London Stories – a collective poem from a 1:1:1 storytelling performance festival at BAC

In SIMG_3575eptember 2013 Battersea Arts Centre hosted a festival of storytelling in the enormous, grand, ramshackled civic hall they call home. Every room (there’s 72) was used to place a storyteller who had a London inspired tale – from seeking refuge, to breaking hearts, to being homeless, to losing shoes – a wide variety of performers and non-performers were selected from a complex, multi-layered application and interview process. Inspired by intimacy and memory, BAC produced a 1:1:1 festival, i.e. 1 storyteller 2 audience members going on a journey through this magnificent town hall – in candle light. I told my story of the Red Shoes, Lyn Gardner came and apparently, she loved it. Read the review.

Being part of London Stories was a pleasure and a privilege – a large scale community theatre project that played with scale: an epic logistical creation in which real moments of intimacy and connection in this wonderful, difficult city were enabled. And, it was somehow life-changing to spend each night, for two weeks, in candlelight. I recommend it.

One of the things that the curators spent a long time thinking about was how to end the evening. They decided to collect all the audience members – who went on separate journeys to gather in the grand hall. We, the storytellers were all asked to write one sentence to describe London, this was edited into a single collective poem by Senior Producer, Richard Dufty and read out to the audience at the end of each night. I heard it every night, and it always touched me.

London is scooting in the park and feeling optimistic about life
London is walking in rain puddles when I used to avoid them.
London is where I write beside The River
London is a place to be seen, or to go unseen, to be who you want to be.
London is a place to hide when hiding helps
It is where I am lost and found
London is Denmark
London is Clapham Junction Station, Mile End Station, Elephant and Castle Station
London is the seen and unseen – the living and the dead
It is the voices and the violence
It is an intricate body of beauteous cells
It is a beating heart, fast flowing down streets and over bridges
It is effective support against trolls
It is a woman you can’t quite remember but clearly remembers you
It is a giant mouth; some days it lavishes you with kisses, on others it eats you alive.
It is eating egg and cress sandwiches on Islington Green
It is the one-legged pigeon that hobbles around Trafalgar Square
It is the lion’s roar, heard from Cold Blow Lane
London is the river flowing through my veins, there are always low tides and there are always high tides.
London is the scene of myriad encounters, real and imagined, feared and longed-for.
London is where I call you my husband.
It is a prehistoric jungle of magic and possibility.
It is vast, still parks and ponds to ponder
It is a watercolour; the jostling of umbrellas and wind in my hair.
London is where nobody knows your name but you’re more than welcome to come to the party anyway
London is feeling that anything can happen, and knowing it usually doesn’t
London is collected commuters connected in chaos
London is full of beautiful memories and it is where my heart lies broken on a Chiswick street
London is the place where the lights shine, where the heart is and where he died.
London is where I learned to live my life
London is where the children you see on Blue peter grow up

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