According to Yuval Noah Harari, best-selling author of Homo Deus and Sapiens, it is story telling that sets the human race apart from other species. It’s our ability to believe in the stories we hear that enables us to form communities, believe money has value, and follow a chosen religion.
So when today’s guest Joanna Yates was inspired to create Spark London, Britain’s first open mike story telling club, it’s no wonder that it continues to attract sell-out crowds ten years on.
Q: What drew you into that first open mike story telling night?
A: It was the humanity of it. It was like people in a bare setting, they just appeared from a door and sat on either a chair and a stool, and in front of a room full of people—they just talked about themselves.[1:52]
Joanna came across the idea of a story telling club in LA, where she attended an event that left her completely gripped, and somehow determined to bring that feeling with her back to London and spread it.
As she began running open mike story telling nights the format evolved and grew. The event started with people reading pre-written stories, and moved to a more spontaneous style before Spark London starting helping produce certain people’s stories as well. Now the events are recorded live and a handful of stories are put into a podcast.
”I know that people have stories to tell, and it’s often the people that will say ‘I definitely haven’t got any stories to tell,’ that you know even more that they have a story to tell.”[11:17]
Spark London hosts an event once a month. Attendees get the chance to hear a wide array of stories and also gather some courage and step up to the mic themselves. Each event is themed, and all stories are asked to fit somehow into that theme. For instance, on the Spark London website the prompt will be given with a few examples, such as “Have you ever accidentally called your boss ‘Dad’?” Sometimes at the start of the show only one person is lined up to speak, but once one goes more always step up and get in line. One story easily spawns countless others.
“If you want to find a story, one of the best ways to find a story is to hear a story.”[18:40]
Many people say the event has been a crossroads for them—a major boost that comes after sharing something personal with a whole room full of strangers. There is a feeling of comradery that comes about from sharing and working with Spark London, guests are encouraged to mingle and talk after the event to connect.
I’m looking forward to attending myself and hearing some of London’s hidden stories in an event that is sure to go on for years to come.