Citz Storytellers: Being The Story

Posted on: 23 October 2018

Written by: Tom Davies

Brendan Lyons from the Citz Storytellers attended the sounddelivery Being the Story event in Conway Hall - a one-day event featuring the stories of inspirational individuals in the charity sector and beyond. Here's his experience of the day:

Sunrise. I arrive bedraggled in Central London, harassed by rush hour, now doing circuits around Red Lion Square trying to find the entrance to Conway Hall. It feels like this is the earliest I’ve ever been anywhere. Are we sure the clocks didn’t go back last night? Anyway. I’m definitely way too early, as there’s hardly a queue outside. And the host at the door is telling me to take a seat and talk to people...

So I’m straight back in there with an Americano from the coffee hut, flicking through the programme and trying to think of my spiel for the inevitable greeting of “hi, what do you do?” (there’s name badges at this thing).

So inevitably, I find myself talking about Cardboard Citizens. I’m a Citz Storyteller, theatre maker, artivist, advocate of the No Box, No Label campaign. Campaigning to change the face of the millennial generation. This helps get me into the zone, and before long I’m warmed up enough to stand and sing “You’ve Got the Love” with the rest of the group. Only a small part of my brain is still thinking “what exactly is going on right now?” - but it’s fine, we theatre people are well trained to embrace the more random currents of life. So by the end of the song, I’m getting quite into it.

And then the speakers start. The first guy - [Steve Arnott] from an upcoming documentary, “A Northern Soul”, describes his working life as “waking up, trying not to think about the eight hours of s*** ahead.” I’m with him instantly, cutting to the chase with no words minced. Definitely not the conference I was expecting. All of these activists are profound storytellers, all speaking the same language as us. By the end of the day, I am inspired beyond belief at the creativity and courage of these amazing speakers.

A highlight of the day was the “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” campaign. Over lunch, I switched my floral print shoes for a pair of trainers (left) and a headset, and took a walk through Russell Square immersing myself in another person’s lived experience. It really drove home the power of storytelling, combined with modern technology, to build a culture empathy in the face of divisive headlines.

We all have the power to challenge our labels, and Being the Story did a great job of proving that it’s not our differences, but our authentic experience that defines us. I hope to speak next year at Being the Story, as a Citz Storyteller, to drive forward the dynamic change needed to change our collective narrative.

Brendan is part of the team creating "Label Lottery" from the Citz Storytellers, on tour from this Friday. More info here »