Life

Irish storyteller Liz Weir: ‘I am keen to train other people to carry on this important tradition’

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going

Storyteller Liz Weir loves encouraging amazing people to tell their extraordinary stories (Tom Naiman Photography)

1. Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

I am definitely a morning person and usually get up pretty early. I am definitely a lark rather than an owl.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? Fruit and cereal or porridge with honey in cooler weather.

Lunch? Usually soup - I love making soup - leek and potato, carrot and ginger or parsnip and butter bean.

Evening meal? Probably a stir-fry or pasta dish. I am also fond of salmon and other seafood.

3. Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

I don’t regularly take supplements, although I have spells of taking cider vinegar, vitamin D and Echinacea.

4. Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

I have tried every diet there is and most weight loss plans. I have a weakness for chocolate. I grew up with a mother who was a great cook and who loved to feed people, so my weight has fluctuated over the years. She liked to tell me, ‘You’re just big boned, dear.’ I know better.

5. Weekend treat?

Good quality Asian cuisine eaten in the company of friends. A trip to the cinema or a concert is also a great weekend treat.

Writing Liz Weir wanted to be a journalist but was told it was 'no job for a girl'. That hasn't stopped her writing and from telling people's stories

6. How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

The fact that I tell stories means my memory has to be sharp and I just love what I do for a living. That keeps me mentally fit. Physically, I like to walk.

7. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Walk - every day. I really miss my old German Shepherd Dog, Erik, who made sure I was out every single day. I have lapsed since he died last year. A big dog is a fantastic non-judgmental companion and a dog makes sure you keep up with regular exercise. I have kept German Shepherd dogs for over 50 years so it’s rare for me not to have a canine companion.

8. Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I hated school sports, especially since I grew up at a time when we did PE in our navy blue school knickers. We played hockey at school and I wasn’t good at that, but in my childhood I was a good footballer. Of course, it wasn’t the thing for girls to play football in those days - how I envy and admire the women playing football now.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

I am fond of a gin and tonic and I also like good red wine - Malbec is my favourite.

10. Stairs or lift?

At 92, my mother used to say, ‘I’d be all right if it wasn’t for my old knee’, and I am becoming more like her where my knees are concerned. While I can manage a flight of stairs, if it’s more than one flight, I take the lift.

11. What book are you currently reading?

I love Scandi Noir and the latest is a book called Reykjavík by Ragnar Jonasson.

12. Best Netflix or streaming TV?

I loved Yellowstone on Paramount Plus and its prequels, 1883 and 1923. I am also a big fan of home-produced Blue Lights on BBC and can’t wait for the next series.

13. Any new skills or hobbies?

I used to sing in choirs when I was younger and having heard the wonderful Antrim Community Choir lately, I am going to sign up for the Ballymena ‘I sing for me’ choir.

14. How do you relax?

With a good book and a decent cup of coffee. I love horse riding too an although I am now in my 70s, I still love to ride in the Arizona desert when I get the chance.

15. What would you tell your younger self?

Have more confidence in yourself and stand your ground. I wanted to be a journalist but was told, ‘That’s no job for a girl’ - that was in the late 1960s. I became a librarian and loved my chosen career, but I still write and am very glad my daughter is now a reporter.

Christmas Liz Weir will be telling seasonal stories for families at Hillsborough Castle on Saturday December 16 (Tom Naiman)

16. What are your goals going forward?

To keep tell stories. I work with people of all ages and abilities and feel privileged to do what I do - encouraging others to tell their own stories as well as listening to mine.

17. What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I don’t sleep that much, which I think is common enough as one gets older. I usually don’t go to bed before midnight and I am awake by 6.30am. I am totally unable to take naps but am lucky to have a lot of energy.

18. Biggest gripe or regret?

Hardly any to mention.

19. Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I know better now that life’s too short to stress over stuff we cannot change. I meet amazing people with extraordinary stories to tell, so my job is to encourage them to share them. A main priority for me is to ensure that my 50 years of storytelling work has a legacy, so I am keen to train other people to carry on this very important tradition which survives even in this digital age. We tell stories online or using digital projection so we are not stuck in the past, but nothing beats a good story, well told, person-to-person, heart-to-heart, mind-to-mind.

20. Has coronavirus – or any health epiphany or life event - changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

In 2021 I was diagnosed with a rare nasal melanoma and there is no doubt that cancer changes your attitude to mortality. I put my affairs in order and knuckled down to treatment - thank goodness, I seem to be doing well. Thanks to the wonderful Belfast Cancer Centre, I am back working again doing what I love and travelling to do it - this year I have been to Marrakech, Australia, Tennessee and Colorado. Emotionally, cancer takes its toll, but I find having a positive attitude really helps.

:: Liz Weir, Storyteller in Residence with the Armstrong Storytelling Trust (www.armstory.org.uk) is telling seasonal stories for families at Hillsborough Castle on Saturday (December 16). She is one of the speakers at the US National Storytelling Network Conference in Seattle next July