It is her face that you can see in the center of the new graffiti on the back wall of Coffee @ 33 in Trafalgar Street because her story is so inspiring. Having moved here from Bournemouth almost a year ago, Charr regularly goes to Cascade Creative Recovery meetings and that’s how she ended up joining Brighton Festival’s very own Storytelling Army. We met Charr after her final storytelling performance on Sunday and she told us what her story is about and what it was like to be part of this exciting project.
So, you are a member of the Storytelling Army. Can you tell me a bit more of what you have been doing there?
We had workshops every Saturday for the last ten weeks, so we have been working with different artists, poets, spoken word artists… I have basically never done writing before, only a tiny little bit. So we have been learning how to write, how to sort of bring things out and how to create a story and how to do a performance with that.
Ok, so you have worked with many different artists. What was it that you liked most about it?
Just the whole experience really. We learned so many different things. We learned about free writing, that’s when you write and you don’t stop to think about what you are writing. I usually overthink and over analyze everything but that sort of turned my brain off. I was struggling to put my story down and then I used the free writing technique and just wrote and that’s how I ended up with my story.
So, all of you wrote stories. Can you explain to me what the stories you wrote were about?
All the stories that we wrote are what we called our everyday epic, so things that people don’t normally stop to think about. Sometimes, people don’t realize that the easiest things can be the hardest. Everyone is always rushing to get somewhere and they don’t stop to think about what’s going on and what things mean to people. We are hoping that by using the everyday epic, we make people realize that.
And what is it that your everyday epic is about?
My everyday epic is about getting a coffee or tea. I am not used to people’s kindness. So, when someone offers me something, I don’t know how to cope with it and it brings up a lot of emotion. So yeah, that’s what my everyday epic is about, getting a cup of tea or coffee and what it means to me.
Has that happened very often to you, that people offered you a cup of tea or coffee?
Yeah, when I was younger my grandmother used to offer me a cuppa and that meant that, when I was there, I was safe and that I was welcome and that I didn’t have to worry about anything. And until recently that hadn’t really happened with anyone that wasn’t family, but in the last few months especially, people have been offering me tea or coffee and yeah, it means a lot. I have got no self-esteem and I don’t feel worthy of people’s kindness. So, it is nice to know that people care.
When these people offered you a coffee, did you get involved in a conversation with them?
Yeah, I even made life-long friends through that one simple gesture. I have met my best friend through this situation, a couple of them actually.
That is amazing! And during the workshops for the Storytelling Army, did you also get closer with the other participants?
Oh yeah definitely. We all got to know each other a lot better through this way. It was really a brilliant experience and I am really glad to be a part of it.
So, do you think you will pursue the writing?
Yes! I have been bought a notebook, a big notebook, so I will definitely continue writing because of this experience. I haven’t got any ideas yet for what I will write about but I will definitely pick up paper and pen more often.
What kind of writing do you like most then?
Poetry. I have only ever written a couple of poems but I really like poetry. There are so many different forms. So, even if you are not good at writing normally when it comes to stories, poetry seems to draw something out of people from their lived experiences. For me, poetry seems to be the easiest form of writing.
So, was your performance for the Storytelling Army also a poem?
No, it wasn’t. I was thinking too much about it, so I just wrote my story out as it is and performed that by just reading it out to the audience.
Was it difficult to perform your story in front of an audience?
The first time, it was really hard because I only finished it that day when I first performed it, so I was still very emotional about it and I was struggling to perform it without crying because there is so much meaning attached to it. Telling people what it means to feel like that isn’t something you do every day. But with every performance I have done, it’s getting easier to perform.
You say you were really emotional. Was that also the kind of reaction people in the audience had when they heard your story?
The first time I performed it, someone came up to me and offered me a cup of tea. That was lovely. And a lot of people have said ‘That’s my line if you would you like a cup of tea!’ It’s lovely that it makes people feel like that. So I really got good feedback on it and I got a free cup of tea out of it which was nice.
So what do you prefer, tea or coffee?
It depends on my mood, but generally a coffee. Black coffee, no sugar, no milk.
And what are your plans for the future?
I am not sure, to be honest. There is a creative writing class at Cascade on Wednesdays, so I think I’m gonna start attending that and get more involved with writing. I am also involved with drama at Cascade. We have done a few plays there, like one for the Brighton Fringe Festival, and we will probably do another performance in the near future but I am not sure yet what that will be. So yeah, it opened up a lot of opportunities for me that weren’t there a year ago.