Glasgow pop-up night for Sailor Jerrys • Spark

Charley surveyed the crowds of waiting commuters gazing up at the Euston train station departure boards and hoped a spontaneous flashmob dance would erupt. It was too early for that. I like to think it broke out as soon as we left for our platform.

Our team of three, Charley as host, Dave on sound and myself to mingle with the crowd and encourage people to tell stories, boarded the early train bound for Glasgow (luckily still running after the recent heavy snow), excited about the event ahead. Spark had been commissioned to host a storytelling evening in a pop-up space in the city, created to promote the Sailor Jerry brand of rum.

Following an afternoon orientating ourselves in the city, we made our way to the venue. The entrance was a non-descript door next to a fishmonger’s depot in an unlikely part of central Glasgow. The door led up four flights of stairs to a very trendy space at the top of the building. At one end of the room was a bar serving rum and at the other a stage with drum kit, guitar amps and microphones. In between, there was a space for screen printing T-shirts for the night, some sofas and an eclectic collection of chairs. We were in for a good night.

One thing we noticed, as pampered London dwellers, was the cold. The uninsulated roof did not protect us from the freezing northern temperatures outside and we needed to stay warm somehow. If only there had been some rum to thaw us out. But that was later…

Now I have to tell you about the fire drill. No, really. Not just for health and safety reasons although one should always be aware of the fire exits. One of the security team took us on an epic and somewhat icy detour backstage, down endless flights of stairs to an underground car park and onto the street. Unfit as we are, and now unable to feel our feet, we were by this time too exhausted to care about a fire – apart from the possibility that it might warm us up. Safety first however.

Once the doors opened the anticipated largely student audience arrived to order rum and be informed about the night ahead. I mingled, telling them how Spark evenings worked and encouraging them to share a story on stage under the theme “All in”. It is impossible to know what an evening of open-mic storytelling will bring, although over the years we have learnt that by creating the right atmosphere, any audience is capable of sharing the most wonderfully surprising and rewarding stories. We hoped that we would inspire more than tales about student excess or classroom experiences; these stories can be great but we did not want twelve of these in a row. However, as always seems to be the case, our audience didn’t disappoint and shared a smorgasbord of stories from trivial, to poignant, to life-enhancing.

A stand-out story for me was told by one of the “Glasgow Girls” who, whilst still at school, started a campaign to free a friend who had been incarcerated by the Home Office prior to being deported with her family. It was a tale of a small stone creating ripples of magnitude: through their efforts, the decision to deport the family was reversed and their refugee status was reinstated. Following this, the law was changed to prevent children being held in detention for immigration purposes. It was captivating hearing the story told first-hand.

The success of the night was made possible by fine hosting by Charley, the sound was professionally captured by Dave and I hope I was responsible for encouraging some stories and consuming some rum. Bourbon is my drink of choice and I had not encountered Sailor Jerry’s rum before but I freely confess it tasted great and thoroughly warmed my cockles. Thank you to Sailor Jerry’s for enabling us to provide such a special evening’s entertainment.