With its strong oral tradition, Nepal is a country of storytellers and listeners. Holding a steaming cup of chiya, a storyteller recites past adventures or tales about the best and worst days of their lives at roadside tea stalls, or under a chautari. Curious bystanders huddle together to listen. The crowd grows larger as more passersby join in.
But stories had never been yelled on stage until August 2016, when The StoryYellers started giving a platform for those who wanted to tell their stories in a version of Ted Talks, with strong Nepali flavour.
“I tell stories and help others tell theirs,” says Prashanta Manandhar, who explains that The StoryYellers started out as a joke when a friend asked him why only ‘important’ people got a platform, and not everyday folks.
The bi-monthly program is now held at 25 Hours in Tangal, and features people from all walks of life describing the one incident that has created the biggest impact on their lives. Speakers either volunteer using an online form or are hand-picked by the team, which selects speakers from various professions. There is a rigorous process of story framing and rehearsal before the live show, and the team makes sure that the tale is told like a traditional story, with a plot, characters, conflict and resolution.
Manandhar rejects comparisons with TED Talks, explaining that saying that The StoryYellers is more about personal stories well told, while the global platform is more about ideas.
The fact that The StoryYellers took off from its very first performance is proof that there was indeed a demand for just such a thing. Tickets have sold well, and the stories are getting popular on social media, with viewers in 150 countries. Manandhar does not want to transform it into an online only event:
“Personal interaction is very important to us. It makes the shows much more intimate, and we do the show even if there is only one audience member.”