Story Fest 2016

By Karren Gail

What does an 82 year old from Coffs Harbour have in common with a 15 year old from Katoomba? The NSW Poetry Slam of course! The beauty of poetry is it transcends all barriers, just ask Miles Merrill, Creative Director and Founder of Story Fest. “The interesting thing about the NSW Slam Final is the diverse range of people who will be performing. We have a husband and wife who are both ABC journos who are competing against each other. She beat him by one tenth of a point in the heats so it will be really interesting to see them battle it out on stage!” The exciting part of attending the NSW final is that the audience votes. “Basically we have two poets from ten regions of NSW. Each take the stage for two minutes and the audience chooses two of them to represent the state in the national final the following night.”

In its fourth year, Australia’s largest performing writer’s festival, Story Fest 2016 promises to offer a range of language driven events that are unlike others on offer. Poetry, the spoken word, lyrics and monologues will be delivered over three key locations; Sydney Opera House, Sydney Dance Lounge and The Festival Hub in The Rocks.

‘Writing Under the Influence’ is a unique session which will be presented by special guest Tanya Evanson, a Montreal-based poet who will combine poetry with whirling dervish dancing. “The whirling dervish is like a meditative dance and Tanya believes this active meditation is an ideal one for people who perform. You’re constantly moving and you go in to a trance-like state. Rather than hands-on, this is a feets-on workshop! The requirements are; passion, paper, pen, patience, relaxed clothing and good socks!” Says Miles

tanya-evanson-1-002In keeping with the desire to make storytelling accessible, Story Fest 2016 has a unique take for the coffee set in The Rocks. “One thing I think people will be surprised by is the ‘Poet Taster Menus’. We’ve put menus in cafes in The Rocks so when people order a coffee, there’s also a menu to order a poem, a story or a monologue and the poet comes to the table. You can literally go to the till and say; I’ll have a soy latte with honey and let’s see … can I have a dash of the political spoken word? I’m not so much on the entertainment spoken word today but maybe a rant would be good.”

‘Pin the Tail on the Station’ is another initiative new to Story Fest 2016. Miles explains; “One of the things we like to do is to get the audience and the artists interacting with the world around them. We’re having the audience, up to 60 people meet the three artists at Circular Quay Station. The artists will blindfold themselves, spin around and point to a station on the train map. 20 audience members will go with each artist and on the way will get a performance from the poet. When they arrive at the location, the audience has thirty minutes to find an artefact they think represents the area. They take the train back while doing a writing workshop and then back at Circular Quay the audience give a performance themselves.”

A drive to deliver the audience a unique and interactive experience is what makes Story Fest a unique festival for wordsmiths of all literary persuasions and Story Fest 2016 is certainly shaping up to carry the baton!

WHEN: Friday 14 – Sunday 16 October