The Glory and the Pity of it with Sef Townsend
Sef tells stories and sings a song or two from the time when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in relative harmony, for 800 years, in ‘Al-Andalus, or Safarad’, Spain. It is impossible to deny the richness of life that existed during that golden period, with a flourishing of Literature, Arts and Science, whose ramifications led directly to the Renaissance in Europe.
This cross fertilising of language, custom, songs and poetry resulted in wonderful tales and romanças set at this fecund time of coexistence – and the many stories of how people negotiated their way through expulsion, forced conversion and execution are compelling.
And so, the remarkable success story that was called Al-Andalus was, unwisely, brought to an end by the new Spanish monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand – but new seeds started sprouting elsewhere. As Sultan Bayazid II famously said when criticising those haughty monarchs for rejecting the Jews: “You venture to call yourselves wise rulers, but you, who have impoverished your own country, have enriched mine”.
“Sef Townsend tells stories from the centuries of the Convivensiya, when medieval Spain was a multi-cultural hub, inhabited by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. He speaks with honesty about the complexities of history, conjuring an authentic vision of a time of dynamic harmony and tension.
The stories are romantic, human, timeless, told with a delicate touch and warm rapport with the audience. The collection of tales is seasoned with songs across multiple languages. It’s a banquet of imagery, reaching something truly sublime.” (Tim Ralphs, Beeston Tales).
“The comment was rightly made that watching Sef at work is rather like watching a magician, and there is indeed something of the magician about his approach… He carried us back around 800 years and 1000 miles south, through a wonderful set of songs and stories from the three cultures sharing medieval Spain. He also switched between the languages of all three cultures as well in translating songs and sources – Sef integrates songs of place and time into his stories, to great effect, as well as adding historical information to set the context.” (Richard York, Feast of Fools, Northampton).
As usual, Kitchen Garden Café will be providing delicious food, cake, and drinks from 6.30pm.