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The Bavard Bar with speaker, Julia Chi Taylor

The Bavard Bar talks

“Come and listen and be inspired. Come and speak and be inspiring.” Earlier this week, HOT’s Zelly Restorick crossed paths with Tim Crook, the man who created the Bavard Bar talks at Kino-Teatr and, fascinated by the project, his initiative and creative motivation, she asked him some questions about how it all came into being. Read on to discover how to join the ranks of the speakers – and be one of the listeners.

Tell HOT a bit about yourself and your journey to Hastings. 

I moved to Hastings from London way back in 1994, so I’ve almost lost my ‘DFL’ status now. I trained and qualified as a solicitor in the City of London, but spent most of my legal life practising law in Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill. In 2003, I set up my own law firm in St Leonards, which continues to operate from offices in Battle.

I spent most of my legal life in the courtroom as a litigation lawyer and also delivering countless thousands of talks and training seminars to lawyers and social housing professionals at conferences around the country. I was also the Law Society’s elected Council Member for housing and a founder member of the Social Housing Law Association. I continue to be very pro-active in giving work experience opportunities to school students from all backgrounds, regardless of qualifications (I am not interested in qualifications, our education system is barbaric, biased and hopeless, but that’s another story…). I also deliver motivational talks to students and professionals from all walks of life.

Tim Crook

Tim Crook

How did you arrive at the Bavard Bar idea? What was your inspiration?

Over the years, I have been to a speaking club in Brighton called the Catalyst Club. It’s hosted by David Bramwell and the format is virtually the same as the Bavard Bar, i.e. three regular people share their passions for 15 minutes each. In early 2017, as I began stepping back from my legal practice, I got to thinking about setting up a similar club in our area and I asked David if I could copy his concept. He said yes and even said I could use the ‘Catalyst’ name. However my-16-year old daughter came up with the ‘Bavard Bar’ identity.

The word ‘bavarder’ comes from the French verb ‘to chat’ – she was studying for her GCSE French at the time. But like all these things, the concept has changed and developed from how I first started it.

What do you love about the concept of speaking events?

There are loads of ‘speaking’ events out there, and there always have been since time immemorial, given it’s ‘what we humans do’. What I love most about the Bavard Bar is that it celebrates all of us, irrespective of the ‘things’ we think we are, the ‘badges’ we may have won, the ‘qualifications’ we may have earned. It’s a fantastic leveller and a wonderful platform. And I love how people really connect through it, in an age where apparent digital connection appears to have taken precedence.

One of the things I love hearing on a night at the Bavard Bar is snippets of conversation amongst audience members, saying things like: “So what would you talk about then?” And I think one of my favourite comments, made to me shortly after the first ever Bavard Bar back in March 2017, was: “I don’t have a passion at the moment, Tim, but I’m going to get one so I can come and give a talk about it.” How wonderful is that!

Tim Crook at The Bavard Bar

Tim Crook at the Bavard Bar

Where, when and who?

I run the Bavard Bar at the Kino-Teatr in St Leonards on the third Wednesday of every month, and at Printers Playhouse in Eastbourne on the first Thursday of every month. The evening starts at 7:30pm and is usually over between 10 and 10:30pm.

The Bavard Bar really seems to have captured people’s imaginations, so much so that I receive an email almost every week from someone asking about speaking at one or other of the two venues. I’m booked up for speakers at both venues until April.

That being said, I am always looking for speakers, so if any of your readers have a passion they want to share, however ordinary or extraordinary, please do contact me and I will book them in to speak. It matters not who we ‘think’ we are. Just that we’re passionate. My contact details are or 07974 117853.

No one needs to have spoken in public before, and unlike talking events such as TED and The Moth, I don’t coach the speakers. The only bits of advice I give are: (1) Tell the audience why you are passionate about your subject; (2) Weave a story with a beginning, middle and end, so the listener is taken on a journey; (3) Time and practise your talk.

Fifteen minutes is the optimum length of time for a talk, but it is nowhere near as long as people think. The best talks are those that appear natural, but I can assure you they will have been thoroughly rehearsed and practised in order to appear that way. The speaker will also avoid communicating every available fact, concentrating instead on a handful that the audience will be most likely to remember.

What sort of subjects have people spoken about?

The passions and subjects people have shared at the Bavard Bar have been wonderfully mixed and eclectic. We’ve had everything from heart transplants to Lord HawHaw, autism to the art of flirting, education to the interpretation of dreams, Spartans to the first Emperor of the USA (true story, and it’s not DT/POTUS).

Subjects can be ordinary or extraordinary – and what is really lovely is that as much as one thinks one may know about a subject, hearing another’s perspective of one’s own particular passion, or learning about something completely new, is fabulous. In order to keep a little suspense, and because ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’, I never reveal the speakers’ subjects until the night.

Are all the talks archived?

I record all the talks that are given and post them on the Bavard Bar website and YouTube, so the speaker has a permanent record of their talk. (However if someone doesn’t wish me to publish a talk for whatever reason then I will respect that wish and not publish it.)

How does it work on the night?

A night at the Bavard Bar (usually!) runs along the following lines: I give a brief introduction and introduce the speakers. I then invite the first speaker to take the mic and they talk for around 15 minutes, often accompanying their talk with visual images. After the talk, the audience get to ask questions which sometimes trigger fascinating debates. I usually allow around five-10 minutes for questions and then there’s an interval of around 15 minutes for people to get a drink from the bar or whatever, and then we have the second speaker, followed by more Q&A, another interval and the final speaker and Q&A.

Bavard Bar wild cards

I have also introduced a couple of ‘wild card’ speaking slots to every night – and I plan to keep on introducing new things to make the evening as interactive as possible. The current wild card is called ‘KP Lite’. I prepare six mystery images on Powerpoint, with each image moving on after 15 seconds. Any member of the audience who wishes (I never pick on anyone, it is entirely voluntary) can step up and take the KP Lite challenge just before each of the booked speakers gives their talk. Essentially it’s an ‘improv’ challenge and is lots of fun. The Bavard Bar had its first ever teenage ‘KP Liter’ at the Kino-Teatr in December, which was wonderful. I’m really really hoping I’m going to have the first ever teenage ‘full’ Bavarder soon as well.

And brand new for 2018 I have introduced another wild card: ‘Oojah Kappivvy’. ‘Oojah Kappivvy’ is a Hastings Old Town expression meaning ‘Thingummybob’. There will be a wonderful talk on that subject coming up at the Bavard Bar in the months ahead. But I have used the expression as the title for my new feature, which is a bit like the TV programme, ‘Would I Lie To You?’

I prepare a number of possible facts (for example, “I have a tattoo of a tiger on my back”, or “I once locked my teacher in a cupboard”). I then invite anyone who wants to ‘do an Oojah Kappivvy’, to tell me an unusual fact about themselves. I write that true fact down and just before one of the booked speakers, I invite them up to take the challenge. I offer them two bits of paper – one with a ‘false fact’ and one with their ‘true fact’. They select one and read the fact out. The audience then question them and vote on whether they think they are telling the truth or lying.

Like ‘KP Lite’ it’s a lot of fun and also gives people who may be interested in giving a full-length ‘Bavard’ the opportunity to ‘have a go’ first.

Dan Hewson

Dan Hewson

Live music

There is also live music at the St Leonard’s Bavard Bar, as local piano teacher Dan Hewson plays the piano before each show begins and during the two intervals. I tell Dan the speakers’ subjects before the night and he creates a wonderfully eclectic set-list, based on those subjects. So you might hear anything from Ghostbusters to Pink Floyd, or Debussy to David Bowie, depending on what the subjects are!

Ticket booking necessary?

The nights are really taking off, so it’s probably best to book tickets online in advance of each show. Tickets are £7 and links to the ticketing websites for each venue are available via the Bavard Bar website.

Bavard Bar Facebook page. Plus Twitter and Instagram @bavardbar.

I’d love for your readers to like and follow the Bavard Bar… The more interactivity the better.

bb_logo_header_2The Bavard Bar: At Kino-Teatr in St Leonards on the third Wednesday of every month. At Printers Playhouse in Eastbourne on the first Thursday of every month. The evening starts at 7:30pm and is usually over between 10 and 10:30pm.

Posted 19:40 Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 In: Performance

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