Tell me a story

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A few years ago, on a wintry night, my husband Leighton and I invited a few friends over. We asked them to come prepared to share stories—personal stories—and an excerpt from their favourite book or author. Our lounge room was both silent and full of laughter. The words were mesmerising and devastating. The stories left us wanting more.

Of course. That’s what great stories do.

Stories don’t need explaining or have moral points drawn out. We experience them individually and find our own meaning from them.

While we recognise great stories are told on canvas, in film, in song and through a plethora of other mediums, spoken word is the oldest form of storytelling. And probably the least employed in our current culture—in a formal sense. Indeed, most of us communicate verbally with our family, friends and colleagues every day. Much of what we say we say with stories. However, the idea of spending a Saturday night together sharing stories and excerpts from our favourite authors is something the Darbys had never done before.

After we began our storytelling nights and continued talking to others about them, we discovered other similar (much larger and more organised) events such as The Moth and various storytelling podcast series. It seems the genre is experiencing a revival.

In a Christian context, we are—counter-culturally—used to listening to lecture-length orations in weekly worship services. But storytelling—in terms of its content, intention, pace and rhythm—is different. Stories don’t need explaining or have moral points drawn out. We experience them individually and find our own meaning from them.

Perhaps the appeal of storytelling is in its rarity. Hearing a person tell a story, with their own voice, facial expressions and gestures, is unique. Even if the story is not their own, the excerpt a person chooses and the inflections they use in its telling reveals a lot about them.

For Leighton and I, the storytelling night was reminiscent of a different, slower time, when evenings were spent with loved ones around the hearth, when folktales were passed from generation to generation. Aside from connecting with our friends, and connecting with stories, it felt like we were connecting with something much bigger—an important aspect of being human we’d not placed enough significance upon.

Tell Me A Story, College Hall, Avondale College of Higher Education, Saturday, March 21. Featuring: beat poet Micah Bournes, award-winning raconteur Graeme Frauenfelder, author and book editor Nathan Brown and academic Associate Professor Daniel Reynaud. $15 (single); $10 (concession). Refreshments available for purchase.

Tell Me A Story is part of the Manifest Creative Arts Festival. Visit <www.artsmanifest.info> for more information.