London's literary scene hasn't fully woken up after its Christmas and New Year slumbers, so we thought we'd tell you about some of the regular and interesting bookish nights to watch out for this year.
Firestation Book Swap
This irreverent evening of book chat, swapping and cake is based at the Firestation Arts Centre in Windsor, but for 2014 it gets a monthly home at Foyles on Charing Cross Road. Hosted by publisher/writer Scott Pack and novelist/comedy writer Marie Phillips, it's one of our favourites. We're still waiting to hear whether the Windsor tradition of free entry with homemade cake holds.
Stand Up And Slam
It's comedians versus poets at this night hosted by Dan Simpson, at Shoreditch's Comedy Cafe. Team captains Paul Sweeney (comedy) and Dan Simpson (poetry) are joined by guests in a head-to-head to find out which is best. It returns on 6 February (8pm), tickets cost £8.
There's no shortage of storytelling for adults in London. Liars' League takes place monthly at the Phoenix, and features actors telling new stories written specifically for the night. The next event is 11 February (7.30pm) and takes a theme of You & Me. Entry is £5, and you'll also get the famous half-time book quiz. These next two are comedy-hybrids: Natural Born Storytellers happens monthly at the Camden Head with comedians telling themed tales. Tackling 'broken promises' on 15 January (7.30pm) are Jools Constant, Martha McBrier, Matt Price, James Paul Avery and host Michael Kossew – and it's free! Storytellers' Club is on a winter hiatus but will return with Sarah Bennetto introducing fantastic comedians and writers (recent guests include John Finnemore, Phil Kay and Felicity Ward).
Literary Death Match
Four writers. Three judges. Some readings. Some barbed comments. A couple of bizarre challenges that sometimes involve audience participation but definitely have nothing to do with writing. One winner. It's fair to say Literary Death Match isn't your usual spoken word night. Previous participants have included AL Kennedy, Mark Billingham, Ekow Eshun and Jon McGregor – definite heavyweights. The next bout doesn't have a date yet, but will be in the next couple of months.
Book Slam is perhaps the Daddy of London's literary event scene, more of a party than a sit-down reading session. The venue moves around but in London can usually be found either at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill or Clapham Grand, as is the case for the next night on 30 January with Jonathan Lethem, Dominic Frisby and host Felicity Ward (7.30pm, £6/£8). Want an advance taster? Listen to podcasts of previous events.
Bang Said The Gun
Anarchy rules at weekly stand-up poetry night Bang Said the Gun, held at the Roebuck pub near Borough station. Regulars Martin Galton, Rob Auton and Peter Hayhoe hold the fort, plus two invited poets and an open mic contest. Gigs start again on 16 January (8pm, £7/£5) and future guests include Hollie McNish, Musa Okwonga and Emma Jones. We're also very fond of their first anthology.
The Caribbean comes to Bethnal Green Road when London Liming hits Rich Mix. A mash-up of words, music and dancing, company Tilt secures brilliant spoken word guests like John Agard, Patience Agbabi and Adam Kammerling, plus DJs and general partying.
We have much love for Homework, a sort of themed work-in-progress night for poets Luke Wright, Ross Sutherland, Joe Dunthorne, Tim Clare and John Osborne. Taking place at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, it's fun, funny and contains more than occasional flashes of genius. Plans are afoot for new nights from spring.
Photo by Andrew Smith from the Londonist Flickr pool.