True Stories Told Live started life when I was talking to Malcolm Gladwell about where he got his experience of talking in public. He told me about The Moth in New York City. "It's a load of people in a dark room drinking too much and listening to people tell stories," he said. Clearly London could do that just as well.
I talked to Kerry Shale and Kate Bland about it. Kerry's an actor, Kate's a radio producer and they're both based in Islington, which made it easy for us to meet up. I spent ages looking round at potential venues. Initially I had the idea that there must be some kind of old gentlemen's club we could use. Nothing worked. Either there were too many restrictions on use or the venues were too big, too small or too difficult to get to. I was on the points of giving up when I got an email from John Rensten who had just finished turning the Compass on the corner of Chapel Market into a pub/restaurant. I went and looked and found to my delight it had a small but pleasant room upstairs with a very basic sound system in it.
We did the first one in September 2009. I told the first story and the other "turns" were all mates that we'd cajoled into telling theirs. The audience was made up of mates of the storytellers. Since then we've done one every month, it's sprouted other True Stories events in Brighton, Cambridge, Hebden Bridge, Stroud and Cardiff and we're regularly turning away scores of people. We run it on a guest list basis. People sign up to our mailing list, we invite people to apply to come and we put together a list, mainly made up of people who've never been before. We don't want to have the same people month after month. It's not about stars, although some of the turns are well known. Imelda Staunton came to watch and said to me afterwards "this is the best night out ever." You can get a further idea here.
Apart from the warm feeling of starting something that works, why do we do it? Not for money, that's for sure. We don't charge anything for admission at The Compass and we give our time (the three of us plus Meg Rosoff) for free, as do the turns. We'd like to think that there might be a radio format in it at some stage but that's out of our hands. Because we want to get the funds we would need to improve our very basic website and also look at taking what we've learned about live storytelling into other areas like schools, we're having a fundraiser on July 5th at The Crypt in Clerkenwell. We've asked six of our favourite turns to come back and tell their stories that night. The tickets, which cost £22, include some very drinkable wine and some very cold beer.
If you've always wanted to see what TSTL is all about and been unable to get in, if you've been and feel this is something that deserves more support or if you just fancy a genuinely unique night out, which starts at 7.30 and finishes no later than 9.30, please come along. You can buy tickets on line here. Thank you.