Back in December, I carried out the first ever of my new Conversation Cafes in the bookshop of Old Alphabetti – initially designed as a wrap-around for my show Sticking, the event was a lovely, heart-warming and engaging sharing of stories over tea and cakes. You can read about that here.
I was keen to do another, and, fortunately, ARC Stockton were keen to get on board.
The second ever Conversation Café happened there last week, on Friday March 17th, with myself and six others in attendance. Again, it was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours with some wonderful, chatty people. Conversation focused a lot on gender and identity politics and expression, and branched out into the various topics of cycling, naturism, writing, Barcelona, lying and character creation.
In each of the café’s so far, there seems to have come a point where the structure becomes less necessary – a tipping point where conversation carries on its own wind. This time, that seemed to happen more or less immediately. Having set up a get-to-know-each-other intros exercise in which people told each other about themselves for a couple of minutes, the chatting carried on for a good twenty. I was sat next to a wonderful woman called Ellie and we talked in depth about gender constructions, Christianity and helping people.
This felt like a good thing, and is, I think, where I want these events to move on to; a chance to chat, with as much structure as is needed to facilitate that and as little as to not get in the way. I was very conscious of holding back from ploughing on with planned exercises once conversation had begun to flow.
We didn’t even get on to using the new writing prompts I’d written! Here they are anyway, if you fancy a look:
A moment of questioning
A time you felt protective
A time of celebration
A time you felt connected to someone new
A time when you felt like you were on the edge of something
A time when you felt present in your own life
A time when you wanted something else
A time you questioned your decisions
I did read the section of Sticking that I’d brought along, and explained the writing style and the choice to show, rather than tell, emotional content. This seemed to go down well with the group, and I’m glad I resisted the urge to leave out my own performance from the session.
This did, in many ways, feel like an intermediary session into what might come. In fact, we even ended up talking about what the event might move on to become in the future. The consensus so far seems to be the idea to set up a regular monthly event in which everyone chips in some cakes and tea, someone brings a starting topic to work from, and we go from there.
This, I suppose, reduces the writing-workshop elements and the focus on personal narratives that were part of the original concept, but I’m not so sure this is a bad thing.
Conversations are underway to get this event rolling regularly, so watch this space! I really can’t recommend enough spending two hours of an afternoon getting to know some new people. I came away with the warm, furry fuzz of new connections, heart and brain opened just a little.
So who fancies coming and having a chat?
Plans abound . . .