Ahead of this year's intimate storytelling events in Queen's Park and Worthing Pavilion Cafe, Stef O’Driscoll from nabokov tells us more about these special events that join people from all walks of life in enjoying a simple meal together and hearing each others stories
Who are you and what is Storytelling Army?
I am Stef O’Driscoll a theatre director and the Artistic Director of nabokov. nabokov is a theatre company that celebrates the infinite array of lives and stories of our nation. nabokov locate and collaborate with a diverse range of exceptional voices across artforms including music, spoken word and theatre reinventing the theatrical experience so anyone can enjoy live performance and tell stories.
We believe that everyone has a story and everyone deserves a platform for theirs to be heard. The Storytelling Army is a community initiative, a collective of people from all walks of life who create and perform their own stories in the hope that by doing so we will cultivate more empathy and understanding for each other. The participants we are working with have come through the Cascade Creative Recovery and AudioActive.
Cascade Creative Recovery is a not-for-profit community centre and café for Brighton & Hove. Run by, and for, people with experience of active recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, the charity provides a supportive peer-led space, informal access to information, and a range of creative courses, workshops and social activities and AudioActive is a ground-breaking music organisation that works with young people at the meeting point of technology and contemporary urban culture. It sees music as a tool for social change, education and personal development.
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Where did the idea for Storytelling Army come from?
The Storytelling Army was created by nabokov in 2017 to fulfil Guest Director Kate Tempest’s vision of a more inclusive Brighton Festival. Myself and Kate bashed out some initial ideas over a cuppa and then nabokov evolved them into the Storytelling Army that stormed the streets of Brighton with pop up performances that took place all over town including at the train station, bus stops, pavilion gardens and on the pier.
This year we were inspired by the Guest Director Rokia Traoré’s commitment to stripping storytelling back to its bare essentials which sees people gather in an intimate setting—outdoors around a fire in a Brighton park, or indoors in Worthing overlooking the beach—enjoying a simple meal together and hearing each others’ stories.
What work has been going on with Cascade Creative Recovery and AudioActive?
Through a series of workshops we have been working with incredible guest storytellers whether they are singer songwriters, MC’s, rappers, poets or playwrights to support the groups to create and tell their own stories.
Guest Storytellers include Deefa MC, Brodie McBride, Cecilia Knapp, Paul Cree, Sophie Ellerby, Simon Longman, Yomi Sode and Adam Kammerling.
The workshops consist of creative writing, storytelling and performance exercises. Some of the participants have never done anything like this before. Some have written but never performed and some are Brighton and Worthing based artists. It is a real diverse bunch of humans showing up and getting honest and speaking their truth. You are in for a treat.
What can audiences expect to experience at the Storytelling Army performances?
You can expect true stories being performed. You can expect to experience stories through spoken word, rap and songs, and to enjoy a meal that is cooked in front of you whilst all of this is happening. You can expect a community for one night whose foundations are built on sharing. Sharing food and sharing stories. You can expect to either be in an outdoors setting around a fire in Queens Park, Brighton on the 18th May or overlooking the sea at the Worthing Pavilion Cafe Bar on the 19th May.
And in return we expect a supportive kind audience.
Tell us a little about the theme of food and its link with the Storytelling Army event? What makes this event unique?
Chef and storyteller Omar Jowar helped nabokov realise this year’s food-themed event. Our relationship to food tells us so much about our roots and heritage, our health awareness, our politics and our relationships with people.
'When my parents came to Britain they brought very little with them, three children and a better life ambition. My mother carried the stories passed to her in a pink exercise book, with loose, turmeric stained pages, so that they slightly resembled those treasure maps we made at school. Tea stained, like the pages of the empire we read about the history books. In them she brought cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, allspice, turmeric, dried limes, she carried cinnamon in sticks and ground so we as children would never be ground, so we might remember the places we had never been old enough to live. A borrowed heritage. That would help bridge us being somewhere in between Palestinian and British. To then go on and share the story of how green our falafel is. This was our gift to tell this new world where we had been' Omar Jowar
We have partnered with Brighton and Hove Food Partnership and the Kitchen Academy who are incredible organisations who help people learn to cook, grow their own fruit and veg and connect over shared meals, and they tackle critical issues such as food waste and food poverty. The Food Partnership also run the new Community Kitchen, a cookery school on Queens Road. Classes cover everything from patisserie to fermentation, Indian street food to dim sum, including sessions with Jethro from Kitchen Academy who is cooking the events' delicious food. All profits from the Kitchen support cookery activities for vulnerable people in the community.
What's included in the ticket?
An experience of stories from people from all walks of life, a simple tasty meal and beautiful music.
Who should I bring along?
Your friends, partner and family members. Anyone who loves stories. Anyone who loves food. Apart from younger humans below 14+ as the content of the stories can be of an adult nature or may go over their heads.
Do you have to participate or can I sat back and watch others?
You can participate as you wish but I hope when the audience are given the opportunity to connect with someone they don’t know they take it and share a part of them, just as the storytellers have so generously shared with them. What if the worse thing that could happen? On the 18th we are outdoors so please bring a blanket to sit on.
Co-presented with Worthing Theatres
Supported by Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, and Higgidy