Book Slam

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Book Slam


Summary: A look at the London club night that combines music with book and poetry readings.
Date: April 2009
Author: Dawn Powell

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Badly lit entrance — check; music so loud you have to shout to get yourself heard — check; alcohol served in plastic beakers — check. Yep, pretty much your average night club so far. But, the tables and chairs on the dance floor suggest that something different is going on. In fact, this isn't your average club; this is Book Slam.

Book Slam is a club night that combines music with book and poetry readings. It has been going since 2003 when author Patrick Neate decided he wanted something that would combine his love of reading with his love of music. He says: I like stories, music, and beer — Book Slam was, therefore, a purely selfish attempt to create a night club I wanted to go to.

The event is very popular with 200 – 400 people regularly attending each time. Certainly, the night I attended most of the tables and chairs were already occupied by 7pm. At any other club night, you don't expect to see anyone until at least 10. But, Book Slam wasn't always this well attended and its success has been gradual rather than instantaneous. Patrick says: I just kept organising it because I enjoyed it and then more people started to come. Then more writers wanted to be involved, so more people came. And so, it has grown. He adds that it was his and others' belief in the project that kept it going. Book Slam's success relies on nothing so much as the enthusiasm of the people who organise it. Initially, that was just me, but now I am lucky to have the support and help of a core team who all have the same enthusiasm as I do.

One of the attractions of Book Slam is that it regularly features a famous author — Zadie Smith, Irvine Welsh, and William Boyd are just some of the well-known names that have appeared. That so many have been willing to give up their time for free to support Book Slam has made Patrick re-evaluate his innate cynicism. I sometimes have preconceptions about authors, especially authors who are much more successful than me! But all of the most famous authors we have had at the event have been fantastically generous and charming without exception.

But, Book Slam also provides an opportunity for less familiar authors to showcase their talents. Indeed, another reason that Patrick set up Book Slam was because he felt some books were being unfairly ignored. I was fed up of walking into book shops and seeing the way that they sold more and more copies of fewer and fewer titles. It has been this way since the end of the net book agreement [which fixed the price that books could be sold at] So, with Book Slam, I wanted to do my little bit for literary diversity.

As you might expect with an evening that combines book readings with music and booze, Book Slam is aimed at a slightly different audience than you would typically see at your average book reading. Patrick says: Book events are often boring. All of my friends read a lot, but would never dream of attending an event in a library or a book shop. But, they will come to Book Slam. Much of the book industry, perhaps writers most of all, seem to sometimes pretend that books are the exclusive preserve of some kind of literati. I don't believe that. Books are for everyone and so are book events.

The crowd at Book Slam is awash with people in their 20s and 30s, a fair few of whom are sporting those chunky glasses and spiky haircuts that are so popular with people who work in new media. In other words, they are quite a trendy bunch — far from the red wine drinking, black poloneck wearing types that are associated (probably unfairly) with book readings. Youth and trendiness can be just as off-putting as perceived stuffiness, so Book Slam won't be for everyone. But, that doesn't really matter. After all, everyone has different tastes in book so why can't they have different tastes in book events? With Book Slam, Patrick has created something has widen the choice a little bit.

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