“Bad Timing” in Brixton • Spark

It had been a strange day in London. Like most of the country we had been affected by hurricane Orphelia as it swept in from the South-West. instead of high winds we were bathed in a peculiar soft orange light, as sand swept up from the Spanish peninsula put a filter over the sun. It reminded me of the partial eclipse some years ago when bright daytime sunlight was replaced with a disturbing dusky light. Disquieted birds fell silent and the media was awash with portents of doom.

Luckily Brixton Spark was not silent. Undeterred by the unsettling conditions, the room filled with story-hungry punters eager to hear tales of “Bad Timing”. Little did they know about the technical difficulties we had when setting up the night.

For some reason the sound faded in and out when we tested the microphone which perplexed the two experienced sound professionals in our team. Microphones and leads were replaced, connections were checked, fists were pounded on tables and expletives were silently uttered in dark corners. All to no effect. Finally, the problem seemed to have been banished and the stories began.

Our excellent host Charley warmed up the room and then gave an explanation of the rules – no notes, no poems, nobody else’s story and no jokes – before launching into a story from her youth. Two more stories followed and then a break.

And then the microphone played up again. This never happens. PANIC.

However, everyone voted to carry on, with performers recounting their stories into the unamplified ether.

So we continued with wonderful brave tellers standing on stage, projecting their stories to an attentive and silent audience. It was like re-enacting a moment from our ancestral past, when people gathered around campfires and shared stories. But we did not have the wood smoke, poor sanitary conditions or trepanning masquerading as healthcare. Times have moved on. Trepanning during a storytelling evening is generally frowned upon now.

One of the Brixton staff spent the next break playing with an over-complicated mixer and managed to resolve the problem and we were back on for a final chapter of amplified stories.

We closed with some truly captivating stories that will hopefully find their way to our podcast. Then, we did a thing that makes Spark nights so enjoyable – some of the storytellers, members of the audience and the Spark team stayed on, sat down and talked together. Sharing personal stories that connect with the lives of listeners can open up conversations that bring people together in a way that does not happen at other events.

Thanks go to Charley for hosting, Dave for recording and handling audio, Elle for assisting Dave and to Banka and Ashley for helping to manage the ticket desk. Also thanks to the Brixton Picturehouse staff who do a great job and are always happy to help us out to make the nights better.

Ian