Interview With Eilis Dillon, first published in The Evening Echo 2014-1-29

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Storytelling, perhaps the oldest form of sharing ideas and experience, has a new forum in Cork, where Mother Jones Flea Market on York Street hosts the Tenx9 Cork night. Ahead of it’s fourth monthly instalment Ronan Leonard spoke with organiser Eilis Dillon.

Eilis started by explaining the concept of a Tenx9 Cork session, “it’s a monthly storytelling night, not fiction but real stories of experience. The central idea is that everyone has a story and it is an opportunity for people to tell theirs. Once you scratch beneath the surface ‘ordinary’ people have the most extraordinary stories. So nine people get up to ten minutes to tell a real story from their lives. Each month has a theme and it’s amazing how each theme can produce such a wide variety of stories.”

Another feature of the evening is how there is no pressure in terms of how the story is delivered or how well it is performed, Eilis continued, “over the last few months some people have told a story off the cuff but most people have written them in advance and read it out. Some people have told it through poetry or song. There is no pressure to tell a story so most people just come to listen and many are then inspired to tell a story at another event. After the stories are told people usually stay on for a while and many times you can hear them telling their own stories across the table.”

The Tenx9 project is barely a year old and already has spread to three continents, Eilis explained where she first came into contact with it, “when studying up in Belfast I attended the original Tenx9 which is run by Padraig O’Tuama and Paul Doran. At that time there were no others being held around the world; my classmate Michael and I loved the concept and asked if we could bring it to our hometowns and so began Tenx9 Cork and Tenx9 Nashville USA. Since then my mother, Nuala Keher set up 10×9 Juba South Sudan. I have heard that one has started in the Netherlands in recent weeks too.”

The fact that each night has a theme to which the participants respond to keeps the stories fresh, Eilis ran through the previous themes so far, “we’ve had ‘The First Time’, ‘Courage’ and ‘When I Was A Kid’. It is really amazing the range of stories which comes from one theme. For our first night we used ‘The First Time’ and the stories ranged from the first time someone had seen a ghost; the first time someone went to the toilet in front of another person while on a trip to Mongolia; and the first time someone found out they had cancer.”

That final story has stood out as Eilis’s most stirring memory of Tenx9 Cork so far, “a young man called Aodh Rua told his story of finding out he had cancer. He told it with nothing written down, he was a fantastic storyteller and delivered it with such humour he had the whole place laughing. Unfortunately since then he passed away 4 weeks ago, so that for me was a very special and poignant moment which anyone who was there that night will never forget.”

The opportunity to attend or take part is open to all but in reality that means just adults, “the whole point of the event is to able to talk freely and so it is not suitable for children. The atmosphere and the type of people who come to listen make it a really accepting and understanding audience. As we keeping saying the focus is on sharing not performing. There are few rules to the stories being told except that they must stick to the time and try not to offend people so that everyone feels welcome regardless of beliefs, sexuality, gender etc. This month’s theme is adventure and we still some space anyone would like to give it a go, just contact us in advance. We are happy to help people with writing and editing their story if they would like.”

The next Tenx9 Cork is Thursday 30 January in Mother Jones Flea Market on York Street at 8pm.

Contact details can be found at http://www.facebook.com/tenx9cork

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