It’s lovely when one chance encounter leads to something that is laden with possibilities.

Each year, I MC an event called Scribes at the West, a literary gathering that has seen the likes of Marian Keyes, Alexis Sayle, Pauline McLynn and Duke Special visit West Belfast to talk about their books or their song lyrics.

This year, featured a poet from Galway, Mags Treanor, whom I knew absolutely nothing about. However, when reading her biog, I discovered she ran something called a story slam, an event where ordinary people would get up in a relaxed atmosphere and tell a true story in no more than five minutes.

What I great idea, I thought. So, when I got to talk to Mags about story slams – she does one in the Róisín Dubh in Galway city centre and another in Headford – I decided I had to go and sample one myself.

So last month I headed down to Galway, via Sligo, for the Loose Lips story slam at the Róisín. What a lovely night it was!

The event was held upstairs in the famous Galwegian venue, a room with subdued lighting, a mike, a bar and an audience. All you need.

The theme of the evening is chosen beforehand and tonight the theme was Journeys. The themes are always inclusive enough to attract a wide range of stories – physical journeys, emotional journeys, imagined journeys, anything was permitted as long as you didn’t commit the mortal sin of being boring!

Mags opened the proceedings and there followed a stream of people -who had given their names at the start of the night – who told their stories.

There were young and old there, men and women, seasoned storytellers and novices. The best story of the night came from Peggy, a woman who had been to Loose Lips a couple of times before but tonight worked up the courage to tell her story about meeting a seventh son of a seventh son on a trip to Wales with her then-boyfriend.

The stories were simple but there was a wonderful sense of community in the room as people who might have faltered a little were given encouragement from the rest of the 25-strong audience.

Other stories were of a charity cycle trip from Galway to North Africa, the power of meditation while on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, getting a job in Paris, a weird neighbour in County Cavan and so on.

Story slams in one form or another are springing up all over the world so isn’t it about time we had one in Belfast, a city overflowing with stories and storytellers?

It’s time to unlock the inner seanchaí, I think.

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