‘Seanchoíche’ — behind the scenes of a storytelling night in D8

Seanchoíche is a story-telling night in Dublin 8.
Founded by Ciaran Gaffney, a 27-year-old from Limerick, ‘Seanchoíche’ is essentially a made-up word and a bit of a pun that most Irish speakers can probably decipher.

Gaffney at one of his events. Photo by Eoin Greally

“In Irish, the word ‘seanchaí’ essentially translates to a Bard, a person who would talk about stories and would go around Irish towns years ago,” Gaffney explains. “Since most people in Ireland were illiterate at the time, bards were the only form of live entertainment that didn’t involve music or singing.

“The word ‘seanchaithe’ (plural form) translates to storytellers, and ‘oíche’ is the word for night, so our name, Seanchoíche (pronounced roughly “Shanna-key-huh”) translates to storytelling night. Which is exactly what we are.”

As for starting the business that has flourished significantly since it first began, Gaffney noticed an opportunity missing in Dublin. He was inspired by an unmentioned story-telling event he attended while travelling in Argentina. After discussing the idea with friends and being greatly inspired, he decided to take action and launch Seanchoíche.

The first event had about 60 people and was hosted in Fumbally Stables on Fumbally Lane in Dublin 8.

“We did five events in Fumbally Stables,” Gaffney says. “I lived in Amsterdam for a year, and I was thrilled to start it up in that city too.”

This led to Seanchoíche expanding its branches to Amsterdam and London. Following a TikTok post, the night gained further traction, and this resulted in more people showing interest and attending.

A Seanchoíche event. Photo by Eoin Greally

Considering the gap in the story-telling night market, as well as the appreciable support of his peers, Gaffney also notes a reflection of culture that blossoms within the event, he says, “Irish people as a society are very private and we have almost always lived in a culture of privacy and shame, there are a lot of old-fashioned ways of thinking that are still prevalent today.

“But I think that this is changing and you have more people wanting to come to these kinds of events and share their stories amongst each other,” Gaffney said, adding that some attendees have shared that the events have a therapeutic essence.

Gaffney is fluent in Irish and has subsumed many parts of Irish culture into this new-found business, although he explains why it shouldn’t be judged too quickly by its Irish name. Seanchoíche vows to welcome every culture and experience of life, and prides itself on being a safe space for all. Gaffney adds: “I myself am queer so we have a great representation of that too”.

As for Gaffney’s prospects with Seanchoíche as a business, they celebrated the one-year anniversary of their first show on the 28th of October. Every event has had a theme, including ‘Fear,’ ‘Change,’ ‘Discovery,’ ‘Dignity,’ ‘Challenges’ and ‘Confessions.’

‘Home’ is the next theme for Gaffney’s event in Dublin which will be on December 8th. These changing themes aim to ensure that the stories are never innately positive or negative.

Attending the night itself is quite simple; all tickets to Seanchoíche are available on Eventbright a couple of weeks before the event. In the past, tickets have been released and sold almost within minutes of each other, so any interest in the event also needs some consumer determination.

The audience enjoying an event. Picture: Jeff Burke

Starting off as a hobby and veering into a business through patience and hard work, Gaffney now has prospects for the future and lessons from the past. Seanchoíche has had some charity events to support MPower HIVIreland, Bright Kids Ukraine, ShoutOut and The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Gaffney had some ideas to start up a podcast, but for now is prioritising the live performances.

He also underlines how support from his family and friends helped him with some of the behind the scenes necessities of running a business such as trademarking the name and other branding. He adds that, through the stresses of networking with potential sponsors and business strategies, Gaffney’s passion for storytelling is what keeps him going.

Updates on events, further content and information can be found on Seanchoíche’s Instagram page (@seanchoiche), and tickets for future events will be available on Eventbrite.

A review of the upcoming event on December 8th will be published on the Liberty for further information about the details of the event.

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