Emma Holmes and Sarah Haimes of Fun Times Wageningen used to run six to eight events per month, with storytelling and poetry evenings and workshops as well as the Wageningen Comedy Club. They hardly got rich, but it was enough to get by. Until Covid-19 showed up, everything got cancelled, and they were stuck at home. What to do?
One silver lining to the crisis was the realization that they have a horde of loyal fans. Holmes: ‘The messages flooded in. People were asking if they could donate to help us. It was very touching, but I did want to do something in return for that help.’ Hence the idea of a book that would immortalize all the stories usually only told in person at their events. ‘It came to me late one evening in May. I lay awake half the night thinking about it and immediately started sending out emails the next morning. I approached everyone who had ever participated in one of our storytelling nights. They aren’t just funny or feelgood stories. There’s all sorts, from bad dates and embarrassing family dramas to stories about abuse or near-death experiences. These storytelling evenings create a real bond between the storytellers and the audience. That’s the feeling I wanted to capture in a book.’
The result is 35 stories set on 5 continents and told by people of 18 different nationalities. ‘Wageningen is the common factor. All these people studied in Wageningen, live here, or have done in the past. Some stories happened years ago, but there’s also a more recent story about what a day in the life of a student looks like during quarantine.’
Compiling a book and organizing comedy nights turned out to be two different ball games. Emma: ‘Sometimes I wondered why we ever started the project. Collecting the stories is one thing, but then you have to edit them all. You reach a point where you’ve read a text so often you start to question the spelling of words you’ve been using for years. But now I can hold the first proofs in my hands I’m really proud.’
The book will go on sale on Wednesday 2 December, via www.funtimeswageningen.com.