From the beginning, we have envisioned Hiraeth not only as a magazine to be read and a podcast to be listened to, but also as something that would bring people together in a physical space to share stories and feel connected. When a new café popped up just steps from Sarah’s house, with the intriguing tag line, “Cocktails • Poetry • Soul Food”, Sarah knew it had to be the home of our first event.

Sam and Lincie, the couple behind Labyrinth, started it as a venue to give Sam a canvas on which to express his cocktail artistry. Even just as a cocktail bar it is spectacular, but along with his cocktails they serve “soul food” from around the world (from fried chicken to messy nachos to peanut soup). They also host a variety of poetry, storytelling, and other cultural evenings each month. So when Sarah mentioned Hiraeth to them, they were enthusiastic about the collaboration. Sam even concocted a signature drink for the evening.

The signature cocktail for the evening was a tribute to Welsh writer, Dylan Thomas, named after the iconic play, “Under the Milk Wood”. Sam says it’s a “well-balanced concoction with a light bitter/sweet taste and served in a palm tray with raw beech smoke dust.” It includes milk wood single malt Welsh whiskey & Pedro Ximenez Aperol. “Do not go gently into that good night…”

For months, the Hiraeth team worked behind the scenes to plan, enlist performers, and spread the word. When we arrived at Labyrinth on the evening of the event, Sam and Lincie pulled out their special storytelling rug for us, and we arranged rows of chairs next to a long bench under the Maya Angelou mural. Sam hooked up the microphones, Rowena set up the projector, and we waited. We didn’t wait long. Labyrinth soon filled up with people hungry to tell their stories and listen to one another. Our sign-up list was quickly filled with storytellers and poets from all over the world.

“I loved the smell of the smoke dust that would waft my way every time Sam prepared his Milk Wood cocktail. As I listened to the stories and poems and the smoked filled my nose, I felt for a moment like we were gathered around a campfire in the most natural of storytelling environments. Something primal within me felt fulfilled and at home.” -Monica

As a Hiraeth team, we felt delighted and honoured to create a space where people from all corners of the world were able to share something powerful, poignant, funny or heartfelt.  We were more than surprised by the turnout; we were inspired and humbled by the courage of others to simply stand in front of a group of strangers and share their thoughts, feelings and words.

Many thanks to Sam and Lincie for hosting the event at Labyrinth, to Sarah Levitt for filming and photography (watch for an upcoming documentary), to Laura from Migration Lab and Canan, whose audiovisual presentation City in Translation enriched the evening, and to the many others who shared their stories and poetry.

And if you didn’t make it to our event this time around, don’t worry; we will let you know when the next one is coming up!

See photos from the event: