Short Talks – Sarah McNeill

So many good people interact with us online and walk through our doors at the Centre for Stories, and so we’re pretty proud of the little community we’ve grown. Collaborations often turn into comradeships and patrons become friends. Short Talks is a series of interviews highlighting the remarkable people who have connected with us at the Centre for Stories. Some are writers, poets, and storytellers, and others are arts workers, community leaders, and small business owners.

We invite you to get to know our friends a little more.

Sarah McNeill hosts Lit Live at the Centre for Stories on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month Sarah chooses the best short fiction from around the world, and selects the best local actors to read them to a live audience. Check out the latest Lit Live here.


What brings you to the Centre for Stories—what are your motivations or ambitions for your continued collaboration with us?

How can you not love a place that is all about storytelling? Stories matter. They are what connect us, empower us, touch us and remind us that we all share similar experiences across the world.

When I had the idea for Lit Live, to tell great short fiction live on stage, Centre for Stories was the first place I thought of. It is a special space with a warm, welcoming atmosphere and people keep coming back for that lovely, intimate shared experience.

What will you take away from your experience here?

The joy of the shared experience. I didn’t know until I started Lit Live whether other people would feel the same way that I did about listening to great stories.

One of the things I love most about Lit Live is the happy and relaxed atmosphere. People tell me they love coming and chatting to people they’ve never met before, because they are all there for the same reason.

We are a real Lit Live family now.

What does storytelling mean to you—and why is it important?

J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter author) said: “No story lives unless someone wants to listen.”

Lit Live is about bringing stories to life. That’s why I have professional actors reading them.

And telling those stories is about the shared experience. But more importantly it’s about entertainment. I love giving the audience something they don’t see coming. Good stories surprise us. They make us laugh, cry, think and feel. They help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that PowerPoints, graphs and graphics never will!

A professional portrait of Sarah McNeill

You regularly host Lit Live at the Centre. What is your favourite part of this role?

There’s a whole lot more that goes on behind the scenes in preparing for each monthly event.  I have to think up a title, find stories – I read endlessly! – choose the right balance of stories that will entertain and provoke, find the right actors to read them, and then do all the publicity in the hope that people will come! So my favourite part in all of this is the moment when people do come, and when I hear the stories being read and hear the reactions of the crowd. 

How have your experiences with acting prepared or interested you for hosting events such as Lit Live?

Reading aloud takes more skill than people realise. To really bring a story to life requires an understanding of delivery, pitch and pace and of creating character “voices”.  I have been a stage and screen actor all my life, and all the skills I have learned come into play in reading stories.  And because I love sharing the joy of Lit Live, I love just standing up in front of an audience and chatting. Can’t help it – I’m just a natural show-off!

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