Reflections on a Campfire

Richard Myers reviews an unusual evening at St Mark’s

‘Campfire’ was a show put on at St Mark’s on 8th April, advertised as ‘An evening of stories, song and hot cocoa. True stories told by members of the community’. We all had to pretend we were sitting round a campfire while these delights went on. The lights were low, and a few props and some real cocoa helped to create this impression, with a few sound effects at the beginning produced under instructions from the two talented hosts of the show, a poet and a musician linked with Farnham Maltings, Molly Naylor and Dominic Conway.

What was unusual about it all was that fact that it was largely people we knew who were the storytellers and musicians, with the hosts providing the framework. The two hosts had visited a few days earlier and coached those who wished on how to tell their story well. The stories took up the bulk of the evening. Some were extremely personal and very moving: regretting being mean at school, a hard evening in a difficult childhood, a long wrestle with the desire to have beautiful hair. Others were individual experiences of national events – an account of an Empire Day celebration many years ago, a memory of buying an ice cream on the day World War 2 started. A few were humorous – misunderstandings in teaching the Scouts. There was an account of being caught up in a terrorist incident in Paris. Speakers were old and young. The standard was very high. I liked the fact that some of the personal stories were quite difficult to listen to and broke through the general jollity to a more powerful note.

But this seriousness was balanced by the lighter stories and by the music. ‘Karma Chameleon’ figured and some others I am unable to name. There was a bit of a sing-along with some impromptu guitar playing by members of the audience. We were invited to list ‘family sayings’ during the interval, and these were read out in the second half – rather a clever idea with a nice feel – funny, but also with an insight into different family lives: one was ‘FHB’, said by the mother when she had under-catered, meaning ‘Family Hold Back’, i.e don’t eat very much.

St Mark’s was offered this ‘show’ by Farnham Maltings due to the part it had played during the Farnham Literary Festival; so I guess we all have to thank Stella for it, as well as Farnham Maltings. And we did well; the videographer there said we were a better audience and a better location than they had had the night before!

Pictured: Molly and Dominic at Campfire.

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