At The Conway Hall, London - 10am - 4.00pm, Friday 20th February 2015

Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

Second batch of tickets on sale today, and more speakers announced!

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2009 at 11:17 am


The first batch of 50 ‘early bird’ tickets went on sale last week, and sold out in less than an hour. The second batch of 100 tickets will go on sale for £25 at noon today on Eventbrite. The final batch will go on sale in a fortnight, although i’ll bring this forward if the tickets go as quickly as they did last week.

We also have two new speakers to announce!

David Hepworth is a legend in the magazine industry, with an illustrious career spanning his early work on Smash Hits to running his own publishing company, Development Hell, responsible for the only two music magazines worth reading – Word and Mixmag. As well as this, he’s also a brilliantly witty blogger, broadcaster and podcast-er, and recently started a monthly story-telling evening in an Islington Pub called True Stories Told Live. We had a great drink last week to discuss what David could talk about at The Story, and I’m really eager to hear him on the day – he’s a fantastic raconteur and speaker.

Dr Aleks Krotoski has the great taste to live in my home-town, Hove, but that isn’t the reason I’ve asked her to speak at The Story. Many of you will know Aleks from her regular column on culture and video games for The Guardian, some of you might have seen her excellent talk on games and storytelling at last year’s Dconstruct conference, and you’re all about to see her present the BBC’s new history of the internet TV programme Digital Revolutions. Aleks is one of the most informed and witty writers and broadcasters in the UK on games and internet culture, and I’m really glad she can come along to The Story. She’s also just completed her PHD, so we should really call her Dr Alex from now on…


Excellent! More speakers will be announced next week, along with more tickets for sale and, hopefully, some other exciting news…



New Speakers announced, and first batch of tickets on sale!

In Uncategorized on November 23, 2009 at 11:41 am

Right then – this is starting to shape up nicely. I’ve spent the last few weeks getting loads of great feedback from the blog and friends about possible speakers, and lots of great advice about how to run the conference, payments, etc, especially from Conway Hall veterans Toby ‘Playful‘ Barnes and Russell ‘Interesting‘ Davies. I’m very lucky to be following in their giant footsteps at the Conway, and hope The Story will be at least half as fantastic as their events.

I have for the first time a complete speaker schedule mapped out, with about half confirmed. Here’s a couple more to whet your appetite:

Tim Etchells is, quite frankly, a genius. I’ve loved his work since I was an Art student many years ago, and used to see his pioneering performance group Forced Entertainment at the Third Eye in Glasgow. His writing covers just about every medium you can think of, from theatre to books to installations to digital art work. I’ve worked with him on two projects – one using SMS, and one involving a bus-stop in Bradford, which gives you an idea of the breadth of his practise. But the reason I want him at The Story is not to do with his technical innovation, but because I think his writing captures the taste and texture of modern life in ways that are equally funny, shocking, poignant and heartbreaking. Very few other writers have the emotional impact that Tim does, and his work is filmic in its ability to subtly alter the way you look at the world around you. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does on the day.

Sydney Padua is an incredibly talented graphic artist who created a huge stir on the web recently with her brilliant series of strips imagining the adventures of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage. As well as being a fantastic artist and witty writer, she also works across 2D and 3D for films and television, most recently as one of the animators updating Ray Harryhausen’s epic animation for the forthcoming remake of Clash Of The Titans. Getting someone to talk about storytelling and graphic arts was one of my priorities, so I’m really pleased that Sydney can come along and talk about her work.

And finally – tickets are now on sale! [Sorry – the first batch is sold out already!] They’re going to be released in 3 tranches – 50 Early Bird tickets will go on sale from today for up to a fortnight at a reduced price of £20. The second trance will go on sale in Decemberat noon on Monday, 30th November at £25, with a final tranche on sale after that for the full £30 ticket price. I’m releasing them in these tranches to help cover my costs as they emerge – The Early Bird tickets will cover the core venue/equipment hire; the second tranche will cover speaker fees and travel; with the third tranche providing the budget for additional suprises, treats and delights that I’ll be able to organise as the tickets sell out.

So – get yourself over to the Eventbrite page and get your tickets from midday today!

First speakers announced!

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2009 at 12:27 pm

First of all – thanks to everyone for the suggestions via comments and emails for speakers. I’m working through them and starting to approach people to speak at the event next year, but am still looking for more ideas. I’ve had lots of suggestions for oral storytellers and interactive/performance theatre-type-people, but I’d love some more left-field ideas.

I’d love to find someone who edits movie trailers, as i’m intrigued how you balance telling the story with *not* telling the story. Actually, someone talking in an interesting way about Spoilers generally would be brilliant. Also, Propaganda, or storytelling in politics. Storytelling with/about objects would be interesting, as would story telling with music (but not necessarily song…)

In the meantime, I’m pleased to say that a few people I’ve approached have now said yes, so here’s the first group of speakers:

Cory Doctorow needs no introduction, as he’s a brilliant sci-fi writer, copyfight activist, blogger and all round internet superhero. I’ve seen Cory speak many times, but I’ve never heard him read a story. So this is a really selfish way of rectifying this, and hearing one of the most interesting sci-fi writers of our time actually read a story, and not mention copyright once. I’m hoping he’ll wear a cape.

Jon Spooner is one of the co-founders of Unlimited Theatre, one of the most innovative theatre companies in the UK. I saw Jon perform Ethics Of Progress, an amazing monologue about the quantam entaglement, wonder and the potential for evil in technology. It was an incredible piece of storytelling, so I’ve asked Jon to come along and do something similar. He’s currently working with space scientists and primary school kids, so might bring a work in progress along from this work, which sounds fantastic.

Annette Mees is part of Coney, a group of really exciting writers, performers and artists who tell stories in strange and intrgiuing ways. They have just finished a run of A Small Town Anywhere at Battersea Arts Centre, which used game structures to tell a story about how political ideals threaten the communities of a small town. It sounded like an incredible, emotional experience, in which there was no ‘audience’, and everyone took part in telling the story. I’m looking forward to what Annette will come up with for The Story next year…

I’ve nearly confirmed a few other excellent speakers, so I’ll update the list as soon as I have them confirmed. If there’s someone you’d like to see, please recommend them in the comments!

Michael Chabon on storytelling for kids

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2009 at 10:10 am

Unfortunately, this isn’t a speaker announcement, so don’t get too excited (although he would be my fantasty speaker if I could afford his fees and airfare…)

I’m currently reading Michael Chabon‘s Maps and Legends, which is a fantastic collection of his essays and factual work, and last night read ‘Kids’ Stuff’, a short piece (based on his speech at the 2004 Eisner Awards) asking why kids don’t read comics anymore. As someone interested in commissioning for kids, and thinking about the kind of stories they like to immerse themselves in, the whole piece rung true, and gathered up lots of threads of thinking that have cluttered my head over the last 6 months. The whole collection is worth reading, but I’ll post two extended excerpts – the first on how we often use competition for attention as an excuse for being brave in our storytelling; and the second on how we should approach storytelling for children (NB – the quotes are from the transcript of the Eisner lecture, so slightly different from the published essay):

“A lot of publishers will tell you that there’s too much competition for the kid dollar these days, and that comics will inevitably lose out to video games, sfx-laden films, the Internet, etc. I’m sorry, I know there’s some truth to the claim, but I just don’t buy it. I think it’s a cop out. And I think it’s typical of our weird naïveté about how sophisticated we are vis a vis our parents and grandparents, the sense of retrospective superiority we tend to display toward the them and their vanished world, as if there has not always been tons of other cool stuff for a kid to spend his or her time and limited funds on besides comic books. In the early days of comics, in fact, unlike now, there was all kinds of stuff to do that was not only fun and exempt from adult supervision but absolutely free. And there is no competition like free.”

“So, how do we make great comic books for kids?

I guess I have one concrete suggestion in that regard, which I’ll get to in a minute. First I have a few general principles. I have drawn these principles in part from my memories of the comics I loved when I was young. But I think they hold true as well for the best and most successful works of children’s literature.

1) Let’s not tell stories that we think “kids of today” might like. That is a route to inevitable failure and possibly loss of sanity. We should tell stories that we would have liked as kids. Twist endings, the unexpected usefulness of unlikely knowledge, nobility and bravery where it’s least expected, and the sudden emergence of a thread of goodness in a wicked nature, those were the kind of stories told by the writers and artists of the comic books that I liked. The first two, very generally speaking, you tended to find more often at DC; the second two at Marvel.

2) Let’s tell stories that, over time, build up an intricate, involved, involving mythology that is also accessible, comprehensible, at any point of entry. The intricacy, the accretion of lore over time should be both inventive and familiar, founded in old mythologies and fears but fully reinterpreted, reimagined. It will demand, it will ache, to be mastered by a child’s mythology-mastering imagination. The accessibility will come from our making a commitment to tell a full, complete story, or a complete piece of a story, in every issue. This kind of layering of intricate lore and narrative completeness was a hallmark of the great Superman family books.  I think it’s a trait also shared by the Potter books, the Lemony Snicket books, and many others.

3) Let’s cultivate an unflagging readiness as storytellers to retell the same stories with endless embellishment. Anybody who thinks that kids get bored by hearing the same story over and over again has never spent time telling stories to kids. The key, as in baroque music, is repetition with variation. Again the Mort Weisinger-edited Superman books, written by unflagging storytellers like Edmond Hamilton and the Otto Binder, were exemplary in this regard. The proliferation of theme-and-variation there verges, at times, on sheer, splendid madness.

4) Let’s blow their little minds. A mind is not blown, in spite of whatever Hollywood seems to teach, merely by action sequences, things exploding, thrilling planetscapes, wild bursts of speed. Those are good things. But a mind is blown when something you always feared but knew to be impossible turns out to be true; when the world turns out to be far vaster, far more marvelous or malevolent than you ever dreamed; when you get proof that everything is connected to everything else, that everything you know is wrong, that you are both the center of the universe and a tiny speck sailing off its nethermost edge.

Okay, now we get to my one concrete suggestion. If it seems a little obvious, or has already been tried, forgive me. But I can’t help noticing that in the world of children’s literature, an overwhelming preponderance of stories are stories about children. The same is true of films for children: the central characters are nearly always a child, a pair, or a group of children. Comic books, however, even those theoretically aimed at children, are almost always about adults, or teenagers. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?  Maybe somebody should try putting out a truly thrilling, honestly observed and remembered, richly imagined, involved and yet narratively straightforward comic book for children, about children.”


That just about sums up the kind of storytelling I want to get behind. Lets blow their little minds…

Welcome to The Story.

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2009 at 8:52 pm


This all started here.

The response to the blog and on twitter was huge and pretty overwhelming. So overwhelming, that I actually did something about it, and now have The Conway Hall in London booked for Friday, February 19th, 2010; and also built this site (not a bad URL, eh?) and the obligatory Twitter feed.

A lot of people had brilliant ideas for events, speakers and other things we could incorporate into the event, but it made me realise the subject area is so huge I need to focus it a bit. It would be a mistake to limit it to a certain genre or way of telling stories, as the whole point of the event is to celebrate storytelling in all its diversity. But at the same time, I don’t really want to talk about the theory or business of storytelling, as there’s plenty of other academic and professional conferences out there that do this very well indeed. Instead, The Story is going to be about the sheer visceral pleasure of telling a story, or being told a story – whether this is live, recorded, acted, performed – whatever.

So – i’d like to ask again for recommendations and contacts for good people who could come along to do a turn. It might be one person, a pair, a group – whatever. There is only one rule:

1 – You have to recommend someone/thing you’ve seen yourself
I want to here about the last time someone amazed you, made your jaw drop, your heart beat faster or your hair stand on end. Tell a little story about how amazing they are, and we’ll try and track them down for the event

So – if you think you know someone who will be good at The Story, please leave a note in the comments or email thestory2010 at gmail dot com.

Remember – this is being done on a shoestring, whilst holding down a dayjob. I’d love to invite people from all over the world, and fly them over, but its unlikely. I’m unlikely to be able to pay anyone either, except local travel costs, so bear that in mind as well. If it goes well this year, then who knows what kind of marvellous things we could do next year…


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