The Gift of Joy

Despite the challenges of 2020, the year also gave us many moments of joy. Here are some of those moments, chosen by the team at Storythings, we want to share with you this Christmas.

This year we made a decision not to buy clients Christmas presents but instead donate what we would have spent to a couple of organisations that we think are doing good work in trying to make our industry more equitable.

We made a donation to Arts Emergency who help young people get a fair start in careers in the arts through mentoring, and we’ve made a donation to Rise and Shine who help people from diverse backgrounds get into the audio industry through workshops and training.

By Eric Schwarz (@comicblues)

Eden Brackenbury, Designer

Joe Pera Talks With You

I’ve been alternating between watching Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, This Country, What We Do in the Shadows, Creature Comforts, Seinfeld, Taskmaster and Joe Pera over the past eight months and they all have served as reminders of the laughs and love and joy there is to be had when life is slow and you let it be so.

Matt Locke, Director

We are the Champions

Sometimes – even when the weather is grey, the news is depressing, and you’re bouncing around the same four walls, the same four screens, for the umpteenth month in a row – we can still have moments of sheer wonder. The artistic notion of the ‘sublime’ describes experiences that are so epic they make us feel simultaneously small, and yet connected to the infinite. The Grand Canyon is sublime. Picasso’s Guernica is sublime. Billy Holiday’s voice is sublime. And this year, even though we have spent the year wallowing through a sludge of depressing, awful, terrible stuff, we discovered a new form of the sublime – cheese rolling. Don’t worry, I’m as surprised as you are. I don’t think anything has genuinely connected me more to humanity, in all our glorious, pointless passions, than the half hour doc on cheese rolling in the Netflix series We Are The Champions. Watching Flo Early throwing herself down a hill in hi definition slo-mo is genuinely joyful, and sublime. If you need something to make you smile this year, and give you hope – this is it.

  • In May, when we were all under lockdown, Marie Foulston hosted a party in a Google Spreadsheet. If you want to remind yourself what it was like to actually socialise with people, this is a great place to explore.

Grace Dobush, Editor

The Meaning of Mariah Carey

I thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook version of “The Meaning of Mariah Carey,” which the pop star wrote with Michaela Angela Davis. Everybody knows her songs, but I had no idea of the struggles Mariah went through in her early years, or how much of her music she wrote and produced herself. The audiobook is the only way to read this, because Mariah does hilarious impersonations and sings as she talks about how her songs are born. Before listening to this, I wouldn’t have described myself as a lamb — a diehard Mariah Carey fan — but now I have definitely joined the flock. 

Emily Bromfield, Operations and Events

Roger Hargreaves’ Mr. Men books

I bought the Mr Men box set for my four year old over the summer and it’s brought back joyous memories of my own childhood; the stories are bonkers and often make no sense whatsoever, but does it matter? Not one bit. Favourites are Mr Chatterbox and Mr Grumpy and, of course, Mr Topsy-Turvy.

Hugh Garry, Director

Schitt’s Creek

A rich family loses all their money and finds themselves living in a small town they once bought as a joke. After coming to terms with their difficult new world they slowly begin to realise that nothing is more important than love. The Rose family brought so much joy and warmth to my year. As a series it’s packed with gags, but the joy is in the strength of the love that the stories are built around. These aren’t easy characters to love at the beginning but David and Patrick’s relationship, and the enduring love between Moira and Johnny made me fall madly in love with them all by the time I polished off season 6.

By Laurie Rowan (@laurierowan)

Darren Garrett, Creative Director

Ursula K Le Guinn’s A Wizard of Earthsea 

I do love my games (board and video if we want specificity), I love my films, and there are more comics hidden in areas of this house than you’ll ever find. However there’s something different about the kind of immersion that throwing yourself into a book creates. This year I’ve got through Titus Groan (people living their entire lives in a decaying castle), Day of the Triffids (people living in a decaying society overrun by flowers), and Piranesi (man trapped wandering an empty house with flooding issues). However the one that gave me an escape from these four walls was Ursula K Le Guinn’s Wizard of Earthsea. I’d read Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed but the world and characters she creates in Earthsea is, for want of a better cliche, quite magical. It avoids and subverts the usual tropes and expectations that a book with wizard in the title might evoke. Maybe it was reading about characters travelling a world and seeing new exciting things (imagine!) but I tore through all six books and 1000 pages. When I had to leave it was with a sense of loss that only finishing a great book can give you.

Anjali Ramachandran, Director

More Than A Woman by Caitlin Moran

Having read Moran’s ‘How To Build A Girl’ and ‘How To Be A Woman’ and thoroughly enjoyed them years ago, I felt I was at the right time in my life to read ‘More Than A Woman’, which came out this September. And I was right. She may not be Shakespeare, but the woman can make you laugh (and cry a bit) as she narrates some all-too-familiar events in the life of a middle-aged woman (there is a reason I like this book…and age may or may not have something to do with it!). To wit: “If nothing else, I truly feel I have investigated the phenomenon of Inexplicably Loud Male Sneezing to a forensic degree. WHY is it so loud? WHY? *starts crying* THEY HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME OLFACTORY SYSTEM AS US. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.” Can you hear me laughing through the screen?!

Lynsey Martenstyn, Producer

Royal Court’s My White Best Friend: (And Other Letters Left Unsaid)

Theatre brings me so much joy. Pre-lockdown, I’d go around 2-3 times a week, usually to off west-end venues, watching new writing. Amongst many other things, I’ve missed this.

The Royal Court is one of my favourite theatres, when they announced an online, mini-festival featuring 10 black writers, I snapped up tickets. 

My White Best Friend: (And Other Letters Left Unsaid) was a week-long series of performances, back in summer, with a live audience of hundreds on Zoom. 

Each night, two actors read two writers’ letters. One actor read a letter, then a short interval (just like the real thing! Minus the loo queues) followed by the second reading.

The actors opened a sealed envelope, live, and read the piece without rehearsal, enabling both them and the audience to experience the piece for the first time. This made every performance different and allowed us, as the audience, to see how the words affected the actors. Some actors were shocked, some noticeably uncomfortable, one was so moved, she began crying.

The content of the pieces focused on a different element of the black experience, from Afua Hirsh’s witty take on living in a ‘white suburb’ (Wimbledon), Campbell X’s powerful account of gender fluidity in African cultures, Amma Asante’s catalogue of how middle-aged white women had put her down and Clint Dyer’s elation of the tipping of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol. Each performance was unique, raw and truly joyous. 

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