It started small in the living room of the founder of the Mezrab, Sahand Sahebdivani. For the next 10 years, Mezrab has moved locations and expanded. From 2015 Farnoosh Farnia and Karl Giesriegl, and later Anastasis Sarakatsanos and Irina Koriatsova took over the artistic and logical operation and turned it to the vivid, divers and communicative place the Mezrab is known for. Simultaneously Rogier Lammers created a music program focussed on traditional music from all over the world. Today’s Mezrab is run by the founder Sahand, Anastasis, Irina and Karl.
It is a place where the public feels welcome – in which the visitor does feel as part of a community. The visitor can decide to what extent he/she participates in the Mezrab concept: as a visitor, as a volunteer or as a programmer.
The term “inclusion” is very important to the atmosphere and method of the Mezrab team. Although the Mezrab team always remains keen on artistic quality or innovation, it is often programmed from the community. Programmers have a lot of freedom in developing programs, within Mezrab’s vision.
Mezrab today is a developed cultural centre, a storytelling school and hosts a wide range of storytelling, music and other spoken word performances. It offers quality entertainment to a large network of expats, students, as well as locals that are looking for English-spoken events – to people from all over the world.
The night starts with some drinks, nice music and people walking in to get a good seat. There are cushions on Persian carpets, chairs and couches – whatever feels more comfortable. The venue usually opens an hour in advance. When the guests are set for food and drinks, the host starts by welcoming the audience, introduces the theme of the night and then presents the storytellers.
Every story is around 10 minutes long and can be accompanied by music. A set has two to three storytellers, who are introduced separately by the host. The host makes a line-up and informs the storytellers in advance. The order depends on the amount of storytellers and the theme of their stories. There are no more than three sets every night. The last set is sometimes an open stage for enthusiastic audience members, willing to take the leap and tell a story.
Over the course of the evening, the host will ask people to talk to someone they don’t know, triggering people to share and open up. After the sets, the venue changes into a comfortable cafe, giving people enough space to socialise, reflect and process. The storytellers are usually around to take questions or further discuss their stories, leading to an open conversation, a public dialogue, where issues and topics touched in the stories spark deeper conversations.