Leave your prejudices at the door and step into a dimly lit cavern packed with an open-minded crowd from all over the world. You’ve entered a safe space where words are neither censored nor judged. Order a drink, pull up a chair, and look up at the small stage where four ordinary people are about to tell you their craziest stories.
La Chispa is a Spanish and English storytelling event held every two to three months in various locations around Madrid. There are four storytellers with one story each: two are told in Spanish and two in English. Each story lasts between 10 and 15 minutes and must be true and unscripted.
The themes vary widely: just in the one evening we were there, we heard tales of racism, homophobia, lust, and a big mistake. Many of the stories will make you laugh and some might be upsetting but, most of all, you’ll hear something you’ve never heard before, because everyone’s story is unique.
To give you an idea of what you’ll hear at La Chispa, here’s some of what we heard that night.
[Note that all stories are from my memory, except for Guille’s which has been translated from Spanish.]
“From a very young age, I’ve been aware that people think differently of me for the colour of my skin – that I’m dangerous, unlawful, or stupid. When I left America and came to Madrid, I left all those judgements behind. I was a new man in a new city with a new sense of freedom, until one evening in Lavapiés, the police stopped me and searched me for drugs. After finding nothing, I reached out to shake the policeman’s hand – I think I wanted to show solidarity, and to comfort myself that he wasn’t genuinely targeting me and was just doing his job. He looked at my hand with disgust, then turned around and kept on walking. My legs collapsed beneath me and I sat on the ground and cried, because in that moment, I realised that all those feelings and judgements had never been left behind, and that the freedom I’d had never actually existed.”– CJ Baker
“I can see my hand slowly pulling back. I’m no longer in control – the tequila has taken over. Then I slapped the shit out of his face. I was as shocked as he was – I just assaulted this nice gentleman. There was a long, awkward pause while I waited for him to respond and, to my surprise, he said, ‘again!’” – Courtney Brink
“Finally, despite the storm, we managed to reach the peak. At our feet, we could see Brașov – a beautiful Romanian town. Proud of our achievement, we returned to the cable car station to get down from the mountain, which is when we realised it was dark. Very dark. Too dark. The station had been shut off and the door inside was locked. There wasn’t even a trace of our ‘friend’ who had been waiting there for us, nor of anyone who could take us back to the village. Everything seemed to point to the fact that we couldn’t get to the hostel and that we’d have to spend the night there, on top of the mountain, in the middle of a storm, 3,000 km from home.” – Guille Menés
La Chispa couldn’t be categorised as a performance, it’s an empowering form of therapy for both the storytellers and the audience, and for this reason you feel a connection with everyone on stage – you’re as much a part of their experience as they are of yours.
Perhaps you’d like attend the next event, and maybe the stories you hear will inspire you to share yours too. Whether you’re there to listen or to speak, once you’ve been, you’ll be back for more.
Photo credit: LABL FOTO.