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An Effective Way to Stage Successful Public Storytelling Swaps
By Gregory Leifel

Note from the Editor: Recently, on our Storytell List (see Related Resources HERE), we have had a discussion about the why, when, where, who, what and how of staging Public Storytelling Swaps. We all decided that they are a wonderful way of introducing the adult public to the value and power of storytelling. One of the most useful suggestions on ways to accomplish this, in my opinion, came from Gregory Leifel, so I have his permission to share his experience with you. Gregory writes:

I thought I'd share my experience on this topic of Public Swaps in an effort that it may spark a few ideas for more places and opportunities to tell.

My local arts council holds an event we call Poems, Pints, and More. It began as a bi-annual evening for local poets to read their work and the two hosts would do comedy skits and readings in between the poets (mostly Monty Python skits - as they were British - and also reading funny stuff they found on the Internet.) I auditioned to do a story once, years ago, and they asked me back to tell for the next shows. Eventually the two hosts decided not to do the show anymore and the arts council asked if I would host it.

Rather than read things, I began to tell short stories in between poets. The next time we added a couple of musicians, and encouraged all sorts of performers to audition. In our last show we had a comedian, essayist, short digital film, storytellers, poets, and several musicians. It makes for a wonderfully entertaining evening. The arts council sets up little bistro tables (borrowed from a local restaurant at one time), serves beer and wine and munchies, just like a pub setting. The show costs little to put on, but makes them a nice profit for the evening, which goes to help fund and run their organization. We call it a mini fundraiser, as no one gets paid; just an opportunity to share their work with the community.

My suggestion for you storytellers looking for another venue, especially for adult audiences, is to bring a show proposal like this to your local arts council. Or even just a storytelling night proposal. Many arts councils are looking for new ideas to bring audiences in, and bringing a proposal to them is not done enough in my experience.

When the idea for Poems and Pints was originally brought to my arts council, it was done so by a man who used to live in Wales, where there was a TV show based on people sitting around in a pub sharing stories, poems and some music. He suggested the arts council replicate that to give local artists opportunity and the community a fun evening.

We audition people over two nights and then choose performers to participate in the event a few weeks later. This way we know the length of the show, and can tailor the acts to produce a quality evening from beginning to end. It doesn't have to be done this way, but most art councils would like some control over how the evening will go. I do this on a voluntary basis because I love what they stand for and it gives me another venue to perform in (often I perform stories for the first time here). Our musicians rave about it, because most of the venues they play in, the audience is drinking and talking and they are kind of background music. With this type of show environment,the audience is attentive and supportive. (we are NOT a poetry slam environment).

In my experience, most art councils would love to see a proposal (best to do so in writing). Give it a try, and if you need more specifics about what I've done, just email me at

Gregory Leifel, author of the novel, The Day I Met Walt Whitman, and Storytelling audio CD,Go Ahead and Jump and Other Stories, may be found at


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