5 Things: Clara Davis Unravels Storytelling in Shanghai

By Lauren Hogan, April 21, 2017

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That's series where we ask a Shanghai-based somebody to tell us 5 Things specific to his or her life. 

A live storytelling platform - Unravel - has recently sprouted up in Shanghai. This once monthly event features six storytellers recounting authentic, personal stories from their lives, all of which are loosely inspired by a given theme. An intentionally mobile model and ever-evolving project, each month the story sharing is held in a different venue, with a unique theme and lineup combination. 

Gearing up for the third event - April 27, themed 'Chance' - we talk to the woman behind it all, Clara, on the art of storytelling, advice for those who want to share, and what it means to take a chance.

1. Storytelling - effectively the oldest art form in the world - seemed like a prime outlet [for Shanghai].

This isn’t a revolutionary concept – there are amazing storytelling platforms and groups in cities all over the world - and there have been events and groups here in Shanghai previously. I just decided to have a crack at organizing my own version. The beautiful thing is how organically it’s grown – I really do believe that people love sharing and listening to stories; it’s our most basic way to connect. In a city as chaotic as this one, facilitating a platform and an experience for that type of dialogue and exchange has been an amazing and extremely gratifying opportunity.

2. I think everyone has a few chance stories somewhere up their sleeve.

My entire time in China can fit within it – I took a total chance when I got on a plane to Chengdu six years ago with no job prospects, and no Chinese language skills. Everything that has led me to Shanghai and the life I lead now has been a tangle of opportunity and chance and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. But, I won’t be boring anyone with the full story this time around.

3. My Shanghai (and life) motto is to always say yes.

Don’t think you can’t tell a story because you’re nervous or shy, or because you don’t think of yourself as a good writer or public speaker.

4. Hone in on a narrative - a single story - and take the audience from a beginning to an end point.

Content and delivery are of equal importance and we work with storytellers to offer support and lend an ear. Everyone has stories, and I’m trying to strike a balance between those for whom this is an easy sell and those that need more convincing. The intention is to be as inclusive and diverse as possible, otherwise there’s really no point.

5. Taking some time to sit (or stand) still and listen to the life experiences of other people in our community is rewarding on multiple levels...

...especially in Shanghai. Very basically it’s entertainment, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect, to connect, to empathize and be present. There’s something powerful about connecting, listening, and being willing to share. So far our audiences have been as amazing as our storytellers. 

Interested in sharing your story at an Unravel event? Email unravelshanghai@gmail.com to pitch a story or get added to the mailing list. The May theme will be announced just as soon as the April one is over - but if you want to 'take a chance' now, message Clara to see if there's still a slot available.

Thurs, Apr 27, 6.30pm. TRIBE, see event listing here.

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