I blame Kerry Shale. He and I were both invited to do a special Mark Twain Night Waves on Radio 3 a few months ago, and I made the mistake of accepting a ride home in his chic little two seater Mercedes. Think “spider” and “web.”
“A couple of friends and I started a storytelling evening in Islington. You really ought to come along.”
So I did. And listened to five ordinary folk each telling a ten minute true story. There were a couple of local media celebs (Rosie Millard and David Aaronovich), but the person who blew me away was a guy called Shaun Attwood, a dotcom millionaire who got caught by the FBI for dealing ecstacy in genuine Goodfellas style and was locked up in America’s worst prison for six years. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that ten minutes, and it completely put paid to my hazy feeling that prison wouldn’t be so bad for getting lots of reading done…if you didn’t get your brains spread all over the floor for possibly being a sex-offender. Or have your flesh rot on your body from living in a cell that’s 50 degrees centigrade. Or die of poisonous spider bites. Or die of failing to swear allegiance to the Aryan brotherhood. Etc. You’ve missed him now, but you can still read his book. Which is fantastic.
They announced at that evening that they were looking for a guest curator. And I must have a sign on my forehead that reads “Got A Time-Wasting Proposition? Ask Me!”
Only it’s not a waste. It’s the best thing I’ve done in years.
This month, we had an ex-county cricketer talking about bowling to Viv Richards, a terrorist defender QC talking about being holed up at the British Embassy in Kabul with Imran Khan, and Sally Gardner describing a great middle of the night costume heist from her past life as a theatre designer, complete with getaway car. And two more that were equally brilliant.
Everyone I’ve invited has come out starry eyed and a little dazed about what an amazing evening it is. And it’s almost impossible to explain why it’s so moving.
I think it has something to do with adrenalin and something to do with self-revelation. The rest is plain old magic.