Storytelling Cafes, Concerts and Festivals

Storytelling is such an accessible art form in that it is quite easy to organise and run a range of different community storytelling events.
These include:

home tellings
storytelling cafes
storytelling festivals

Home tellings

One of the easiest venues for storytelling is in the lounge or dining room of your own home. Invite some friends, work mates, club members or your neighbours, introduce each other, start the ball rolling by telling a story yourself and you're under way. The advantages are fairly obvious:

- the venue is free
- you won't need any special stage or amplification
- people can tell in a relaxed sitting down sort of way.

You can add to the fun by:

- suggesting a storytelling theme for the night (this makes it easier for people to think of a story to tell)
- including a couple of storytelling games and,
- maybe even offering small prizes for 'the funniest story', 'the most unbelievable story'.

Finish off the night with a bring-a-plate-supper and you've created a great way for a group of friends, or strangers, to get together and share their stories.

You may want to invite an experienced teller to help you run the first one or two sessions. He or she will provide some good group facilitation skills, encourage people to be expressive, and help set up a supportive atmosphere in the group.

more information | back to top

Storytelling Cafes

This is an informal storytelling concert held in an informal venue. They work well where there are a number of people interested in performing and listening to a range of different types of stories.

Easy venues can include:

- church and club halls
- library meeting rooms
- class rooms

The most important thing is to avoid venues where there is likely to be interruptions or distractions. It is harder to run storytelling events in cafes, restaurants, hotels etc because of the noise and the presence of other customers there for other reasons.

The usual idea is to have a compere/host who:

- greets people as they arrive,
- creates a list of likely performers based on the stories they want to tell, and
- acts as compere, introducing the tellers, announcing the break etc.

It is a good idea to have a set of agreements about your storytelling cafe, for example:

- stories are to be told not read,
- no politicing or proselytising
- the compere for the night has the right of veto on suitability of stories.

It's also good to let people know what these agreements are by announcing them at the start of each cafe or by having a sign on display.

If you are starting up your own storytelling cafe it is certainly good to invite an experienced storyteller in to, perhaps, run a couple of storytelling workshops and to compere one or two to get you off to a good start.

Storytelling Concerts

Storytelling concerts can take a range of forms including:

- one off community celebrations - part of a community cultural festival
- fundraisers for community support organisations
- an artistic and motivating statement of support for a cause
- a way of drawing attention to the value and importance of a particular cultural group or part of a community, or
- simply a way of getting a community together to hear each others' stories

Although storytelling concerts don't need expensive technology, costumes and props or months of creative development and rehearsal to create, they do need some care and experience to run well. You will have to find an appropriate venue, preferably with good acoustics so you don't need amplification. Include some simple stage lighting and decoration. Add some entertaining storytellers with some interesting stories. You might consider adding some appropriate music to the mix but it is not essential.

It is often a good idea to have at least one rehearsal to ensure that the stories fit well together and that the length and pacing is working well. A compere can make a difference to the success of a concert but is not essential. Tellers can introduce themselves or each other.

The most important factor is selection and order of the stories and tellers to create a concert that fits together well and leaves the audience with the feeling you would like them to have. Appointing an experienced community storyteller as creative director for the concert or project is a good idea.

more information | back to top

Storytelling Festivals

Most storytelling festivals are a mix of workshops, seminars, informal telling sessions, formal storytelling concerts, forums and just sitting around and getting to know each other. The length usually varies from one day and night to a long weekend.

It is good to have a number of different sized spaces, rooms and halls all with in a reasonably compact venue. Conference centres, camps, schools are often used. Some festivals particularly in the U.S. set up circus type tents for venues.

An important aspect of storytelling festivals is that they can incorporate a wide range of different community groups into the overall structure. Some people attend because they love listening to stories in all of their variety. Some attend because they are experienced tellers and enjoy the opportunity to meet and perform with their colleagues. For others, the festival makes a good introduction to the artform. They can see a range of different storytelling styles, hear a wide range of different stories, attend a workshop and develop some skill and become part of the community.

Depending on the size and duration of your festival, members of a working commitee can take responsibility for a range of tasks such as promotion, catering and venue. Generally speaking though, it works well to appoint, or employ, an experienced community storyteller as artistic director and co-ordinator for the festival.

Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller
P.O. Box 5300, West End, Q4101, 
Brisbane, Australia
Tel. 61 (0)7 3846 3135
Mob. 0417 478408
All contents copyright 2001, Daryll Bellingham. All rights reserved.
Revised: 17th Julyl,2002
URL of this page: