LDN Experiences

Published on August 26th, 2014 | by Francesca Baker


Book Slam, Bethnal Green

We are gathered in York Hall, Bethnal Green, to be ‘KO’d by the power of words’ as the booming voice of compere Doc Brown tells us, the echo resonating around the school gym style room. Filled with tables of chattering people, munching and drinking whilst they soak up the literary genius of performers, the night is centred around a boxing ring. Literally, it’s a slam. Tonight it’s the opportunity of ‘book nerds to meet the boxing hards who used to beat them up’ – and those book nerds come out victorious.

Opener and bull running story teller, Bill Hillman’s set is dense and colourful with words, but less easily eloquent than other speakers, which is not to take anything away from the quality of his prose.

There’s Viv Albertine telling us about her journey into music, and the way that the love of guitar saved her when recovering from cancer and a divorce.  You can always take risks she reminds us, and ‘if your choice is the wrong thing or nothing, choose nothing.’ You can see the flurry of hashtags around us.

It’s a strong assertion to believe in oneself, and one that Kate Tempest subscribes to. The young word wizard performs with forte and undeviating authority, commanding the room with an amazing flourish of dense words which enrapture and resonate. The winner of the Ted Hughes Award, and favourite to win the Mercury (as a poor put down heckler reminds her), the young performer delivers her quick cut rapping and poetry with lightening quick slices.

The eloquence of music and movement combines on the next performance, when Atif Shafique, Junior ‘The Hitter’ Witter and the Hype Dance Companypresent an excerpt from a new piece of theatre, Savage Beauty.

One who knows all about savage beauty is Irvine Welsh, the controversial wordsmith who does not let the barriers of social or literary convention prevent him from making acute and sometimes uncomfortable observations about life. Reading extracts from his new book The Sex Life of Siamese Twins, he is everything we have come to expect – warm, witty and controversial.

London’s best, perhaps only, literary nightclub, Book Slam once again proved why it is a heavyweight contender on the scene. Powerful and profound, entertaining and educational, this is literature without any pomposity, simply supremacy. A night when ‘fuck ups turn to books’ – and those fuck ups and those books come out victorious. Words win every time.


The next Book Slam takes place at the Clapham Grand on 3rd September: http://imalondoner.com/whats-on/book-slam-clapham/

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About the Author

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk and follow her on https://twitter.com/andsoshethinks

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