Speak up at Copenhagen’s intimate new storytelling event series

At its most authentic, storytelling is an intimate, face-to-face practice as old as time. At Sig Frem, a new English-language event series housed in a creative studio in Østerbro in Copenhagen, people from all walks are gathering to share stories about this city and this life. We’ve told stories for thousands of years, says the organiser. Why stop now?

At the heart of every art form, in every medium, is storytelling. Boiled down, it’s a defining characteristic of human nature – a tool for building culture, community and connection. 

In Copenhagen, the contemporary arts scene offers a constant carousel of world-renowned exhibitions and stage performances that dramatize human stories for thousands of visitors.

Take Denmark’s 2022-23 theatre season: 1.9 million spectators attended independent stage productions, 76,000 saw visiting foreign shows, and touring performances attracted 629,000, according to Danmarks Statistik.

But storytelling does not have to be a big-buck production to be immersive. At its most authentic, it’s an intimate, face to face practice as old as time, comprising oral history, folk tales, fables and anecdotes. Is there a ‘scene’ for that?

Perhaps in smaller communities. But in English, in this Nordic metropolis? Not really.

Copenhagen is, however, the home of Hans Christian Andersen, one of the Western world’s most famous fairy-tale and story-spinners – and there are small glimmers if you seek them.

At The Deer and Rabbits Creative Studio in Østerbro is one such glimmer.

Sig Frem
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. I took part in a storytelling event about 10 years ago and have loved the idea ever since,” says audio producer Owen O’Sullivan.

He, alongside Sarah McGillion of Inconspicuous Comedy, is behind a new English-language storytelling event called Sig Frem, meaning ‘speak up’ in Danish.

O’Sullivan has been careful not to over-polish the concept. The intimate stage event is attentive to the roots of storytelling.

“Some storytellers will spin a yarn out of nowhere from suggestions given by the audience on the night. Whilst others will recite pieces they’ve been working on for months, all based around a given theme. With plenty of chat and laughs between,” he explains.

The first event was on Thursday. The night was split in half with three performers in each, speaking on the apt theme of ‘Beginnings’.

Photo: Owen O’Sullivan

Not spoken-word, not theatre
Though Sig Frem may suggest a kinship with spoken-word or improv shows, it is consciously its own format, inviting a level of nuance to narrative performance that the others miss.

“There is of course inspiration and influence from other events. Like The Moth out of New York and our very own Science and Cocktails. But I think we have a very unique take with Sig Frem,” says O’Sullivan.   

What he describes is something far more human than theatre or reading. It’s an attempt to capture the purity and magic of storytelling in its essence:

“When we listen to each other’s stories, we hear our own echoed back to us through the prism of culture and experience. We leave feeling closer connected to one another,” he explains.

He adds that, being Irish, every communication can turn into a tale: “I’ve had a few ships-in-the-night moments, where I speak to someone at a bus stop or over a coffee, hear an amazing story about their life and never see them again.”

“I find those fleeting connections very special. I’ve also had moments where I’ve listened to friends and been blown away. The magic is very much connected to the moment, and we want to facilitate that with Sig Frem.” 

Stories from all walks of life
Anyone with a story to tell can sign up to speak at Sig Frem. The first event took place on 7 March, with a mix of Danish and expat speakers.

Future events will feature an open call where, if you feel inspired by the theme, you can email the organisers an application to take part.

“We have a wonderfully diverse city, a great venue just by the lakes and a supportive community. Sig Frem is a place where people from all walks of life can share stories about this city, about this life,” says O’Sullivan.

“Of course, a good old chat and a laugh is good for the soul too. We’ve done it for thousands of years, why stop now?”

Find out more about Sig Frem:
Facebook event
Tickets, 150kr via Billetto
Location: 38a, Øster Søgade