Shenzhen Stories is a community of people from all over the world who get together once a month to share their stories. These stories come from all walks of life and are told in a coffee shop snuggled in the Shekou neighborhood of Shenzhen.

Shenzhen Stories was founded by two buddies, Trey Hobbs and Siobhan Lumsden, directly in response to a feeling of being far from home and away from a community.

Shenzhen is a stirred pot of countless cultures, beliefs, backgrounds, and experiences. The nature of this city is one of diversity and growth and those things make for colorful lives lived. However, all the business, all the growth, and all the change lend itself to a certain amount of transience. Shenzhen Stories seeks to create a space for a permanent sense of community in a fast moving world.

The mission statement of Shenzhen Stories is simple: to foster an international community through the art of storytelling. This has taken shape in the form of traditional oral storytelling, dance, music, visual art, and everything in between. Month after month, the stage is filled with humor, grief, the curious, and the downright bizarre.

No matter what though, the stories told are absolutely true. In ten minutes, storytellers share micro-moments of their life to a room full of friends and strangers alike with the goal that, in the end, there are a few more friends than strangers. It is amazing to see people from all walks of life hear a story from someone so different from them and be able to see themselves in that story. It is these little bits of empathy that truly build bridges. Through fostering this community, Shenzhen Stories hopes to cultivate that ideology as people travel throughout the world.

Throughout the nearly two years of hosting stories, one thing stands out above all things. Honesty. Shenzhen Stories has been honored to partner with other great organizations throughout Shenzhen for special events and workshops. This has allowed them to reach both the local and international communities and has given them access to a plethora of interesting stories. In these workshops, tools are presented to increase skill, structure, and confidence when sharing, but when asked in these workshops what makes for a great story, the answer is always the same: honesty. Month after month, it is clearer and clearer that audiences are drawn to truth.

It is refreshing and quite often life is indeed stranger than fiction. The Shenzhen Stories stage has heard stories of marriages born from devastating natural disasters, close calls with cults, clandestine cats, and breast implants being blown away in the wind. It has heard life viewed through our pets, through disastrous earthquakes, loss of loved ones, and the discovery of family previously hidden. Like no kidding! There have been stories told over and over again about reuniting with lost family members.

It’s these stories that walk past us every day on the street and sit next to us on the bus. The world is a crazy place and it’s full of people who have lived exciting and wonderful lives. Shenzhen Stories believes that if we can understand where a person has come from, we can understand that person.

Seeing the world through a person’s eyes doesn’t just validate their experience though. It validates those hearing it as well. The audience has a chance to see themselves in these stories. To see a world both different and also familiar in these stories is where, as a society, we thrive. We thrive when we express ourselves. We thrive when we connect to others and join in a community.

For our ancestors, it used to mean survival and I’m not sure that has changed so much for us in 2018. But also, it’s just plain fun! It is really a thrill to walk in another’s shoes and for a short time look down and see that even though we have walked in much different landscapes, our shoes don’t look so different. It’s fascinating to hear an amazing true tale of adventure, pain, joy, or the bizarre and be able to say “me too”.

So why tell our stories in a coffee shop surrounded by friends and strangers? Why spill your guts for a podcast to be listened to by people around the world? The answer may be as simple as for fun and as huge as for survival. Whatever the answer is for you, Shenzhen Stories aims to create a safe platform for where every person and every story has worth and value and where we can all have a great time doing it.

How to get in touch

Shenzhen Stories meets every month in Shekou. For more information, contact them at [email protected] or follow them on social media @shenzhenstories.

To listen to your fellow humans, find the podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud by searching ‘shenzhenstories’.