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category dublin | arts and media | news report author Sunday September 11, 2005 20:54author by Coilín ÓhAiseadha - Narrative Arts Clubauthor phone +353-86-060 3818 Report this post to the editors

Prospective performers invited to submit proposals

Experienced international storyteller Coilín ÓhAiseadha is preparing to launch an innovative narrative arts club for the promotion of new kinds of storytelling performance in Dublin this autumn.

Prospective performers - professional and amateur - are invited to submit proposals.

In a break with the dusty cliches and preconceptions of traditional storytelling, the Narrative Arts Club will host Irish and international performers working with new narratives and new ways of presenting narratives, at a venue in Dublin city centre this autumn.

In recent years, a very lively comedy scene has sprung up around the city, with two or three comedy clubs being held every night of the week. Meanwhile, storytelling has been relegated to the sidelines.

Traditional storytelling has apparently very little attraction for young urban Irish audiences, possibly because of a number of cliches and preconceptions associated with it, but perhaps also through a failure to promote itself to young urban audiences. Meanwhile, stand-up comedy leaves little room for more elaborate performances, and no room at all for the performance of narratives that leave the audience moved to tears, or have them sitting on the edge of their seats in suspense.

From this, an exciting opening emerges to create a forum for a new kind of narrative performance. The phrase “narrative arts” is designed to convey new concepts of storytelling performance that are yet to be discovered by the adventurous performer and revealed to the inquisitive audience. And the “club” concept conveys the idea of an intimate setting, where the performers can exchange experiences and where the listeners belong with each other and meet like-minded people.

The club is currently seeking a venue with the following characteristics:
- city centre location with passing trade
- a dedicated space, without the interference of sound from elsewhere or of people passing through
- comfortable, intimate, atmospheric decor and furniture
- some point where a performer can easily be seen and heard by everybody in the room, preferably without amplification
- seating for initially 50 to 70 people, arranged in rows or intimate clusters
- access to a bar where the audience can buy drinks in the breaks
- available on a week night, e.g. Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday
- availability once a month if and when the concept becomes established.

Several possible venues have already been approached and given positive signals.

An admission fee of initially perhaps €5 will be charged, and the club expects to receive funding or private sponsorship to help with promotion and advertising.

The concept will be promoted through listings in the Event Guide, In Dublin, The Ticket, Day and Night, etc., and through postering and leafletting in the environs of the club. Relevant newspaper columnists and radio shows will be invited to interview the performers in advance, and to publish reviews. Television may also be interested.

Performers may include professional storytellers, comedians, actors, screenwriters or other artists who are keen to participate in the creation of a new artistic concept focusing on the presentation of narratives in what might be described as a new kind of intimate, eye-contact theatre.

The founder, Coilín ÓhAiseadha, himself has five years' experience as a performer in festivals and cafes in the very lively and innovative storytelling scene in Denmark and Sweden, as well as outrageous narrative comedy sets in the Battle of the Axe and the Bulmer's comedy competition.

Performers who might like to participate, or at least to find out more, are invited to contact Coilín at coilin -at- aatchoo -dot- com or 086 060 3818.

author by Faolcupublication date Sun Sep 18, 2005 01:46Report this post to the editors

Good to see innovation Coilín, and a break from the more elitist Arts scene that exists in this city. Look forward to a new take on an old tradition.

Related Link: http://www.wideyed.net
author by Coilín Oscar ÓhAiseadhapublication date Mon Sep 26, 2005 00:19Report this post to the editors

Thanks very much for the encouragement, Faolcu. (The spelling is perfect.)

I see from the link you provided that you are interested in working with people who might otherwise be marginalised:
"We concentrate particularly on those coming from backgrounds of addiction, homelessness and prison using the media of writing, drama production and visual art."

Delighted to see this. I've been mentioning this kind of thing as a very rich source of material. In my view, there is an imbalance in Irish and international revivalist storytelling at the moment. Lots of very charming, safe stuff, lots of stuff that makes people laugh, and not enough stuff that makes us uncomfortable, fearful, touched, inspired ... the full range of emotions that art forms such as novels and movies can take us through.

I've seen plenty of audiences rolling about laughing, and very few moved to tears.

But I know storytelling can be that powerful, because I have on a few occasions myself been moved to tears, and on one occasion had two women in my own audience with tears in their eyes. My greatest moment as a performer. At private storytelling parties where I was MC, I have twice had the privilege of having a friend steal the show with his first-hand accounts of his experiences as a conscript in the Serbian army during the Bosnian civil war. Powerful stuff!

I would like Irish storytelling to produce the equivalent of an Irvine Welsh. We've got a bit of a way to go, but it must be feasible.

As novels and movies like Trainspotting show, stories about extreme hardship, addiction and so on have the potential to fascinate intelligent young urban audiences, whether they themselves have had similar experiences or not. These topics can be "entertaining" without being trivialised, i.e. they can engage and hold the attention and respect of a audience. And, in some sense, probably even in ways we are not aware of, this form of entertainment has great healing power, great power to relieve our own suffering.

Having said all that, I have some reservations. The performances have to be prepared properly. While I am not afraid of the dirty work of people coming to terms with tough experiences, and while I enjoy a certain roughness and spontaneity in a performance, I think the final product must have reached a certain stage of preparedness.

A performance in the club might be an achievement for somebody who _has now come to terms with_ the experiences that his or her story is based on, not for somebody who is still going through an intense suffering/healing process. The audience may be moved or distressed in the course of a story, but must not be left worried about the performer at the end. I think it's particularly valuable for people dealing with addiction and prison and so on to emerge as heroes in their own lives.

In case you see this as elitism after all, I can tell you that I'm also being a bit fussy with the professionals I've been talking to. The performer must be willing and able to do what it takes to satisfy the paying audience.

I see storytelling as one of the simplest art forms. No need to be intellectual about it, no need for elaborate training, and no need for truckloads of sets, costumes, props, lighting and sound equipment. Just the artist in eye contact with an attentive audience with a genuine interest in getting the teller’s story. A very basic human experience.

So while I want to provide very good material for the paying audience, I do see it as a very _accessible_ art form, where the amateur with interesting life experiences has a very good chance of outshining the professionals.

Please send me an e-mail message with your contact phone number, so that I can give you a bell: coilin AT aatchoo DOT com

author by Paul Baynespublication date Tue Sep 27, 2005 16:57Report this post to the editors

See report on storytelling festival in Cape Clear island in West Cork:


author by Coilín ÓhAiseadha - Narrative Arts Clubpublication date Wed Sep 28, 2005 04:22Report this post to the editors

Thanks, Paul.

I was also at the festival on Cape Clear. Good stuff, but I have some reservations.

Arising out of your comments, I see a need to clarify my vision for the Narrative Arts Club.

What I would like the club to focus on is _original and innovative_ storytelling, presented so as to appeal to young adult audiences. I didn’t mention this explicitly in my original post, but the idea is to bring storytelling into the mainstream among young urbanites in the buzzing nightlife of Dublin city centre.

The audiences I have seen at storytelling events in Denmark have generally been younger than those at events in Ireland. I performed a couple of times at a storytelling club in Copenhagen where most of the members of the audience were in their twenties. This was a place that looked a bit like the upstairs room in the International Bar, with blackened walls and a low stage at one end. There was room for about fifty sitting in rows of cinema seats and wooden chairs, but there were usually sixty or seventy in the audience. And it was much smaller than the room in the International, so you can imagine the intimacy of the atmosphere.

I've been doing some ground work since I moved back from Denmark the last year, holding my own storytelling evenings in a cafe in Maynooth, taking open-mike slots in the Battle of the Axe (comedy club organised by Tony Ferns in the Ha’penny Bridge Inn every Tuesday evening), talking to comedians about working with narratives, and so on.

Note that some comedians are actually making their living from constructing and performing comic narratives – i.e. a new and innovative form of narrative art.

Meanwhile, talk of tradition has strong negative associations for much of the young urban population of Dublin. Along with the seanchaí, these are two of the aforementioned “dusty cliches and preconceptions of traditional storytelling” I’d like the club to break with.

The word “tradition” is an interesting beast. What it _does not_ refer to is the whole body of contemporary knowledge about storytelling, including the very sophisticated, practical knowledge of complex narrative structures that has been developed by the novelists, dramatists and screenwriters of our own time. Nor does it necessarily acknowledge the vast body of beautiful and intriguing international stories.

Notice how rock and jazz musicians, rappers and house artists can talk about their art without worrying about “tradition”? They may have a broad and deep knowledge of the music of their predecessors, but they are more likely to be concerned with making something new than mimicking the music of past centuries.

Similarly, I’d like to be able to talk about storytelling that draws on a diversity of different sources, and to be served by tradition rather than imprisoned by it.

Just to provide a few ideas, influences on my own storytelling include:
- “Trainspotting” (book and movie)
- “Fight Club” (movie – I haven’t read the book yet)
- Sufi and Zen stories, particularly as related to my own meditation practice
- an eyewitness account of the invasion of Iraq, as recounted to me by Khaled Bayomi
- a former girlfriend’s deeply moving account of the death of her mother and the birth of her sister
- my own experiences as a doctor (provoking sectarian conflict, sticking big needles in my patients’ tattoos, abusing depolarising muscle relaxants, and lots of other naughty things that only a doctor could get up to ; )
- bawdy autobiographical stories collected from a drunken barrister last weekend

But, of course, participants could have many other ideas of original and innovative storytelling to delight young urban audiences.

Glad to say, I have already been in discussion with a screenwriter who would like to put on some of his science fiction stories, and an actor/comedian with a one-man drama of his own invention.

Watch this space! : )

author by Coilín ÓhAiseadha - Narrative Arts Clubpublication date Wed Sep 28, 2005 04:28Report this post to the editors

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