“Family Ties” in Brixton • Spark

Our theme of “Family Ties” for December was intended to open up the possibility of some seasonal stories but it transpired that Christmas didn’t actually feature at all.

The evening looked to be an interesting one for me, as my entire family were going to be present. I am used to my sister attending Spark and telling some very fine stories but my elderly parents, not living in London, had never been to one of our open-mic nights. As it turned out, they would not forget this night.

The room filled up and our regular host Charley started proceedings with her usual charm and wit before launching into a very heartfelt story. I followed with one of those endearing family tales that had my parents in tears as they realised their only son could not only stand upright but talk at the same time. If you can’t make your parents weep while sharing family stories in front of strangers, you are doing something wrong.

My sister told a story in the second act and took excessive pleasure in making fun of me repeatedly through the course of her recollections of a disastrous family holiday. Note to self – always tell a story after my sister, so I can make fun of her without the possibility of a comeback. And I had been so lovely to her; I guess that is families for you.

I have seen many nights at Brixton and enjoyed all of them but there are some that stand out. This was one of those events when every story felt fresh and different and there was a perfect mix of moving and funny tales from both first timers and more familiar faces. Everyone I spoke to had enjoyed the night and the Spark team was agreed that this was a top evening.

My parents were very happy to finally see what all the fuss was about and I was delighted I had been able to share a Spark evening with them. We went back home on the tube and it seemed all the excitement was over.

At 6:40 the next morning however, I had a call from my mother as I was getting ready to head out to catch a train. She does not normally call at this hour. I am then told that my father had extreme chest pains at three in the morning and they called an ambulance which took ages to arrive and they kept calling and checking and…. hang on, she had not told me if Dad was alive, as all I was hearing was a detailed account of waiting for an ambulance. She was telling this story very badly. What she should have started with was “Your Dad’s OK but we are in A&E”. It must have been the Spark storytelling influence – she was building the tension too expertly.

Anyway, after scans and fine work from the staff at Homerton Hospital, we discovered it was a broken rib and nothing life threatening. It is possible that he laughed so much at some of the more entertaining stories that he fractured a rib. I should point out this is not a usual outcome after attending a Spark night. Most people leave the room without broken bones. It was likely my sister’s story that tipped his rib cage over the edge. She should never have mocked me and will have to live with this guilt.

This night was made possible by our excellent team: host Charley, Dave on sound, with Banke and Tanya working the ticket desk. Also thanks to the excellent staff at the Ritzy. Scarlett brought her mother to add to the family theme (for a less eventful night than mine) and it was good to see Andy.

Ian B