Every August for the past six years the Arts Council has hosted Spillit, a regional storytelling contest. Similar to popular true storytelling events such as The Moth or, the event invites members of the audience to take the stage to tell a 5-7 minute mostly true story around a central theme. The Arts Council launched the free event in part because of its participatory nature. The contest is a chance for anyone to take part, share a story, and hear stories from others. No prior experience is required. The participants at past events have been teachers, bankers, homemakers, and pipeline workers.
Josh Campbell who organizes Spillit events believes that in sharing stories we become a little closer as a community. Campbell tours the region hosting monthly events and produces a podcast featuring stories from the live events. The events are not highly produced shows but community gatherings. A gathering of residents interested in hearing how other people’s experiences have shaped their lives offered lessons learned or created lasting friendships.
The winner of each stop on the tour is invited to the annual championship in Memphis. Last year, Oxford native Kaye Bryant, took home the title of Grand Champion. This year the theme for the contest is So There I Was. Stories just need to meet three basic requirements; be mostly true, incorporate the theme, and be between 5-7 minutes. Campbell encourages community members starting off the night with a story of his own around the selected theme. His tip for new storytellers is that it is not about being funny or dramatic but just telling a true experience. Most often someone else in the audience has had a similar experience.
Anyone can attend the event and listen to the stories. Those interested in telling a story are invited to drop their name in the hat at the beginning of the night. Storytellers are drawn in random order to take the mic and share their story. The event is scheduled for the Powerhouse Community Arts Center on Saturday, August 13 at 7 pm. This event is part of the Hoka Days month-long celebration of arts sponsored by the Arts Council in memory of Ron Shapiro. Hoka Days events are offered free to encourage the community to try new art experiences. A full schedule of Hoka Days events can be found at www.oxfordarts.com and include live theatre, music, and poetry.
Wayne Andrews is the director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.