THE city-wide initiative by Nabokov theatre group aims to emphasise Kate Tempest’s message that the arts should be social. Over the weekend impromptu pop-up storytelling performances will occur across the city. Stef O’Driscoll, artistic director of Nabokov, told EDWIN GILSON more. 

IF YOU find yourself in the pub, coffee shop, station, pier or on a bus this week end, you may come across a group of people with a story to tell. While the usual British inclination might be to turn away from the speaker sharpish and bury your head back into a newspaper or smartphone, you wouldn’t want to miss the tales of the Storytelling Army.

The stories come from all walks of life, including from the homeless or vulnerably housed, with no two the same. The unique subjective experience of each storyteller will come to the fore to reiterate how fascinating everyday life can be.

“We really wanted to champion all stories, not the usual ones we get told that aren’t representative of society,” says Stef O’Driscoll. “We want to make the point that you can understand people by listening to them.” Nabokov held workshops with various groups including The Clocktower Sanctuary, a foundation supporting young homeless people, and Cascade Creative Recovery, a community centre that offers help to addicts. As O’Driscoll and company spoke to these people, they realised each of them had different ways they wanted to tell their story.

“It became apparent that the young people in Clocktower were more interested in spoken word, rap and music, so we worked with Chester P [from hip-hop group Chester P] to focus on how to tell those stories lyrically. They might want to do it outside the Clocktower or at a bus stop because it’s more about the performance.”

The members of Cascade, meanwhile, had ideas in abundance. One wanted to write a piece on the i360 while somebody else wanted to perform to commuters at 6am at Brighton railway station. Nabokov have also received permission to perform on Brighton buses.

You can follow the action live over the week end by searching the hashtag #StorytellingArmy on Twitter. Brighton Festival encourages anyone who happens to witness a pop-up performance to upload photos, videos and reaction online. You can tag @brightfest and @nabovoktheatre.

On Sunday all of the stories will be performed from 2pm to 5pm in central Brighton location which will be revealed on Sunday morning. O’Driscoll says that some storytellers had reser vations about telling personal and intimate tales.

“There are some people that are really keen to get their stories across but not everyone will want to say it. We’re working with people with problems to do with mental health and alcoholism, so it can be difficult for them. You also don’t have to write from the ‘I’ perspective; you can take on a character of come at it from a slightly different point of view."

Kate Tempest’s festival theme of the everyday epic ties in with the initiative and O’Driscoll understands the phrase as a small acts of heroism in day to day. “It could be someone at Cascade managing to stay sober or waking up to their first day of work in years, or taking their kids to school even though they have bad depression and don’t want to get out of bed.”

O’Driscoll says that a lot of the reason that the people at Cascade drink is for “internal fear-based factors” – so it’s “incredible that they’re dealing with that fear head on. It’s a massive part of their journey as human beings.”

Throughout Brighton, tomorrow and Sunday