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GrandSLAM storytellers sweep through Sydney

GrandSLAM storytellers sweep through Sydney

By Ruth Griffin

This week’s Sydney Moth GrandSLAM will allow local storytellers to spin their yarns at the Metro Theatre in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, writes Ruth Griffin

Dressed in deep vibrant purple Judith Daley is evidently not your run of the mill 72-year-old. Her long-sleeved furry top begging to be touched is just one of the signs flagging that this storyteller has a great sense of fun and a ready laugh.

Having performed four times at the Moth story slams at the Giant Dwarf Theatre, and a first place winner of the December event themed Risk.

She is now setting her sights on the grand finale, the Sydney Moth GrandSLAM at the Metro Theatre on June 22.

Befriending comedian Kathryn Bendle in a drama class, held by the City of Sydney. Kathryn introduced Judith to a night of laughs at The Giant Dwarf in Redfern, Sydney last year.

The retired public servant, who lost her life partner ten years ago, found solace in sharing her experiences in the Moth, a monthly all-ages event that invites storytellers to share their most vulnerable and challenging moments in five minutes flat. And keep their audiences spellbound.

Refusing to mould to the coy 72-year-old image, Judith proclaimed her reasons for being so open were based on her employment history.

Working for the Department of Education NSW, Judith spoke with children who had been sexually abused. This entwined with her deep seeded values, speaking on behalf of vulnerable victims. No stone was unturned meaning Judith had to be comfortable talking about anything.

“I have had plenty of experience talking about sex,” adding with emphasis on sex. “I had to be comfortable talking about it,” says Judith.

“I had to hear about all the licking, and the sucking and whatever it was. I couldn’t be embarrassed about it,”.

No subject was taboo, making Judith the perfect candidate for the Moth.

Back in December 2016, I broke my Moth virginity, and attended the Giant Dwarf Theatre feeling unsure of what I was to witness. When Judith braced the stage, it was her third time. The theme was Risk, her seamless story telling began with an unforgettable line.

“We devoured each other,” she says proudly, retelling an unforgettable night with a man in her youth. This created a sense of excitement through the crowd.

But this man had something to confess.

“He turned to me and said ‘I have six months to live’,” she says as the crowd goes quiet.

She continues, saying how she took a drag from a cigarette and said she would have as much fun with him as she could, for the time they had left

Except it didn’t last 6 months.

A few complications and a holiday later, “it took that bugger 33 years to die!” says Judith, the crowd cheered with celebration of his achievement for surpassing six months.

“Back to that day, when I was younger, having that cigarette. I told him my answer …that was the risk I took”.

Producer Ali Sebastian Wolf was invited to chair a panel with the creators of The Moth, who also invited her to do an internship in Brooklyn, New York. The creative artist, who won an award for written word in 2013, learned the intricate behind-the-scenes details about The Moth during her time in New York.

“The platform is a tool for empathy, a great sharing of experiences and understanding of people,” says Alli.

A few years after Alli’s time in Brooklyn, she was selected to produce The Moth in Sydney and got the ball rolling in September, 2015.

The Oxford Art Factory, in Darlinghurst, a modern inspired venue of Andy Warhol’s Factory in New York during the 60’s was the first venue to host the event. Coincidentally the theme was ‘Firsts’.

Alii says opening yourself up to be vulnerable has allowed the audience to connect to the storyteller. That level of bravery makes it a good story.

“In an age where you get saturated in high blockbuster movies it’s good to have that direct powerful way to connect as humans,”.

Being an audience member has it’s own adventure. Host, Andy Leonard exposes anonymous notes, given to audience members before the show begins, with a question related to the theme, as a buffer between story tellers.


Photo credit: Alli Wolf Sebastian

Where you sit could also play into the adventure. Each story tellers name is hand-picked at random and they could be sitting right next to you. Alli says this is what makes the Moth so unique and powerful.

The producer excitedly confirmed the up and coming GrandSLAM “This is the first one for Sydney. We are very excited,” says Alli.

“We have 10 of our best story tellers with new stories and will be competing against for the GrandSLAM Champion on a new theme. There is going to be a musician Flower Boy, using a beautiful traditional Chinese instrument called a pipa.”

Whether you’re 16 or 76-years-old, all are welcome to share.  Find your own version of a furry long sleeve top that exudes confidence, and think of a story for the Moth.

Shake off the idea that it’s too daunting – walk on stage, be vulnerable and expose an embarrassing moment.

The wisest phrase spoken by Judith, defines it as a ‘risk” you should be willing to take.

The Inaugural Sydney Moth GrandSLAM tickets have sold out. The Moth for June will be held on June 27. Doors open at 7pm. Go to the link and get your ticket. –

The Moth is sponsored by Radio National nationwide on The Moth Hour at 7pm on Saturdays presented by Jay Allison. The worldwide Moth Podcast is also available.


All photos are credited to The Moth Sydney – Alli Sebastian Wolf

 Judith Daley on the far left with other story tellers, including host Andy Leonard


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