Barbara Bates Smith recalls hearing Rev. Brian Combs offer this on an early visit to Haywood Street: “We are all welcome here as children of God in our various forms of brokenness and we, the housed, are invited to encounter the living God in the faces and stories of those so often dismissed.”
Brian’s message and her own experience listening to the stories of folks she encountered at Haywood Street compelled Barbara to form a Story Circle. The Story Circle has been meeting every Wednesday at 9 a.m. for almost a year now.
The photo here (copyright: Richard Lord) was taken when they were meeting in the lobby; they’ve since moved to Classroom 4. It’s a diverse group and newcomers are always welcome. They laugh a lot and, as one member says, “It’s a safe place to drop facades and let our own true stories come out.” Barbara adds that the most important thing she’s learned is that it’s easy to love someone whose story you know.
Sometimes they get “fired up and ready to go” (again, Barbara’s words) like Joe Rob has done with sponsoring the March event, “Tales on Market Street,” and now this Saturday, April 25th, a “Multi-Cultural Folk Fest” starting at 3 p.m. on the grounds at Haywood St. (moving indoors to the dining room/stage if necessary).
The Multi-Cultural Folk Fest will showcase the talents of Joe Rob’s up-and-coming local artist friends awaiting this kind of opportunity. Special guest headliners at 4 pm are the popular Blue Ridge musicians George and Brooke Buckner who played at Merlefest in 2012 and have been regulars at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival at Diana Wortham Theatre, the Lake Eden Arts Festival, and Shindig on the Green. George is a fourth-generation banjo player who learned from Ralph Lewis and Carroll Best, and who in 9th grade opened for Bill Monroe in Weaverville. Brooke grew up in Madison County singing at church; at age 18 she toured internationally with the Green Grass Cloggers. Her musical mentors were Roger Howell, Dellie Norton, Doug and Jack Wallin, David Holt, and her future husband, George Buckner.
Joe Rob has organized the Multicultural Folk Fest to further his Restored Dreams Project, whose purpose is bringing diverse communities together through the arts.