Two years ago I was often asked to do comedy sets but never live storytelling. Now I'm asked all the time - London's hungry for story. My theory is that social networking has turned us all into writers who get to publish little stories every day. But it also means we can develop relationships from a lonely room.
People crave stories - telling them, hearing them - it's the way our brains process and retain information and the way we make sense of both love and tragedy. And now we're craving human contact - a reason to leave the lonely room and get the chance to hear tone of voice, laugh with a crowd and taste a beer along with our narrative.
I met an itinerant storyteller at The Adelaide Fringe Festival - a lanky raconteur from New York. I thought London would like him. I wanted to present him and a wealth of local talent to London - but not doing stand up comedy or theatre. I wanted to strip away the artifice and let people stand behind microphones so Londoners could remember why storytelling is as old as the invention of the first fire we ever sat around - it's the way we understand the world. It's the way we build bridges from one mind to another. It's the way we process our anger and disappointment, our delight and wonder.
It's what makes us human.
Deborah is the producer of The London Storytelling Festival and is co-hosting the Closing Night Gala.
Seems a funny thing to bring up when talking about storytelling, but the financial quagmire of the last few years has had a curious effect on London and its people. Along with boarded-up shop fronts, empty pubs and cafés, and people reigning in the weekly spend, I've noticed a curious side-effect of this recession.
There has been a real movement towards community. My neighbours are trading eggs for my cherry tomatoes. Swapping and mending and baking and sharing and collaboration has really taken off. There's been a shift towards a more involved 'village' ethos. Where once a night out might mean dinner somewhere opulent, coupled with a West End mega monolith of a show, it now seems much more appealing (and more conscientious) to share an evening with friends, playing cards, talking, reacquainting ourselves. People are seeking out real experiences; the quirky; the intimate; human, even.
Off the back of universal, cynical excess, it feels kind of wonderful to get to know each other again. And we are seeing that in what people are going out to see of an evening. My collective, Storytellers' Club, really came into its own in the last few years, and is filled with people who say they're seeking out something more special, more friendly, a bit different.
Storytelling, when delivered with aplomb, is a thing of great joy, or unforgettable sadness, or sage truth. And the new glut of storytelling rooms springing up, affords audiences the opportunity to see some of their favourite performers 'off-piste'. The London Storytelling Festival seemed like a natural next step to exploring this movement, and this 'need for each other' in troubled times.
When you come to our festival, expect to see a new side of the comedians, writers and musicians we have booked. Many will be presenting a story they've never been able to tell before, in a place that is warm and welcoming. We love what we have built, and we hope you do too.
Sarah is the artistic director of The London Storytelling Festival and is co-hosting the Closing Night Gala.