling was to acting. When you’re performing in a play, there’s a fourth wall between you and the audience. Whereas when I’m telling stories, I’m looking right into people’s eyes, seeing their responses and reactions to each step of the story and my performance of the story feeds from that. It’s a very interactive experience for both the storyteller and the audience member.

So, I began researching Irish folklore tales, learning and writing more stories and building my repertoire, and essentially I became a freelance storyteller and singer from there.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Of course, there have been various struggles in getting to where I am now.

Many of the same struggles that any business owner or freelance worker has – building my online presence and getting my name out there, while also keeping my overhead costs down. So, I learned how to set up and run my website, edit videos, design posters, etc. Essentially, I’ve had to be my own manager, agent and PR person, which can be incredibly rewarding, but very stressful. For a long time, I was the one making all the phone calls and trying to create work for myself. Thankfully, I’m now getting to a place where some of the calls are coming to me, so I’m not doing all the chasing.

Perhaps one struggle that is unique to me is being a young woman and an Irish storyteller. There is a general perception that the typical Irish storyteller is a crusty, old, bearded man with a pipe and a cap. So, I’ve had situations where audience members have come to a public storytelling show, unaware of who the storyteller performing would be, and they are rather surprised, sometimes, even disappointed, when they meet me.

I must admit, I enjoy rising to the challenge to win audiences over as a female storyteller, but it’s definitely a preconception that I hope will soon become something of the past.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I’m a traditional Irish storyteller (seanchaí), folklorist and singer. For both adults and children, my storytelling interweaves Irish history, culture, and folklore, with traditional Irish songs and insights into an Irish life of days gone by.

I perform for audiences of all sizes, be it two or 200, and I do my utmost to create a warm, intimate atmosphere. Unlike many other Irish entertainment companies and performers, I don’t rely on props or lighting tricks. My performance harks back to the age-old art of telling tales and singing songs by the fireside.

I believe that by combining my love of storytelling and Irish music, I offer audiences a unique, memorable and most of all, entertaining cultural experience.

What I hope audiences can take from an Irish storytelling and song experience with me is not just a deeper understanding of Irish culture, but a new found interest in the art of storytelling and face-to-face conversation.

What were you like growing up?
I was an incredibly shy child. I grew up in a village called Ballyhale, in the south-east of Ireland. It’s a village that’s quite famous for its great hurling players (hurling is a traditional Irish sport). However, I was completely inept when it came to sports of any kind, so it was a struggle to fit in.

All I wanted to do was sing and act and be on the stage. It was the only place I felt confident or comfortable. So I’d sing or perform wherever the opportunity arose, in church, at community events, acting in school plays. I just felt at home on the stage. I’m still a complete introvert to this day, but hand me a microphone and I’ll happily sing my heart out.

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