Talking Tales, our friendly storytelling night in Bristol run by Stokes Croft Writers, made its return on 23rd September 2022 at The Wild Goose Café in Easton. The Wild Goose is a drop-in centre offering meals, hope and support to anyone experiencing insecurities such as hunger or homelessness, and it’s part of the charity InHope. Thank you to those who donated on the night (if you’d like to donate you can find ways to contribute on their website). This was the first face-to-face Talking Tales event since before the pandemic, so it was exciting to see familiar faces from the storytelling scene, plus new faces, and also participants from some writing workshops I’d facilitated upstairs at The Wild Goose, in conjunction with Arkbound, a charity book publisher founded in Bristol.
Creative writing workshops
I was delighted when I stumbled across an advert for a creative writing group facilitator, it fit my experiences and passions perfectly; creative writing and leading groups. In my other work, I run body image and disordered eating workshops and I'm a co-facilitator on a Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme (blog coming soon about this!) As a writer myself, I’ve done lots of different writing workshops and courses, in the UK and in New Zealand (where I lived for a few years) and I’ve subsequently written in various formats – novels, novella, short stories, flash fiction, screenplays, blogs etc. Now as a student, I’ve been learning how to write academically too - quite a shift from creative writing! At the time of writing this, I’m going in to my final year of a degree in counselling and therapeutic practice.
It was an honour to facilitate the writing workshops at The Wild Goose in conjunction with Arkbound (you can read more about the workshops in Arkbound's blog post here). It was important for me to be involved with workshop providers that prioritise and uplift voices not usually heard, which is exactly what Arkbound do, giving a platform to people from disadvantaged and diverse backgrounds. So many writing courses, workshops, groups and storytelling nights are filled with white, middle-class people - no offence if you’re in this demographic but this really limits the stories being told and the narratives spread. The influence that stories have (books, TV, films etc) is a crucial part of the systemic inequalities and discrimination people face in our society. Storytellers (and those who platform them) have power, and therefore a social responsibility. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about the “danger of a single story” in her Ted Talk. Who gets to tell their story? Who’s voice is heard? Who’s narrative is deemed “normal”?
I’ve personally felt uncomfortable being working class in many middle-class workshops and training (especially in the counselling world, which I wrote about here) so if it felt like that for me – a white person with various other privileges – it will likely be a hundred times harder for anyone of minoritized groups or disadvantaged backgrounds. For those familiar with my story “Zombies on a Boat”, this story was effectively a backlash against a snobby writing teacher who spoke down to me and criticised me for not writing "like Hemmingway". Creativity certainly isn’t cultivated and inspired by being told there is a “correct” way to write, so I find it more important to facilitate groups that cultivate safety and respect. People often write for their mental health and share personal things; it can be therapeutic, processing difficulties in life. Whether you write true stories or not, there’s always an element of you in them, and so this needs to be celebrated, not squashed with too much emphasis on the writing “rules”, perfect grammar or going at it too hard with the red pen.
The workshops at The Wild Goose ran for 8 sessions, alternating between myself and another facilitator. We covered topics such as getting inspired, plotting, character building, motivation, imposter syndrome, building confidence, and publishing.
The idea to run Talking Tales came about only a few sessions in, as having a storytelling night to finish off the workshops seemed like a perfect way to celebrate the participants, whilst reviving our beloved event.
Talking Tales storytelling night
Talking Tales #30 (yes, the 30th one!) was a roaring success with a packed full house, filling every chair in the café! I hosted the night, a sequin triple-threat in sequin trousers, a sequin top AND with a sequin notebook. The pink power jacket topped it off, giving me the fake-it-til-you-make-it confidence I needed! My homemade disco ball earrings only fell apart once, which is the real achievement of the evening.
Our performers were astounding! We had a wonderful mix of short stories, even shorter stories and spoken word, from incredibly talented writers of Bristol and beyond.
Shakara (link in first half list)
Please follow and support these writers! I’d like to thank Shaun Clarke from the Urban Word Collective for introducing us to Shakara and Phil, two awesome spoken word/poetry creatives. Check them out on Instagram (linked to their names above) and check out the Urban Word Collective anthologies - Lyrically Justified. If you'd like to donate to them, or find out more about supporting them or how to get involved, click here.
Thank you to all our wonderful performers! We had great fun doing Finish the Lines too, of which Oliver Kennett came first place and won a highly-coveted Talking Tales badge.
Thank you to our lovely audience for being so supportive, and thank you to Naomi Millard at The Wild Goose, and to Riyan, Val and the Arkbound team.
For more information about Talking Tales and Stokes Croft writers, head to Chris Fielden’s website. Follow Talking Tales on Facebook and @SCWriting on Twitter for updates about future Talking Tales events. See you again soon!