Descending into The Basement was quite a bizarre experience. The venue has the feel of an old wine cellar, or maybe a Second World War bomb shelter. However, this is not a negative – an eccentric venue is perfect for an eccentric event such as The Story Collider. It was a fully booked Brighton Festival show, a highly-anticipated gathering of scientific individuals who were to tell stories of how science has impacted their lives.
A microphone was lit in a hypnogogic red glow, and the speakers were introduced by the director of the evening he told his own riveting tale. He gave an impressively visual description of his explorations of the recently publicly available Damanhur Temples of Humankind. It was so incredible, I had to speak to him in the interval just to hear more about his experiences.
The scientific storytellers told tales of how their life had been influenced in some form by their passion for science. Not just the physical aspect of science, but also metaphysical concepts such as aesthetic beauty within art and fashion. This brought a diversity to the event, making sure there was never a story too similar to the one before it. One of my favourite speeches was about the study of mammals in the Middle East. We were told about how mammals such as how hyenas are perceived significantly differently in the West compared to countries where they are predominant to the wildlife. There are myths that surround these creatures in their native countries. For example, our storyteller was told to always kill a hyena if she encountered one (she did), otherwise they would follow her home and eat her children. It was an interesting demonstration on cultural diversity as well as a beginner friendly explanation of how data of rare mammals is gathered.
A particularly funny speaker gave his opinion on the subjectivity of fashion through his own experience of being critiqued on his outfit. He lovingly gave an account of his favourite items of clothing, ones that by popular belief are not flattering or attractive. The tale had a positive moral underpinning as, although he was frowned upon by cooler and more fashionable people, he was still proud to be his own person and wear what he loves. Being cool is being comfortable in your own sense of style, not conforming to the universal and era-dependent consensus of what is fashionable.
A critique of the evening would be that some stories were not necessarily attached to science. One speaker gave a lengthy account of how she fell in love with another man while in a long-term relationship, eventually (and unapologetically) cheating on her boyfriend. Her story had virtually no tie to a scientific concept, so we were instead subjected to a pseudo-erotic tale that felt very much overly self- indulgent. Despite this, the overall night was very enlightening and it was charming to hear the various personal stories.
The Story Collider was fun evening that didn’t take itself too seriously. Its casual setting and engaging speakers made it enjoyable, although perhaps a bit amateur compared to other Brighton Festival events. It was a night that definitely showed a lot of potential, hopefully they will return bigger and better than before.