20 February 2012

Honesty, told live, without notes.

A few months ago, a new night got started in Manchester. It's called Tales of Whatever, and it's based on The Moth. It's true stories, told live, without notes. Personal stories. I'm a Moth addict. I usually listen as soon as a new Moth podcast magics into my phone. There's something overwhelming about hearing strangers' private stories told to the world.

I thought this was *ideal* for me, as everything I write is a vaguely true story anyway, so back in December, I went along and told a little tale.

Here it is, if you're interested.

Tales of Whatever is a beautiful event, a lovely evening. The organiser makes sure there are booked storytellers, and also leaves one short slot for a spur-of-the-moment open mic storyteller. Like any open-mic, it's hit and miss. But then you consider that these are real people, telling their own actual personal stories to a room of strangers. And there's that overwhelming feeling again. It's a little staggering to think about the honesty that could happen on that stage.

When I tried to go last week, the back room of the Castle Hotel was so packed, I found myself straining to hear from the corridor! Turns out, they've had some great press coverage lately, in the Manchester Evening News and the Metro newspaper. If those crowds keep up, though, Tales of Whatever's going to have to get a new space.

It's definitely worth going to. Just get there early to snag a spot in the room, and if you're feeling adventurous... if you're feeling honest... take along a tale of your own to share.

09 February 2012

The City Is A Valley

I've never felt very much for London. It's always been a place that I like visiting. I like all the cultural stuff that goes on, I like all the opportunities to have fun and the bustle of it. I like some things. The Tube. Sitting on the pavement eating bagels and arepas on Brick Lane. But I guess I've always seen it as a place that I wouldn't want to live in. Like there are too many little nooks of it, and it would be too easy, in the busy days of normal living-there life, to never venture further than your tiny little neighbourhood. Like even though you're in the most vibrant exciting city on earth, you wouldn't do any of it, because everything too far on the Tube and expensive. Because maybe you'd get lazy...

Just visiting is wonderful, of course, because you don't worry so much about money, and you have heaps of time to waste on the Tube criss-crossing the city. But living there always seems daunting. Like New York.

But lately, I've been visiting London a lot. I did a work experience with a fantastic independent production company there called Whistledown in November, and this past weekend, I visited to attend a free radio training day at the BBC.

When I visit London, I stay with my beautiful, lovely, generous friend Deepali. I feel really lucky to know someone like her, she's always offering a glass of wine after a long day. And I have to be really honest and admit that visiting London is a lot less stressful because of her. She is just so kind.

Mark is also in London now, working as a paralegal at a property company, so this past weekend, we got to spend loads of time together in the city. On Saturday, we visited the supercool London Transport Museum, where you can sit in old horse trams and old steam Tube trains. It was a brilliant museum, so fascinating. The thing is, the London Underground was such a breakthrough, in so many ways. The map alone is a brilliant story.

It's in a gorgeous old building, with beautiful modern glass windows

They had the old trains done up to be historically accurate, so they had old archival ads in them. Here's one for PUNCH magazine:
And an old map, before they took on Harry Beck's schematic map, and before the Underground was as big as it is now.

Mark loved sitting in the old horse trams and underground trains, even though they featured awkward old animatronics and mannequins wearing strange period clothing.

And I loved it, too, because I am a total dork about civil engineering, design, cities and anything that makes them better. I've always been a city girl, almost every story I've ever written is about cities. And as Mark and I were wandering around on Saturday, we stumbled on this.

It's an art exhibit by Robert Montgomery at KK Outlet. The sentiment and the warmth of the presentation are perfectly matched. And the fact that it's about the loveliness of cities, and that I found it just walking through a city that I wasn't entirely sold on... made me feel so excited and thrilled, and truly warm there in the fire of everyone. I'm a total sucker for citylove.

It was freezing cold, and it snowed all night. Deepali lives in a part of town called Borough; Dickens mentions it in Little Dorritt and his father was in the debtor's prison there. And the strange thing is that when it snowed and we looked out Deepali's window... it really looked Dickensian. Snow-covered rooftops and pavements... dark and dreary and cold and grim. I liked the snow. I liked being in a place that can still sometimes feel like the place it once was. A literary place. It was wonderful.

On Sunday, Mark and I went to Brick Lane for bagels. It was very cold, and also treacherous to walk through the streets, because of the snow and ice, and we ended up huddling in a warm pub. Great weekend.

My radio training day was fantastic, too! I met loads of new people and spent time with some that I'd already known a bit. I learned a lot as well. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and bright. Here's the view outside BBC's White City building.

I don't know that I've completely changed how I feel about London, even after all this loveliness. I don't know that I'd want to live there, at least not for long, or that I like it as much as I like Manchester. But a few more lovely weekends like that just might do the trick..