Unraveling Clara Davis, Queen of Shanghai’s Storytelling Community

By Ned Kelly, September 10, 2019

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Connecticut-native Clara Davis lived and worked in Chengdu for two years after university, before returning to China and Shanghai six years ago to finish up a dual degree graduate program with London School of Economics (LSE) and Fudan University’s School of Journalism. She always had a fascination with storytelling, and two-and-a-half years ago launched Unravel.

How did Unravel come about?
Back in 2017 I was operating a craft beer bar I had opened with Belgian brewery group Duvel Moortgat (RIP District!). I loved what I was doing but was craving a different type of creative outlet, and was in the constant crossfire of great stories from all sorts of Shanghai characters. Buoyed by the overload of story-driven podcasts I was listening to, and my growing belief that Shanghai is a city where anything is possible, I called my own bluff and advertised the first show in February 2017. I held it in the back of my bar, featuring six brave souls willing to take a chance on my idea!

Unravel has grown significantly since that fateful evening. It has been amazing to watch Shanghai rally around a platform built around stories – our most basic human connection point. We now have a core production team, plus a handful of volunteers and collaborators who help keep the train rolling. Each month is a different abstract theme, and we invite anyone to submit stories that engage with that theme on whatever level, from whatever angle. We review and give feedback on all submissions – one of our favorite parts of the process – and ultimately confirm a lineup of six storytellers to feature at every show.

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How many shows have you held to date?
Our MAN UP show on September 26 will be our 25th live show! Over the course of the last two plus years, we’ve featured more than 120 storytellers from more than 25 different countries, and have produced shows in more than 15 venues across the city.

What would you say to someone thinking of getting involved?
We believe that everyone has a story to tell, and the most common obstacle between you and sharing yours is the feeling of doubt that you don’t have one worth telling. I assure you – you do! One of the things I love the most about Unravel is the symbiotic relationship between storyteller and audience. They are getting and sharing so much energy from and with each other – one of the most gratifying comments storytellers have given me is about what a supportive and safe space Unravel is to tell their truths. I am confident that at every show, each story featured is someone in the audience’s favorite.

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Tell us about the new Unravel Podcast?
Producing a podcast has been a dream for a long time – and about a year ago Senior Producer Sarah Boorboor and I started figuring out how to make it a reality. We wanted a way to share some of the incredible stories we’ve featured with people who can’t make it to our live shows, and we wanted to offer something extra for those who can. Each podcast episode goes behind and beyond a story featured in a prior show, featuring clips from their story and a conversation between the storyteller and myself. The podcast is produced and edited by Sarah with original music and post production by Ricardo Valdez. You can find us on your preferred podcast platform by searching ‘Unravel Storytelling,’ or check out our website for more info (address below).

Have you expanded Unravel to other cities?
Not yet. We have grown so much as a platform and as a team over the last two-and-a-half years and are so grateful for the support of our community and our storytellers. We are super excited about expanding our content, and last year we launched our workshops and special projects arm, Unravel Impact, to engage with schools, corporates and organizations to help harness the power of storytelling. Bringing live shows to cities outside of Shanghai (and China!) is definitely on our radar and something we are planning for.

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Any other exciting projects you are involved in?
Over one year ago, I founded creative food and beverage agency Taste Collective with my partner Andrew Moo. We are a marketing agency that focuses on food and beverage brands and products, grounded in experiences like pop-ups, activations and campaigns – you might have tasted our Happy Ending donuts or our Two Hands burgers! A lot of the work we do boils down to the stories we tell and make through food. So, I spend my days thinking about food and storytelling – my two favorite forms of nourishment.


Want to know more? Scan the QR code below to follow Unravel on WeChat, or check out their new website at www.unravelstorytelling.com. You can also find them on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn (@unravelstorytelling).

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 [All photos by Alejandro Scott for Unravel]

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