The Grand Slam Ver 2.0 is back this 2017 at the Esplanade Recital Studio. Hosted by Story Slam Singapore (SSS), this is an annual story-telling competition commits getting important narratives out there. This year’s theme ‘Under Your Skin’ seeks to change, inspire and give audience members a glimpse of different experiences. The story tellers will spill personal narratives and at the end of the three hour revue, vote for your favourite and be inspired to tell your own stories.

“The finalists chosen for the Grand Slam 2017 were primarily assessed based on the strength of their storytelling skills, their stage presence, and for their own unique perspectives. To inject a bit of friendly competition this year, we’ve brought back one of our storytellers, Kamil Haque. He was our Judges’ Favourite last year, so in a way, this year he’s trying to defend his title against a new crop of talented storytellers!” shared SSS founder Elina Lim.

Popspoken speaks to SSS to find out more about the event and the collective power stories hold.

Grand Slam ver 2016 Judges' Favourite Storyteller - Kamil Haque

Popspoken: How did a monthly event at Artistry get kicked off into an annual festival?

Story Slam Singapore believes in the power of true personal stories. Our intent is to help reinforce a sense of community and cultivate an understanding of different perspectives. What was 15 audiences in the back of a bar in 2014 soon grew to a following of 700 individuals at the end of 2015 and a full house in the Esplanade for our first Grand Slam in 2016. The momentum hasn’t stopped since.

PS: What about storytelling makes it as visual an experience as it is about listening?

There is something about bearing witness to someone in person that changes the experience entirely. I liken it similar to catching up with an old friend face to face versus a phone call or a text message. No information is lost and the truth of the moment is clear. It is my favourite way of witnessing and listening to stories.

PS: What skill should we pick up from storytelling that will aid us in our personal lives?

The ability to effectively share your personal story without losing sight of the bigger picture. A great story is about humanity – what drives us, what moves us and what makes us human. I find myself telling a story and learning something completely new from that past experience, something reminds me that I am just a person trying to survive in this world. And in listening to stories, empathy. Always, empathy. On this note, Story Slam Singapore has launched a Storytelling Workshop.

SSS Founder and Grand Slam 2016 Guest Storyteller - Elina Lim

PS: What stories do you think, on a national level, we do not listen of enough?

Where to start… any story that we are not exposed to. Stories by immigrant workers, sex workers, the LGBTQ community, elderly people – this one boggles my mind the most, they have a vastness of experience that is continually seen as dated and therefore ignored.

PS: What sort of stories have you heard that inspired this event?

There is such a range of stories that it’s quite hard to list them all! We’ve heard ‘difficult-to-tell’ stories such as having to abort a non-viable foetus; the struggle of grappling with depression; the fear of coming out openly to your family with your sexual orientation; dealing with the recent loss of a loved one; and even the heartache from a break-up among others.

Yet, there are also stories that left us rolling in the aisles, or instances where the storyteller experienced an epiphany of self-understanding. Some have even related inspiring stories about breaking out from their comfort zone.

But if you wanted to pin down a common denominator among all the stories we’ve heard, I would say it’s the sheer emotional intimacy of each story that inspires and motivates us to organise our monthly slams as well as the Grand Slam.

SSS Co-host _ Grand Slam 2016 Storyteller Stephanie Dogfoot

PS: Where do you see this event growing into in the next ten years?

To be honest, it’s hard to say where the next ten years will take us. But within the next five years, we are hoping to plan and implement two initiatives: Firstly, starting a youth version of Story Slam Singapore where we can both groom and feature budding contemporary storytellers; and secondly, organising a contemporary storytelling festival in conjunction with contemporary storytellers worldwide. Of course, we’re hoping that we can generate enough critical mass to keep these two initiatives growing!

PS: Do you think the event will help to shape the narrative of our people?

Yes, I think we have a lot of common struggles and experiences that is very unique to Singapore and verbalizing that is a way of creating community and a sense of belonging. Especially things that feel as if they are taboo to talk about – most of the really aren’t! We just put a lot of pressure on ourselves as a society. I am very much in favour of people choosing their cultural truths and icons rather than ones that are artificially created.

We see it reaching more communities, getting students to participate, reaching migrant worker communities. We also intend to publish a book of select stories that will showcase stories from Singapore. If we keep growing, we’ll have multiple competitions a year, a SEA Storytelling Festival.

Grand Slam ver 2016 Guest Storyteller - Becca D'bus

Grand Slam Ver 2.0

Date: 21st January 2017

Time: 7.30pm

Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio

Admission: From $27 (Get your tickets here.)

A Story Slam Workshop with SSS founder Elina is also available on 22nd January. Check out their website for more information!

Photographs courtesy of Story Slam Singapore.


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