A Brixton Night • Spark

I love Spark nights in the “Upstairs” venue at Brixton Ritzy. There is something about the room. The audience sits in a curve round the stage creating an intimate yet charged atmosphere as if in a mini amphitheatre. Each storyteller is greeted with encouragement and excited expectation and, after navigating through the applauding listeners to take their place at the microphone, they are comfortable enough to share anything from their lives.

Our regular host Charley was back after an August break, and she set the tone to make everyone feel welcome with her usual energy and charisma, undoubtedly enhanced by our new Spark banner that stood proudly behind her. Dave handled the sound and audio recording for our podcast and Scarlett and myself welcomed people as they arrived.

Monday, like so many Spark nights, contained an unorchestrated mix of compelling and entertaining stories that captivated those present. Any speaker arriving at the microphone is an unknown quantity whose narrative can develop in any direction, and on Monday we heard a wide variety of life experiences around the theme of “Miscommunication”. As always, the theme is just a guide but both our experienced and first-time storytellers ran with ideas generated from the title and we had tales of wedding memes, sending texts to the wrong people, opening the wrong Christmas present, communicating clear consent and more.

There was a powerful story from someone new to Spark about living with impaired hearing which had been augmented with hearing aids worn from an early age. Her engaging story of what it was like to experience life through artificial sound amplification was conveyed with humour and insight, and ended on a moving note when her new teaching job saw her connect with a pupil who had similar hearing aids. Maybe not everyone was tearful but I am sure many besides us on the Spark table were welling up.

The power of these stories comes not from any perfectly rehearsed set of constructed phrases but from people relating parts of their lives in a natural voice that imparts a deeper truth and immediacy of the experience. Some of the best stories come from audience members who have no intention of speaking in front of strangers when they arrive but feel they can share something after witnessing the warm and non-judgemental atmosphere Spark prides itself on creating.

We were also visited by a journalist, Per Christian, from the largest Norwegian newspaper “Aftenposten” who was keen to see what a storytelling night in London was like. We suggested that the only way to write about the full Spark experience was to tell a story but he gracefully declined. However, we look forward to an article from his evening with us and maybe an increased interest from his readers.

Ian Sept 2017