Normally, on an icy Monday night, Londoners have no business sitting on a Shoreditch bar’s rooftop listening to tales of long ago. But this is no ordinary bedtime story. This is award-winning storyteller Giles Abbott leading us on an adventure far-removed from the bustle of the bar below.
The Queen of Hoxton is famed for its numerous club nights and student-friendly drink prices. But the only professional blind storyteller in the UK has attracted an altogether different crowd. People of all ages, sexes and races line the dimly-lit tent, eagerly awaiting Abbott’s latest offering. An almost ethereal ambience settles as Abbott clears his throat, ready to begin.
After minutes the crowd is enthralled by a story littered with gods, Vikings and names steeped in mythology. The Viking god Odin features heavily in Abbott’s tale, adapted from myth. The spell is momentarily broken by his frequent one-liner: “…but that’s another story!” filling the tent with chuckles.
Booming through the tepee, the popular storyteller alternates between animated excitement and seriousness. Accents play a huge part in the dialogue, as he cackles an old lady’s joke. “They were using spear and swords and I stood by the kitchen sink worried they’d use that too!” Be it narrator or character, the crowd murmurs their appreciation.
Abbott’s hands tell as much of a story as his voice, rising in animation, his fingers beckoning the crowd closer at the most dramatic of moments. His passion for storytelling could not be clearer. His name must precede him, as even halfway through people are still joining the back rows, eager to be transported from manic-to-mystical Monday.
Applause booms through the tepee, bouncing off of its thin fabric. I find myself willing Abbott to take me on another journey (or better yet record audio readings of all my favourites, though I’m not sure The Great Gatsby is his kind of thing). Regardless, anything that holds a hoard of East Londoners so enraptured on a dismal Monday is deserving of praise. A true success for Abbott.
You can find Giles Abbott every second Sunday of the month at his current residency at The Last Tuesday Society in Hackney.