Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cock and Bull: Autobiographical storytelling nights in Melbourne


Six years ago Willow Tales was established in Northcote; an event where people were invited to tell short autobiographical stories to a theme. The popularity of this kind of storytelling has grown and grown. 

Jon Bennet and Cathy Culliver now manage three events under the umbrella title of COCK AND BULL: 
Cock and Bull  (Fitzroy)
Bazaar Tales (City) 
Felix Tales (St Kilda) 

As well as the live storytelling nights, Cathy and Jon have gone into podcasting with "The Cock and Bull". 

Cathy, what inspired these nights of story?
It all began about 6 years ago with Willow Tales, which was originally called Northcote Storytellers. Local poet Dan Lee wanted to recreate the days when people would sit around the house telling stories to each other around a fire. The format began as being like a grandfather telling stories to his grandkids; there was a lounge chair on stage with the only lighting being a small lamp attached to the chair. The storyteller would sit in the chair, turn on the lamp and the story would begin.

Jon Bennett was one of the inaugural performers to get involved, having recently started to include more storytelling in his comedy routine. He eventually took over the running of what we now know as Willow Tales, and it's all grown from there.

What must a storyteller do if they wish to tell a story at any of the events?
They should have a read of our storyteller guidelines (available on the Facebook page), and if they've never been to one of our nights before, we usually recommend coming along as a spectator first, just to get an idea of how it all works. There's also a list of upcoming dates and themes on the relevant Facebook pages.

Then it's just a matter of getting in touch with us on Facebook and letting us know which event you'd like to tell a story at. For those who don't have Facebook, you can email us at podcast@cockandbull.com.au.

 Is there an entry fee to the night?
No it's free entry, but we do usually ask the audience for "pay as you feel" donations at the end if they have enjoyed themselves. It goes toward paying our MCs and other acts, as well as the general upkeep of the events.

Jon Bennet is a comedian. Do the stories have to be funny?
 Absolutely not. It's one of the main things we always stress; by all means, tell a funny story if you want to, but some of the best tales we've ever had have been the ones that have had quite serious, dark subject matter. We do get a lot of comedians performing at our events, mainly because storytelling actually plays a really big part in comedy. But these are not comedy nights and we welcome all kinds of people from all walks of life to get involved. All we ask if that your story is interesting, engaging and succinct. Being funny is great, but it's not a requirement.

Have you plans to include live storytelling in the comedy festival or the Fringe?
Probably not for the Fringe, but we definitely have plans to put on a storytelling show for next year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, so stay tuned.

Are you are storyteller too? 
 I'm a journalist, so I usually say I'm more interested in helping other people tell their stories than I am in telling my own. That being said, I have got up a few times to tell a story. It's good fun, and always a very safe, low-pressure environment to try out material.

What is the best story you have heard so far?
 That's a really tough call. I asked Jon as he's been doing this a lot longer than me, and he gave me these three:
 - Harley Breen's story of his wife giving birth
- Simon Keck's attempted suicide
- Pinky Watson's story about pretending to be a hippy in the 60s and living across the road from Jefferson Airplane.

Anything else you would like to say?
 Now that we've got three different storytelling nights in Melbourne, we decided it would be easier to put them all under the umbrella of The Cock and Bull, which is the storytelling podcast I started with Jon a few months ago. So you'll start seeing that logo on our posters etc from now on. 

And to listen to our podcast, search for "Cock and Bull" in the iTunes store, or visit cockandbull.com.au. The podcast features many live recordings from the various events around Melbourne, as well as other interviews etc.

PLUS I'd like to say that anyone who has the slightest interest or curiosity in our nights should come on down to check it out. People are constantly coming up to me to say what a wonderful night they've had, but it feels like live storytelling in Melbourne is still a bit of an underground movement and not many people know about it. So please come along, and if you like it (which I promise you will), tell all your family and friends to come too!


You can follow Cock and Bull and keep up with the dates and themes of all the storytelling events and podcasts.  

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