Spark London

Spark London is a true storytelling night currently running monthly in 3 different venues across London, two are open mic nights, the other is rehearsed.  Each event is given a theme and the audience is invited to tell a personal story. There are a few simple rules: The story has to be true, relate to the theme and be no longer than 5 minutes.


Photograph from Spark by Habie Schwarz

The result is compelling,  a combination of writers testing out new material, a nervous confession for newcomers or just a funny story to recount for others. It’s true that Brits aren’t as eager to recount the inner workings of their lives to complete strangers as say our American cousins where these kind of events are rife, but with a framework and the right context, the stories just flow. The event we attended was a valentine’s special open mic Spark at the Hackney Attic. The theme of course is ‘love’. When we arrive only one person had signed up to tell a story but the host Dave Pickering didn’t seem to too worried, he’s obviously used to people taking their time to find the courage to get up on stage. The only thing that does concern him is the unusual lack of women willing to talk about love. He begins with a sweet tale of how he met his girlfriend at university. Slowly people begin to step forward with tales of dodgy sex dates, fatherly love, a drug addiction confession,  old loves revisited and new loves found. The effect is a strange urge to tell a tale, the fact that it’s to strangers, on a stage, using a mic is no longer an obstacle.  Memories have been sparked and stories need to be shared.

Sowing the seeds of Spark

In August 2007, Joanna Yates,  an occupational Psychologist from London, was dragged to a true story telling event called Spark Off Rose in Santa Monica by her boyfriend’s mother. She was pretty dubious about the whole thing but as she uses storytelling in her work, her boyfriend and his mum insisted and she reluctantly went along. She was so taken with the performance she can still remembers the stories from that night. Once back in London it only took her 3 months to start her own event at the Canal Cafe Theatre in Little Venice. A handful of people stood up and told their stories that night but this was already enough proof that this was something people could get into.

Listen to Joanna Yates’s story told live at Spark at the Canal Café Theatre in April 2013, courtesy of of


Whenever anyone talks about true storytelling, the event that always comes up in conversation is ‘The Moth‘ event in New York that has been running regularly since 1997. It was started by novelist George Dawes Green who wanted to replicate the informal gathering he and his friends used to have on his friend’s porch on summer nights where they would swap stories. The first ‘Moth’ event was held in George”s living room and then spread quickly to cafés and clubs all over New York. It has grown organically over the past 16 years with a whole range of different events across the US including Mainstage – a more organised staged event, Storyslam – an open mic night, a corporate storytelling training program, podcasts and a weekly radio show called the Moth Radio Hour.

The Plot

Spark is now 3 monthly storytelling nights held in East, South and West London.
– 1st  Monday of the month: Spark Stories where people are invited to submit a story by email. Stories are then chosen before the event and rehearsed.
Where: Canal Cafe Theatre, Little Venice, London, W2
– 2nd Monday of the month: Spark Open Mic
Where: Hackney Attic @ The Hackney Picturehouse, 270 Mare Street, London , E8
– 3rd Monday of the month: Spark Open Mic
Where: The Ritzy Picturehouse, Brixton Oval, Brixton Oval, London, SW2

Obviously the next step is a Spark event in North London and Joanna is keen to organise a big Spark-Off event in a large capacity venue.


Spark have put together a series of podcasts of the stories recorded at the events that are available on Mixcloud and iTunes as well as producing a CD compilation of true stories.

Useful stuff

Spark London






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