Vancouver is a shy city. Breaking into its tightly-knit social groups and discovering what lies beyond the demure shell is no easy task. Five years ago Lizzy Karp and Karen Pinchin, two writers newly arrived in Vancouver, were inspired to start producing storytelling events as a means of doing just this. Under the name Rain City Chronicles they sourced compelling stories from friends and rented out venues in which they could be shared. The event breaks down social barriers by providing the audience a chance to relate to each other. Social separations beyond the performance are dissolved, replaced with new common ground shared with your neighbour. On an uncharacteristically sunny March afternoon we sat down with Karp, the event’s main coordinator who was unfortunately stricken by a pollen allergy that day, to get the story behind the stories.
Originally the event took place in easily obtainable venues like local halls and community centers, but as it gained popularity they’ve had the chance to develop the atmosphere as a key part of the experience. Through collaborations with The Vancouver Art Gallery, The Vancouver School Board, Ken Tsui, and most recently german restaurant Bestie, Karp and her team of volunteers have elaborated on the event’s theme with connective locations, food, and music. Karp begins to excitedly describes the result of including these comforting elements.
“I call it the kitchen party effect, when you’re at a dinner party you eventually end up in the kitchen and someone tells a story. Something like ‘true story: last week I pulled my hip flexor and broke my butt synchronized swimming.’ Someone else will say ‘My aunt’s a synchronized swimmer and one year she drowned’, and it builds. There’s this natural connection when people share stories in that space, everyone starts to say ‘Oh, me too!’ You connect over a shared experience you didn’t think you would. I hope people leave feeling more excited about telling their own story and realize their lives are filled with these interesting moments.”
The stories are hand-picked by Karp, who says she approaches it like making a mixtape for a cute boy. She isn’t the amateur who includes only your favourite songs, or folk-punk too subversive for even the crustiest individual, but rather delicately curates each story so they’re diverse yet relevant to each other. With everything from tales of tragedy involving broken penises and patriarchy to sobering sonnets about the isolation of being the only English speaker in a French jail, the lineup of stories is one that will steal the hearts of even the pickiest parable purveyor.
Karp intends for the event to bring broad audiences of interesting creative people together, encouraging them to openly share their experiences. Through putting a lens on everyday Vancouverites she hopes it will inspire others to view their city more positively.
“There’s something in the shared experience. We strive to have an event where people can relax, have a drink, and discuss how crazy that penis story was. There’s quite a bit of feedback about how that’s people’s favourite part, not hearing stories, but being able to connect with somebody new. A lot of people describe it as not feeling like they’re in Vancouver”.
In the next year Karp is looking to explore different mediums of storytelling while continuing to collaborate with local businesses and organizations with interesting stories to tell.
To get involved or attend the event, information on what’s coming up and where to send your story is available on their website at raincitychronicles.com. To grab a taste of what the event is like before attending, the Rain City Chronicles podcast is available for free download on iTunes.
By Maya-Roisin Slater