What should I go and see in London?

Firstly, thanks to everyone who went and retweeted, shared and read my blog post from last week about submissions and listings. I’m going to try and keep these posts fairly literature focussed, so if you liked that one, then keep coming back, I post at least once a week.

I moved to London just over a month ago, and being the devout reader and writer that I am, immediately saw it as an opportunity to get along to as many live literature events as humanly possible. In Manchester I made a point of performing myself at least once a month and I wanted to keep that up here, but I also wanted to make the most of the capital’s reputation for having high quality established authors performing in literally every single venue imaginable.

I thought it would be good to give you guys a summary of the nights I’ve been along to so far, and some of the others I hope to see in the coming months. Obviously these are all just the ones I’m aware of, so if you know of anymore, pop them in the comments or send me a link to their site/tickets and I’ll get along.

Also, I’m doing this in order of events I saw, rather than on a scale. This is not a top rated list or anything like that.

1. Word Factory

A literary salon which focusses on the art of short stories, Word Factory was an absolute pleasure. A really friendly, warm atmosphere in the basement of the Piccadilly Circus Waterstones, and free booze on arrival. Oh and the authors? What a line-up of talent.

Two of my favourite authors at the moment were reading at the one I attended: AS Byatt and Joe Dunthorne and both were absolutely brilliant. I liked the format too – where the headline author is interviewed by the excellent host Cathy Galvin of the Sunday Times Short Story Award. Note I say interviewed, not just a little audience Q&A, a proper full on, in depth interview.

It’s the higher end of the literature nights in terms of price (£12), but that is seriously worth the cost of going. If you want to pay more, you can also get a workshop prior to the event with one of the authors, and it took all of the unemployed me’s willpower to not purchase that particular kind of ticket when I went to the event.

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2. Haringey Literature Live

This one was on my radar the minute I found out that fellow Manc and all around brilliant tiny short story writer David Gaffney was reading. Gaffney and his partner in crime Clare Conlon formed a band at the first Bad Language birthday party and so we have a definite fondness for the two of them.

Haringey Literature Live takes place in a restaurant named Karamel, in a building called The Chocolate Factory out near Wood Green. It is far away from the bustle of the centre of the city, and whilst the audience wasn’t huge, it more than made up for it with the quality of the performances.

Gaffney was on his usual fine form, but I was also equally impressed with the other special guest of the evening Eley Williams, who’s work reminded me of Lydia Davies and Ali Smith, and who played with language in a really fascinating way.

There was also a short open mic section which I took advantage of and got my first London performance out of the way – it went well (I think).

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3. Faber Social

A £10 ticket gave me a chance to see Stuart Evers, Sarah Hall, Jon McGregor, Ben Marcus, Evie Wild, and Robert Williams. In a bar. Amazing. McGregor, Hall and Marcus were the highlights of the event, especially Marcus whom I had never read before, but after hearing him read now realise I have to purchase everything he’s ever written.

The Faber Social is a different kind of event every month, and so perhaps it was more luck than anything that this one was primarily a short story event. The event was really well put together, well hosted and packed to the rafters, which was always great. Again, it was quite central (just off Oxford Circus), but this time it was in a bar, which was a good choice for the atmosphere they were going for.

The audience were great too – attentive and clearly having a blast.

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4. Write It: Mic It

I’ve been to a Write It: Mic It event before, back in Manchester. Poleroid Theatre host events both in Hackney and in everyone’s favourite Northern local, The Castle. The differences between the two though are quite vast.

Where the Manchester event had a number of poets and fiction writers performing a variety of different styles, the Hackney event was chock full of comedians and actors. I was on the bill, reading short fiction, and although there were a couple of poets, I was the only one reading prose.

However I didn’t need to worry. Write It: Mic It has a perfect audience for testing out new material, whether it’s fiction or comedy, and the performers were on the whole, absolutely brilliant. My personal favourite was Luke Courtier, who was ridiculously talented and hilarious.

Plus, it’s in the attic of a cinema in Hackney, and it’s only £5 in. That’s pretty good value.

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5. Book Slam

The final night I’ve been to, for now (there’s more, including a storytelling event in Brick Lane tonight and a few others I’ll mention below). Book Slam took place in The Tabernacle out near Notting Hill, in a beautiful venue space.

All of the guests were on top form. Francesca Beard was a great host and an even better poet, and I quite like the idea of having guest hosts who also perform their work onstage. It makes for an exciting event, especially if you attend it regularly.

Poet Will Burns and author (and musician) Ben Watt were both excellent too. There was also a musical guest, Anoushka Lucas who performed alongside her brilliant band. Overall the night had an atmosphere I’ve often looked for in big literature events, it was loud and raucous and the performers were all on top form.

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So where to now?

There are a huge number of literature nights across the capital that I’ve not yet made it to yet. Currently on the list is Literary Death Match, Bang Said the Gun, and Jawdance, but do you know of any others that I might have left off?

Let me know in the comments, and if you have an event you’re putting on, let me know on Twitter, Facebook or by e-mail!

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