Have you ever had or heard an amazing story that just couldn’t be said over a text message? A story that needed all the right pauses, intonation and gestures? Well, The Newcastle Flame is all about showcasing these types of stories, in an attempt to entertain, educate and revive the art of oration in the digital landscape with which we live in.
Oratory, the art or practice of formal speaking in public, has long been one of the most common forms of story telling. It has enabled us to have a rich understanding of our past and has allowed people to develop communication skills that has connected people throughout generations.
In our current digital landscape we are beginning to see a shift away from physically vocalising our stories and building these types of connections, which is why Shea Evans and Sebastian Kovacs decided that an event such as The Newcastle Flame needed to happen.
Taking to the streets and opening up their inbox, Evans & Kovacs are constantly on the search for new and engaging people with stories like no other. A lot of love and effort goes into curating this event, making sure that each and every story is unique. These stories will touch you and inspire you, maybe, to tell your own stories - whether it’s in front of a crowd or even just with your friends.
Ahead of their next event, this Saturday (the 10th November), I got to chat to one of the founders, Shea Evans, all about the inspiration behind The Newcastle Flame, the ‘story-telling’ process and what he hopes people take away from the event.
Co-Founded The Newcastle Flame w/ Sebastian Kovacs
For all the people reading this, tell us - what is ‘The Newcastle Flame’ all about?
Shea Evans: The Newcastle Flame is, in one word, is all about storytelling. We’re a brand new event in town that aims to get everyday people telling true stories from their lives in front of an audience. Every individual in a community has a story to tell, and we provide a platform for those stories to be told.
On a typical Flame night you’ll hear stories of adventure, of love and of loss, tales of hardships overcome - and battles lost and won. There is humour, there are tears, and there’s a real engagement and connection between storyteller and story-listener.
It’s a place where you can listen to a stranger talk about the time they sailed around the world and what they learned, to give an example from our next night, and who wouldn’t like to hear about that? In short we make available the most amazing stories of ordinary (and extraordinary) life, as told by those who experienced them.
How did you get ‘The Newcastle Flame’ up and running?
It all started with myself and fellow Flame director, Sebastian Kovacs, wanting to attend an event like this. We had a mutual love of listening to people talk about things that had happened to them, and a shared feeling that we as a society could benefit from doing more of that.
We found that there was no Newcastle based storytelling event, so we decided to kind of just try and make it happen ourselves. We talked about how we’d do it for a while and settled on the Royal Exchange Theatre as the venue to approach with our idea.
The theatre manager, Dean Winter, thought it sounded doable and all of a sudden we were planning an event from scratch. From there it was matter of working out who we wanted to speak, floating the idea to them, meeting with storytellers, promoting the event through posters, social media, and event websites, it was all systems go.
How do you usually go about tracking down the people you showcase at Newcastle Flame - what’s that process like? Do you take it to the streets?
We do hit the streets to put up posters and fliers, which is a lot of fun. By talking to business owners and shoppers about the Flame and what we do, we gain a lot of interest from both potential audience members and storytellers.
It seems that we come across each storyteller in a different way. We have someone speaking at our next event because they attended the previous one as an audience member and thought, ‘I’d like to do that!’.
We’ve also had people walk into a café, see one of our posters, and get in touch with us. We mostly get in touch with people who we think would have good stories, by brainstorming jobs or events or people we know and going from there.
There’s a list we keep, and it’s like: ‘police officers, teachers, dog catchers, people who’ve been fired, my neighbour Bill, etc.’. Once we’ve found someone who wants to share their story, we meet with them over coffee to discuss it and make sure they’ll be a good fit. We have to screen people and know what they’re going to say in advance, the Flame is not somewhere you can get in front of a microphone and go on a rant.
Once we’re happy with a storyteller and their story, we lock them in to speak. It’s been an intensive process of calls and emails and meeting up with people, but there’s some amazing stories in this town and that’s how we find them.
Can anybody get involved? If so, how would they go about that?
It’s as simple as this: if someone has a story, we want to talk to them. We’re not after stand-up comedy, though humour is fine and encouraged, we’re after true stories with a point that can be communicated.
We’re also on Instagram as well, which is fun, and you can find us there @newcastleflame. Also have a look at our new website www.newcastleflame.com. It’s beautiful! Check us out, we post updates on future events and publish bios of our storytellers and their stories.
After the success of our first story night and nearly packing out the theatre, people came out of the woodwork wanting to tell their story. If you’ve got something to talk about then come share your story with us, the more the merrier!
Why do you think it’s important to revive the art of oration? Do you think we are losing the ability to tell stories vocally?
Storytelling of this kind is one of the things that makes us human, it’s some kind of transcendental experience that no other creature can enjoy. Human beings in the past, from all over the world in all different times, used the art of the story to communicate intimately with each other.
For most of our time on this earth, telling stories has been the only way of communicating our histories and values, our hopes and our dreams, and the experiences that make us who we are. In today’s fast paced age of instant digital knowledge and entertainment, we tend to speak with other people less and less. When was the last time you laughed with a stranger, or were moved to tears by someone you’d never met before?
There is a tendency for individuals to isolate themselves in today’s world, why bother really getting to know those around you when you can connect to the entire planet at the click of a button? This is unhealthy, and we want to combat it in some small way by re-popularising human to human communication. Above all else there’s just such a rich beauty in hearing an engaging story told well, which I do think we’re losing in society.
You are starting to make these events more regular, with another one coming up in early November, what can people expect from these live storytellers?
Oh, wow, a whole lot! I don’t want to give it away, and the storytellers do their stories more justice than we ever could, but it’s set to be a fantastic night.
There’s a woman who’s sailed solo around the world’s oceans more than any pirate ever did, and there’s a man who had to re-work his entire life after 20 years as a firefighter. We have a woman speaking who became internet famous overnight after attempting to sell a wedding dress, and a former Australian soldier who found love by random chance in a very random place.
There are a few more as well, but you’ll have to come along and see for yourself! Each of these people is passionate about their life experience and has a desire to share what they’ve learned and how they learned it, and that’s just amazing. We have an incredible variety of storytellers, so why not come listen to them?
What are you hoping people walk away with after coming to a Newcastle Flame event?
Our hope is that every person in the audience will go home with something different from each story. The idea is that after listening to these stories you’ll gain something you can use in your own life, some piece of advice or valuable information.
By listening to the stories of others, you get to experience what they went through without actually going through it yourself. There’s an awful lot that can be learned in this way, by just paying attention and listening.
We also hope to bring entertainment and joy to those present, to provide a distraction from distraction and a reconnection with reality. The Newcastle Flame is a break from the hectic lifestyle we all have these days, it’s a place you can unplug and be human.
To sign off, has there been a particular story to come out of The Newcastle Flame that touched your heart? Just so people can get an idea of what they’re in for.
I find that every story touches me for different reasons, they’re all equally important because they define real human lives.
At our last story night, though, there was a man who shared several stories from his life that could perhaps be described as ‘a series of unfortunate events.’ This man spoke at length about how fire had ruined his life several times, beginning in childhood when he suffered horrendous burns and was put into a coma for some time. He had to learn how to walk again, but has continued to suffer because of fire for the rest of his life. Neighbourhood children abused him with firecrackers, his house burned down, and his workplace burned down. Each time he suffered and his life was reset, but he never let it stop him trying. He went from relearning to walk, multiple times, to running marathons and acting in films. It was sad, uplifting, and inspiring all at once. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and I never would have heard it unless I’d decided to stop and listen.
Stories are more important than ever, what’s yours?
Make sure you make your way to their next event, being held this Saturday, but in the mean time go check out their social links & website below!