A friend of mine once told me she loved attending events on a Sunday evening because she feels she’s extending the weekend, making the most of her time. I was inclined to agree since I often find myself spending half of my Sundays contemplating the impending responsibility of Monday and the upcoming week’s potential deadlines, not the best way to spend a day off.
I was delighted when she invited me to join her at a “Under the Stars” themed storytelling event a few Sundays ago. Regular readers will know that this sort of thing is right up my street, having dabbled in storytelling a while ago myself and now performing spoken word on a regular basis. It was lovely to take the opportunity to relax as an audience member and simply lean back and enjoy.
I had not heard of the hosts of this particular event, The Embers Collective, and contained my research to finding the venue only, which was within walking distance of home, and kept my expectations at a minimum as to increase the potential for surprise and dare I say, wonder. Arriving at Balabam for the first time I felt excited.
Making our way to the back of the venue where there was a small corner stage with decorative fabric on the floor immediately in front of it. What seemed to be as many chairs that could be found were squeezed into tight rows on either side of a bar, and we decided to stake our claim on the first row of actual chairs, with a row of ottoman type seats in front of us. I liked the idea of having a back to lean against especially considering the leg room was minimal, making me compare it to being stuck in the middle of a row on a long haul flight. The chatter of the growing audience was sprinkled with the tuning up of a trio of musicians adding tranquil tones amidst the buzz and seat shuffling.
A folk introduction preceded the MC for the night, Sam ‘Rixy’ Rix, who gave us our first story which took the form of a creation myth. The starry theme of the evening was interpreted in such a way to form a beautiful journey from the initial creation starting point through gods creating night and day, constellation myths and things that go bump in the night from storytellers Sarah-Liisa Wilkinson, Lonan Jenkins and Lucy Lill. All the while the musicians Fiona and Rey from the group Tell Tale Tusk accompanied, including Joe Perry on the piano, adding some folk magic into the worlds invoked and giving the audience some space to digest between each speaker with some beautiful original songs. I was reminded of my love of Kipling’s “Just So Stories”, a staple book from my childhood.
At the risk of cliché I must say I felt transported. The sold out event was crammed like story time at a library or book shop; the room filled not only with a captivated crowd but with a collective sense of wonder. This was not just a performance but an immersive experience where as an audience member I felt spoken to and engaged with. Storytelling is an essential component of humanity; from the dawn of time as a means of sharing knowledge and entertainment but now more than ever we need its charm to find common ground and build bonds which enhance community. I felt that sense of connection emanating equally from the stage and my fellow audience members making the whole evening so uplifting.
If forced to choose, I think my favourite story was one featuring Crab as a protagonist guarding Nymphs in their cave and sadly being misled by the very slippery Vampire Squid out for a tasty meal. This particular tale was told by Sarah-Liisa Wilkinson using her whole body, and the silly voices she used reminded me of reading bedtime stories to my niece and nephew and delighting in their reactions when applying accents and tones to different characters. It was wonderful to feel that childhood joy again and be fully immersed in the story as well as hear myself audibly react with those around me as the drama unfolded.
I saw the world with new eyes as I walked home. I was reminded of the importance of telling stories and how there is potential for fable in many everyday moments. It’s encouraged me to think about diving back into the art myself as well as get hold of a copy of “Just So Stories”. I shall be keeping an eye on the Embers Collective site for upcoming events, I’m excited to see what they come up with next. Definitely a great way to squeeze every last drop out of a weekend.