Tenx9 is a storytelling event where nine people have up to ten minutes each to tell a real story from their lives. Storytellers and listeners meet up at the Black Box in Belfast, with a new theme each month. This month the theme was “Snap!”, appropriate enough as it was part of the Belfast Photo Festival programme. Each of the nine images projected onto a screen were accompanied with a relevant story.
We learned that a mate Ben is bigger than Jesus (Paul Hutchinson); warm fuzzies can be lead to danger and confusion (Laura Randall); a pilgrimage is more about those you share that journey with (Sarah Williamson); if you’re really bored, start a political blog (Jason Ashford); at an S&M bar, wear a costume that you can breathe in (Shelley McClure); infatuations can mature into friendships (Paul); and what Judy Blume doesn’t prepare you for (menstruation and denim jeans) (Beth Randall).
There were also two stories that particularly captivated me and the rest of the audience.
Claire Mitchell described her love-hate relationship with Belfast; the banter amongst friends and strangers is great, but when the city is down, it can close in on itself. Some time ago, she escaped to Berlin, “a beatnik mecca”. She enjoyed the heavy metal music shows. She took refuge in numbers and not human connections.
Her life evolved after some benign turbulence, which resulted in having a child.
So, perhaps to challenge domesticity, she thought it would be a pleasant, cathartic experience to return to Berlin in 2011: “We weren’t settling for slippers and box sets.”
But most all of the time was spent attending to their constantly vomiting one-year-old. It was a case of art shows unseen.
“God, my life had changed. My state of mind was askew, not my geography.” Ironically, she found respite at the Holocaust Memorial (see photo).
She explained how this visit to Berlin was too real; there was little time for a trip nostalgic. But crucially, she described her life now as real and connected, and all the richer for it.
Anyway, Claire finished, isn’t Beirut the new Berlin?
For his grandfather’s funeral, Conor Houston read from a Letter to Corinthians. “I fucking hate Corinthians; they never wrote back!” replied his uncle Paul (see photo).
Subsequently, Paul was murdered while on holiday in Portugal.
Conor described attending to the judicial process, the surrealism of repeat trips to Faro, on planes and in resort bars watching others enjoying their leisure: “It was hard to reconcile the tranquillity of the scene with my uncle’s violent death.”
The defendants were found guilty, in a relatively short period of time (a fisherman witnessed it all from his boat, and made sketches of the perpetrators). But in the courtroom, Conor felt more pity for the young offenders, unaccompanied by any family. What a cruel end to his uncle’s happy life, and a loss of living life for these pathetic murderers.
But now the grieving process could truly begin.
“Do not underestimate the power of acknowledgement in the pursuit of justice,” Conor, a trained solicitor, told the audience.
Immediately after the court judgement in Portugal, Conor and his family released their collective strain by jumping into a pool, fully clothed. They believe Paul would have approved.
For his eulogy, Conor read it as a letter from Corinthians to Paul.
Stories used with permission by storytellers and Tenx9.