At a mini-conference we attended this morning, a distinguished historian of London summed up Stoke Newington as a "trendy lefty ghetto". Ouch. You can almost hear the sound of handleless servings of flat white falling to the ground in outrage. Well, we're going to go judge for ourselves by spending some serious quality time at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival in early June.
Events are spread among Church Street venues like a string of pearls, with a pendant of literary gems dangling down the High Street. There's a particular richness of London-themed happenings. In fact, they're going to fill the next two paragraphs. Watch.
Craig Taylor (Londoners) and Mark Mason (Walk the Lines) wrote our two favourite books of last year. They meet for the first time on 3 June to discuss their shared obsession with London; suffice it to say, you'll want to take a notepad. On Saturday, you can catch two novelists — Justin Cartwright and Jonathan Lee — whose recent novels were both set in the Square Mile. On the same day, Pete Brown's in the White Hart to talk about good pubs and, specifically, the George in Borough, the subject of his forthcoming book.
Another meeting of heavyweights takes place in Abney Public Hall on Saturday, when Hackney commentator par excellence Iain Sinclair sits in with noted London novelist China Miéville and urban explorer Laura Oldfield Ford (Savage Messiah). Ken Worple presides. Frustratingly programmed at the same time, some of the authors from the wonderful Acquired for Development By... anthology (to be reviewed on these pages soon) talk about Hackney redevelopment. Aaaaand there's more, but this post is going to get cumbersome if we list out all the Londony stuff going on.
Elsewhere...a touch of celebrity on Friday night (1 June), as stand-ups Josie Long and Robin Ince open proceedings. Fellow funnyman and first-time novelist Danny Wallace also makes an appearance. George Alagiah off of BBC News pops up a couple of times, chairing a discussion on where our dinners are sourced from, and in conversation with photographer Dennis Morris on London's race relations in the 1960s and '70s. We also like the sound of the guided tours of radical hackney, a tipple through gin in literature, and what it's like to be a music journalist who loses his hearing, as Nick Coleman did.
Finally, the closing event sees Helen Smith host a mix of words and music in a Literary Cabaret for Sunday night.