On Sunday 26 January, I told a story at True Stories Live at Norwich Arts Centre. My story was one of eight (including ‘wild cards’) and part of the four day Tilted East Festival. All the stories drew on the theme of ’tilted’, but tellers could interpret this however they wanted. Mine was about a pinball machine at the youth club that my parents ran. Other stories included a very personal one about suffering from bowel cancer, getting on a bike to stop the Cold War, and Kermit the Frog being a moral compass. 🐸 The Norfolk phrase ‘On the huh!‘ was mentioned quite a few times. Although I wrote down my story beforehand – see the photo below – you are not supposed to read it out or use notes. So I told it as best as I could. I forgot some of the details, but I felt that I kept on topic. You can watch the full recording below or by clicking on the YouTube button:
This was the second time I had told a story at True Stories Live, following an appearance at Dragon Hall last September. I wrote an extensive blog post about this, but had to retract it within 48 hours of publication due to the inappropriate language I used and because I had not sought full permission from the other speakers to summarise their stories in written form. What follows is a corrected and edited version of that original post.
On Sunday 8 September, I attended True Stories Live at Dragon Hall, in King Street, Norwich. It was the second TSL event in a row that I have attended, after an LGBT+ Pride special, with the theme of ‘Breathless’, the month before. The only other one I have attended was on 29 July 2018. On that occasion, the theme was ‘Too Much Information’, where two friends, Jamie Keddie and Sarah Walker, told stories about a big gorilla and a hitchhiking adventure respectively.
Co-director Lucy Farrant (LJ Hope Productions) creates the show with Molly Naylor, a local writer, performer and director, who comperes the show with consummate professionalism and humour. It is usually held at Norwich Arts Centre but the venue, at the time of writing, is currently undergoing some refurbishment. The evening is billed as “a lively, moving and unpredictable event where people tell true stories about their lives in front of a warm, supportive audience.”
The theme for the latest event was ‘Should I Go or Should I Go‘. I submitted an application to ‘tell’ a few weeks ago and was fortunately chosen. The event was a unique collaboration with Norwich Charitable Trusts, whose chief executive, David Hynes, led a workshop in the afternoon, on language culture. Three of the performers are/were deaf. There were two professional British Sign Language interpreters. One interpreted the ‘hearing’ tellers – i.e. those that could hear, while the other vocalised on behalf of the deaf tellers. It was an interesting, educational experience for me.
TSL does BSL!
As David explained in both the workshop and on the night:
“We have two different cultures and two different languages. It may seem to some of you, that haven’t encountered this before, that that’s really easy to sort. What we are trying to do, and what we are aiming to do is give full access to both groups, to both sets of stories – to hearing people from BSL stories and to deaf people for the spoken English stories. But this is not as simple as sticking an interpreter on the edge of the stage. Because we are not just dealing with two different spoken languages. We are dealing with a spoken language and a language that happens in 3D space in front of you, and we are dealing with two very different cultures and two potentially quite different world views because people have different experiences.”
The workshop was particularly crucial in preparing us all for the event. In my daily life, I have no or very little interaction with deaf or ‘hard of hearing’ people. The exercises we carried out, under David’s direction, were apparently Russian theatre ideas using non-verbal communication. The first involved a hearing person walking towards a non-hearing person, but communication could only be done with eyes. I found this strangely ‘intimate’. I was paired with Laura, who has been deaf since childhood, and one of the performers that evening. Then each of us in turn had a run through of our stories, while the two signers, the more experienced Carol and BSL trainee Bobbi interpreted. Carol was tasked with verbalising the signing of the deaf performers, while Bobbi signed for the hearing people, including myself. Both communicated throughout the afternoon using signing, as well as voice. We were grateful for both the insight into a deaf person’s experience and the chance to practice our stories.
I was chosen to tell my story first. It was about my history of anxiety and panic attacks during my teaching career. You can watch the full recording below, including or by clicking on the YouTube button and watching it full screen:
Stories followed from Julie from the deaf community, then former English teacher at the English Experience language school and BBC Look East reporter, Jax (Jackie) Burgoyne, recounting a story at a nudist beach. Molly expertly segued from Jax’s story to another story of a strange holiday experience, told by a second deaf storyteller, Paul. He was the consultant with the organisers of this event and it would not have happened without his input. After a short break, the official TSL ‘world record’ holder, Stephen, recounted his tale of sleeping over at a friend’s house. This was actually Stephen’s sixth performance at TSL and a previous audio recording of Stephen Musk at the ‘Shipwrecked’ event, in May 2019, can be found here. He has six TSL badges now. He was also on stage at the ‘Too Much Information’ event last year. The third deaf storyteller of the evening, Laura, followed Stephen. Finally, the evening finished with a three song set by local artist, Jess Morgan – who played a gig at the ‘regenerated’ Norwich Arts Centre on 26 September, which I also attended. She played ‘Aston Expressway Kiss Me Quick’, ‘Familiar Shoulders’ (below) and a newer song. You can find her on music on Spotify and other places.
I finally produced a DVD this week featuring all the performances and gave a copy to Lucy, Molly, Paul and Jax. I hope to attend future TSL events – the next one is on 15 March. It is usually packed out and the audiences are always lovely. I recommend it wholeheartedly.