Monthly Archives: June 2011

Festival guest: Nikesh Shukla

Nikesh Shukla is appearing at our performance poetry / spoken word night on 15th September so prepare yourself for anything. Poet, hip hop artist, singer/songwriter and author – his debut novel, Coconut Unlimited, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2010 – he could unleash anything from a short story to a poem to a rap. Hell, we’ve even seen him dancing with a robot.

We also really can’t recommend Coconut Unlimited highly enough. It’s the story of teenager Amit and his two friends, Asian kids in a Harrow private school who form a rap band to help them deal with the traumas of girls, overbearing parents and just trying to fit in. The book is rather autobiographical and Nikesh exposes those cringeworthy teenage moments with a lovely self-deprecating tone – Amit is an everyman that everyone will recognise and chuckle over. And it’s not just us:

‘Energetic, tender and fizzing with some hilariously awful rapping.’
The Word

‘…a riot of cringeworthy moments made real by Shukla’s beautifully observed characters and talent for teen banter.’

Coconut Unlimited also shows off how good Nikesh is with rhythm. The prose flows like poetry and even fans of white-kid indie music will be able to hear the rap beats in their heads. It’s a good book to curl up with (and not very long) – hopefully make you want to see what the author comes up with at Lewisham.

Nikesh is performing at the poetry night on Thursday 15th September. See the events page for more details.

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Find us on Facebook

As well as a lovely new banner, we’ve got a lovely new Facebook page. If you want to see what’s new with the Festival in your news feed and get reminders about events when we release the full schedule, go and ‘like’ us!

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Event: Illustrated talk about the docklands, by Fiona Rule

Fiona Rule has written a couple of excellent books about London’s history – one traces Spitalfields from its origins, through its sink into poverty and the Ripper-era, and looks at how Dorset Street (now a sliproad into a multistorey car park) came to be known as The Worst Street in London.

Her latest is about the docklands, starting with the Roman quays on the Thames, exploring how the shipping industry moved east, developed into a vast industry and then how container shipping killed it off round here. The book is fascinating, weaving in stories of ordinary people from hundreds of years ago and showing how the whole of London’s history is bound up with its shipping. As she says:

While researching and writing about London’s docklands I realised what a crucial role the docks played in establishing Britain as a major player on the global stage. The docks were also responsible for making London a truly cosmopolitan city. From Roman times, there was international trade at the riverside and people from across the world were attracted to the port, where they set up businesses and thus became Londoners. London has always been a cultural melting pot and the docks were largely responsible for that.

Fiona will be giving an illustrated talk about the docklands and its history at the Festival – if you’ve ever wondered what came before Canary Wharf, or know perfectly well and fancy a reminisce, this event is for you.

Fiona’s talk will take place on Tuesday 13th September at 8pm. See the events page for more information.


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Event: Performance poetry night

If comedy was once the new rock ‘n’ roll, then spoken word must at least be the new nu folk. If you’ve ever been to a poetry reading where the poet stood rock still behind a mic and you couldn’t understand a word – well, it’s not like that any more. Poetry is cool. Nights like Bang Said the Gun, Jawdance from Apples and Snakes and Homework have put the fun back into spoken word and we have no problem riding on their coat tails.

We’re curating a night of performance poetry, and maybe one or two short stories, on Thursday 15th September. We know who’s coming; we’ll tell you later. Or you could just look at the events page.


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Children’s event: Gareth P. Jones

The first of our confirmed authors is children’s novelist Gareth P. Jones – and local to boot, living as he does on the fancy new Overground in Forest Hill. He’s probably best known for The Thornthwaite Inheritance, but we’ve spent the last few days reading Space Crime Conspiracy (even though we’re technically grown up) and loving it.

Stanley Bound is a normal south London 13 year old who thinks his biggest problems are being lied about at school and having to live above a pub with his horrible older brother. But then Stanley is arrested for the murder of Armorian President Vorlugenar on a planet several hours’ travel through cutspace from Earth. Stanley knows he didn’t do it, but he’s seen the video footage and it’s clearly him. He’s not sure how to clear his name, and all these encounters with bird-headed space-pirates, a talking mushroom and an enormous-headed scientist aren’t helping him concentrate…

If you hope your kids will one day read The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Space Crime Conspiracy is a great book to start them off with. It’s definitely channeling Douglas Adams and that’s always a good thing, right?

Gareth’s also been busy writing new books – The Considine Curse comes out in August and the first two in a new series about Ninja Meerkats (The Clan of the Scorpion and The Eye of the Monkey) are published next month. He promises stories, songs and general nonsense for Lewisham – keep an eye on the Events page to find out when he’s appearing.

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Closing event: Tall Tales

So we’ve told you about the opening event – the Firestation Book Swap on tour – how about we jump to the end and tell you what will be closing the Festival?

If you’ve ever felt a bit jealous that storytelling is reserved for kids, Tall Tales is for you. Every two months (and once, last November, in Peckham), the Good Ship in Kilburn is packed out by grown-ups to have stories told and songs sung to them. But unlike kids’ stories, these aren’t about fluffy mice who learn important life lessons about getting on with people. These are stories by authors and comedy writers and will likely make you choke on your drink with laughter. And if animals are mentioned, they’ll probably be mentioned by Toby Davies and the animals will probably be dead.

Tall Tales is put together and hosted by Robert Hudson, author of The Kilburn Social Club and the book of Damsel in Distress, a Gershwin musical due to produced next year. With (Firestation Book Swap host) Marie Phillips, he also writes Warhorses of Letters, on Radio 4 this autumn and will star Daniel Rigby and Stephen bloody Fry. Other members of the Tall Tales gang – stay tuned to find out exactly who will be making the trip to Lewisham – include:

  • John Finnemore, comedy writer. You may have heard him on Radio 4 in The Now Show or his sitcom Cabin Pressure – or his brand new sketch show which starts on Radio 4 this Sunday, some bits of which were developed at Tall Tales
  • Emma Beddington, perhaps better known to the internet as Belgian Waffling
  • the aforementioned Toby Davies, writer and performer on Mitchell and Webb and I’m Sorry I’ve Got  No Head
  • Hannah Jones, also perhaps better known to the internet as Why Miss Jones
  • Ian Leslie, whose Tall Tales strand Before They Were Famous has just been commissioned for Radio 4
  • Benet Brandreth, whose show The Brandreth Papers will be at Edinburgh this year
  • Susannah Pearse, writer and singer of fantastic songs
  • Marie Phillips, author of Gods Behaving Badly, who will already have delighted you at the Firestation Book Swap and we’ll be pushing it to get her again, frankly

We’re really looking forward to this, it will be a cracking way to end the Festival and your week.

Edit: final line-up is John Finnemore, Helen Arney, Mike Westcott, Hannah Jones, Toby Davies, Ian Leslie and Susannah Pearse – the fun starts 7.30pm on Friday 16th September at St Swithun’s, see the events page for more details or book online.


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Another local arts festival – Lewisham is great

Not content with just Brockley Max? Then it’s lucky the Sydenham Arts Festival programme has been announced. Running 1st-17th July, they’ve got all kinds of events – comedy, theatre, music – and some great lit stuff:

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