After a long day of working from home as I have done since March, I am too tired to switch on my camera for this online evening of storytelling and opt for the role as a silent listener. Fellow listeners here are far more interactive, greeting friends and relatives in the southern hemisphere, present their favourite mugs and make usage of the chat room.
I look forward to listening to five stories by five storytellers I have not seen performing before. Host Hannah Need starts with a story about the first snow and its meaning for a girl in Russia, and I regret the mess in the living room surrounding me, not even having lit a candle and that my tea already got cold.
Sarah Lloyd-Winder brings a story from Iceland about a married woman insisting to be on her own at Christmas, and despite the vivid performance by the speaker, I put my feet up and close my eyes; the Zoom interface feels too work-related for my couch anyway. Still, this is much more real than a mastered and polished recording.
Next is Pyn Stockman and thanks to her I am now looking for Shakespeare’s trickster Robin Goodfellow in every hawthorn when taking my lunch time walk in the recreation ground nearby. I remember the massive mountain of dirty dishes in the kitchen but decide against cleaning those while listening tonight – I want to listen and indulge the story, not just consume it in the background.
During the break (no one uses the term “interval”), storytellers and listeners compare sofa blankets and hot water bottles, pets make appearances and I am taken back to a stopover in Iceland years ago, when the hotel offered storytelling in their own mini-theatre that evening and encouraged guests to appear in their pyjamas, providing plaids to wrap in. An actress read out from a picture book about trolls; there were no children present and everyone smiled. I have not seen many children tonight in the audience, but at the attendee count it shows over ninety listeners and in some windows I spot several people huddled together.
Throughout this strange year mainly spent at home, I ordered all London Dreamtime recordings available, donated to the Crick Crack radio, celebrated the third season of the Grimm Reading podcast and began to listen to all 200+ Three Investigator episodes chronologically – all things not including screens. However, now we are in the last third of autumn and I had accepted an invitation to an online event by the Bookmark Readings charity, thanking their volunteers (and that includes me, proudly) with an evening offering a micro fiction writing crash course and storytelling by Laura Sampson. Afterwards I felt like looking out for similar events from artists and storytelling circles I did not know yet and liked this event’s pre-advent theme. Here I am and I am very glad I made it.
With two stories left tonight, Hannah Brailsford tells a frosty story about a stepmother insisting that youth is wasted on the young – this will be my favourite one. Wendy Shearer, surrounded by atmospheric fairy lights, adds some music and sound effects to her narrating, and makes us all toast to our now and our future and the new year. Who can argue with that?
**** out of 5 stars
The suggested donation per household tickets was £5 . I booked mine on Eventbrite on the day and was charged a booking fee of £0.12