The phrase storytelling is everywhere, from mainstream media to the worlds of marketing and business, as Joan Didion said “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Across London, small groups of renegade artists are setting up events that bring the tradition back to its roots. The craze has swept the pond over the past few years, and London now hosts a growing storytelling subculture. But just like a story, which changes slightly each time it’s told, every event is a little bit different. We’ve explore five of the best opportunities for listening and telling stories that London has to offer.
Spark is the grand daddy of London’s storytelling series, our answer to The Moth, which now comprises events across the country and an award-winning podcast series. At each event anyone can get up and tell a story, as long as they obey three simple rules: the story must be true, it must be the teller’s own story and it must be under five minutes long. Each night is organised around a loose theme that ties the stories together, with previous themes including ‘Lessons’, ‘Regrets’ and ‘D’oh!’ Surely everyone has a story for that last one?
‘Going for the dream’, Hackney Picturehouse on 13 February and ‘Migration’, Ritzy on 20 February. Find out more here.
The Crick Crack Club
This venerable organisation takes a different approach to storytelling, focusing on traditional tales, folklore and epics. For 25 years The Crick Crack Club have been bringing myths and fables to new generations, recounted by professional storytellers to audiences in places like the Southbank, Shakespeare’s Globe and The British Museum. The Club even organises workshops that can help people master the dark art of telling a perfect story (hint: it doesn’t begin with “this one time…”) The Club is part of the London Centre for International Storytelling, who aim to one day open a dedicated venue for performance storytelling in London – so by supporting them, you’re supporting the future of the practice.
‘Fairytales for Grown-Ups: Rebranding Beelzebub’, Art House Crouch End on 26 January and ‘Wild Ones’ at the Wellcome Collection on 3 February 2017. Find out more here.
Fiction and acting are both, in a sense, a form of lying. So what better name for an event that brings together writers and actors than Liars’ League? At the League’s monthly events, short stories from promising new talent are performed by professional actors to a dedicated audience in a pub on Cavendish Square. These shows are recorded and collected on their online storytelling archive, which now holds over 500 stories. Like Sparks, each night is themed – with upcoming shows titled ‘Ruin, Mate & Date’ for Valentine’s Day and ‘Truth & Lies’ which celebrates the League’s 10th birthday in April.
Second Tuesday of every month (except January) at The Phoenix, Cavendish Square. Find out more here.
Bedtime Story Nights at 40 Winks Hotel
40 Winks Hotel on Mile End Road is already an intriguing proposition – a boutique operation with only two rooms, impeccably decorated and maintained by the eccentric Mr David Carter. Things get better with their Bedtime Story Nights, soirées described as ‘elegant pyjama parties’ where professional storytellers, actors and musicians entertain a small crowd dressed in their most glamorous negligées. There are even (surprisingly generous) prizes for the best costumes of the evening. A chance to see this unique hotel should be reason enough to pay a visit, but an evening of grown-up bedtime stories is the icing on the cake.
‘Tales of Love, Passion and Lust’, 40 Winks Hotel on 8 February 2017. Find out more here.
Discover Children’s Story Centre
For many of us, our first contact with stories is in childhood. While the trend of adult storytelling is an exciting new field, there are also spaces in the capital reinventing traditional stories for younger audiences. At this dedicated storytelling space in Stratford, kids can explore Story World, where they help an alien create new stories on a planet where everyone has – tragically – run out of imagination. Discover also have a special exhibition on the world of Dr Seuss, where children can step into the unique storyteller’s colourful world, read some of his best stories and maybe even bump into local celebrities like The Cat In The Hat or Sam-I-Am.
Discover Children’s Story Centre, 383-387 High Street, Stratford. E15 4QZ. Find out more here.