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.



8 thoughts on “True Stories Told Live

  1. raych 8 years ago

    I blame tv for making prison look sexy. Especially season one of Prison Break. Especially that guy with the blueprints tattooed on his body in season one of Prison Break. Especially those tattoos.

  2. Teri Terry 8 years ago

    which cricketer?

    nosy in Buckinghamshire

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Andy Afford, now editor of this: http://www.alloutcricket.co.uk/
      It was incredibly moving — he talked about how it feels when there’s a god on the field — and hilariously funny.

  3. Katie 8 years ago

    It would be great if you could tape these evenings and upload the recordings onto the internet. That way people who are far, far away (like me, in Australia) could listen too! The concept reminds me of the podcast This American Life.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      I keep hearing about This American Life but haven’t listened to the podcasts. WIll rectify that now.
      I know there’s talk about podcasting True Stories — stay tuned. They’ve been taping them all along, so there should be quite an archive
      by now.

  4. kokorako 8 years ago

    Just wondered if you needed a venue for true stories? I bet you can guess where I’m thinking of!

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Does your venue have a BAR, Nicola?

  5. Kathryn Evans 8 years ago

    Story and human contact – how can it fail?

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