|From the National Story Slam, 2010 in Chicago,IL|
"...For some, though, even more participation is the order of the day. Storyteller Mary J Lockwood, who is about to take her show, Mary's Extraordinary Story Club, to Edinburgh, began the Story Slam in her home town of Lancaster a year ago, subsequently running a regular event in London. One of her first moves was to make contact with Bill Hillmann, who started Chicago's Windy City Story Slam at the beginning of 2008 and has now seen attendances grow from an initial crowd of seven to 900. Recently, Lockwood invited Hillmann to bring a team over for an International Story Slam, in which two teams of five storytellers, one American and one British, would do battle; amusingly enough, they were playing by British rules, which demand that randomly selected members of the public rate each performer by holding up a scorecard, rather than, as in Chicago, simply going by the decibel level. In other words, the vibe is more Strictly Come Dancing than Spartacus: Blood and Sand. For those inspired by what they saw, there was the promise of an open-mic slot to finish.
Lockwood is keen to promote a supportive atmosphere, and even includes tips for slammers on her website (including having your last line in your head to avoid meandering and not fretting if you leave something out). When people ask her what demographic she's aiming for, she says she can't narrow it down because everyone, she believes, loves stories. Slammers' ages have ranged from 16 to 80. At the International Slam, I think I've hit on something when I note how heavily biased the audience is towards women; in fact, the men are just waiting until the last moment to unveil themselves. Unsurprisingly, the performances – given that the storytellers are not allowed to use notes – tend towards the raw and unstructured; they also occasionally blur the distinction between oral literature and stand-up comedy. But they are also fresh, free-wheeling and enthusiastically delivered as part of an ensemble evening of light-hearted and unpretentious entertainment...."