Back at the Cobalt after having to host our events at other venues, feels like a homecoming. I do like the way that the building tucked away as it is, is still no distance from the city centre. It’s an escape hatch from all the busy rush of lives, with tension mounting in the student community with the pressure of exams, some folk struggling to keep their lives together and other bemused and confused by the blasts of noxious hot air blowing up from political London, creating a smog of confusion.
What better time to come and get carried away in story – which is just what Malcolm did at the beginning June. He took us for a not too gentle walk through his life starting with his happy childhood. Not too bad having David Attenborough taking you to school, but but it was – and is – his love of nature, birds and the wild world that shaped his thinking. His strange, accidental and potentially dangerous meetings en route seeking ways of discovering other parts of the world, without the niceties of such mundane things a work permit, was thrilling indeed. In Cameroon he was saved by his ‘guardian angel’ in the form of local business man, who picked up a young man who’s visa had expired, saw his potential and turned him into a Headmaster – and that after only a year of teaching experience in this country.
Malcolm’s personal story, full of transformation, drama, and being drawn into African culture, became the framework for a collection of folk stories and myth as rich and varied as his life. His powerful telling of the Children of Wax reflected the wonder and power the natural world. The transforming Leopard Woman and his playful old friend Rat Mole left us in no doubt that here is a man who not only speaks up for the wild world, but understands it too. What a treat this was. When as listeners we balance our interest in the human story and our engagement in folktale and myth it’s interesting to see which memories remain. We’re told the teller needs to stay behind the story – but Malcolm magically managed to find a balance between and fact and fable that left us hungrily wanting more.