What to look forward to at the next international storytelling festival in Singapore

Escaping into an entirely new location of a good book can be fun; but how about if you escaped to a literal new place to hear that story?

The idea of escapism via stories has always been around. At StoryFest 2018 however, construction and entrepreneurial company Big Tiny takes that need for escape and builds on it, literally—to create an actual constructed space to escape to for your dose of storytelling. Called Story House, the outdoor project will see a six-meter long mobile home converted into an intimate space, where visitors can enter and engage with performers, puppets and books for 20 minutes at a time; free-of-charge. Parked on the grounds outside The Arts House, the house will be furnished like a cozy living room that fits a maximum of 12 to 15 people for each session. Daily pop-up performances by the Young Storytellers Mentorship Project will keep you enthralled (if you weren’t already by the fact that you’re standing in a tiny home).

, What to look forward to at the next international storytelling festival in Singapore
Story House will be housed entirely in one of Big Tiny’s mobile homes

The quirky house is just one of 17 programs happening at this year’s StoryFest: International Storytelling Festival Singapore from Jun 1-3. Returning in its second edition, the festival presented by The Storytelling Centre Limited and The Arts House celebrates once more the power of storytelling. If that sounds like purely child’s play, you’re sorely misinformed.

Started as a place to showcase the performance art of storytelling, the festival honors the oral nature and tradition of storytelling—in a time that perhaps over-values textual communication. Chairing it is founder of The Storytelling Centre Limited and a pioneer in the local storytelling scene, Kamini Ramachandran. This year’s StoryFest takes the theme #BeLegendary, to celebrate legends from around the world passed down in forms spoken, told, performed and painted.

Of the 21 local and internationals storytellers featured in the lineup, three global names will present Asian premieres. Denmark duo The Telling Theatre will bring the Nordic tale of Beowulf to life; Maimouna Jallow from Kenya will perform African novel The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, as part of her work reimagining African folktales; and finally, Scottish-Kenyan artist Mara Menzies will draw from her mixed heritage to tell provocative tales from Kenya, Scotland and Nigeria in The Illusion of Truth. The latter two made their world premieres at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017, so consider their appearance here a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

, What to look forward to at the next international storytelling festival in Singapore
Mara Menzies at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017

While the three headline shows are intended for adult audiences (out of five in total), three more by the same performers are family-friendly. Look forward to performances by Singapore’s own storytellers, in a series of original commissions performed by Storytelling Association, Method Productions, Story Slam Singapore and Improv Asia. Five youths from the Young Storytellers Mentorship Project will also perform five tales in A Caravan of Stories.

In addition to the ticketed performances, and string of masterclasses and workshops hosted by the featured storytellers, two free fringe activities will be introduced in a first for the festival. There’s the aforementioned Story House, and a community painting project called Story Cloth. Story Cloth will invite the public to paint on a three-paneled story cloth, and color in characters and landscapes illustrated by visual artist Joy (or @mslatenightjam). Intended as a tribute to the traditional story cloths of bards and storytellers, the cloth depicts three scenes inspired by the three headlining stories of StoryFest 2018; the finished product will be displayed permanently at the Centre after the festival ends.

, What to look forward to at the next international storytelling festival in Singapore
A work-in-progress panel depicting Nordic viking ships on the Story Cloth

As Ramachandran pointed out, storytellers are the bridge between audiences and the vast repository of written word; StoryFest 2018’s focus on sharing local cultural tales specifically highlights the need to give attention to local works that may not have received the recognition they deserve. And at the core of it all, stories are about heart. If you’d like to spend a weekend sailing with warriors, fighting monsters and simply reveling in the human experience, you know where to go.

StoryFest 2018 happens Jun 1-3 at The Arts House. Tickets and more information here.