Event: Katy Darby and Ellen Dibsdall @ Deptford Lounge

The Whores’ Asylum is Katy Darby‘s first novel. Foyles Bookshop describes the novel as “a terrific slice of Victorian Gothic, full of roguery and romance, as students vow to help the fallen women of Oxford’s seediest locales”. The book will appear in paperback as The Unpierced Heart later this year. Her work has been read on BBC Radio, and published in various magazines and anthologies. Katy has received the David Higham Award. As well as teaching Short Story and Novel Writing at City University, Katy co-runs Liars’ League, a monthly short story reading night in Central London. Lewisham Lit Fest’s organiser Rachel will be asking her about all this, plus dangerous burglaries.

We will open the evening by introducing Ellen Dibsdall, whose work has caught the eye of librarians elsewhere. Ellen was recently crowned Young Writer of the Year in her home town, Sandwich in Kent, and this evening will be her first reading in London.

This event takes place on Tuesday 19 June, 7pm start, at Deptford Lounge. Please book your place for this free event, so we know how many chairs to put out!


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Event: London Reads @ Deptford Lounge

If you enjoyed last year’s free event hosted by Londonist, with authors of Londony books Iphgenia Baal, Mark Mason and Paul Talling, you might be interested to hear we’re doing it all again.

Different authors of course: this time we’ve invited Christopher Fowler, who writes the Bryant & May mystery novels; Tom Jones, the man behind Tired of London, Tired of Life; and Craig Taylor, whose book Londoners has had everyone raving.

Matt Brown of Londonist hosts again, at Deptford Lounge (which is licensed to sell booze, woo!). There’ll be time for questions and book signings. And of course, it’s all free – but please do let us know if you’re coming by ‘booking‘, so we know how many chairs to put out.

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World Book Night: Manor House Library

Gemma Seltzer / image by Rachel Cherry

Instead of a dedicated Festival this year, we’re working with Lewisham Libraries to put on events throughout the year. The next one we’ve had a finger in is the World Book Night party at Manor House Library.

World Book Night is a celebration of reading where thousands of books are given away free by authorised ‘givers’. Some of those givers will be at Manor House: come and discover which books they have (we can guarantee some copies of Kazuo Ishiguro’s heartbreaking The Remains of the Day).

There’s also an opportunity to meet and hear from special guests – Gemma Seltzer and Bernadette Russell. There’ll be courtesy refreshments and we hope that each guest brings along a ‘used book’ they are happy to gift or swap in addition from those gifted through the World Book Night promotion.

Gemma Seltzer is a London-based writer and literary blogger. Originally conceived as a daily fiction blog, Speak to Strangers, which Gemma will read from, is a funny, provocative and elegant series of 100 hundred-word stories, which chart a journey across our capital through its inhabitants.

Bernadette Russell runs White Rabbit with Gareth Brierley, performing, writing and producing storytelling variety night Are You Sitting Comfortably? as well as creating theatre, cabaret and installations. She is presently amusing and occasionally bemusing strangers with a current project 366 Days of Kindness. Her brand of entertainment was described by a BBC reviewer as ‘exhilarating… it’s hard to describe and it can’t be bottled.’

This event is free but the library asks that places are pre-booked on 020 8314 7794.

6.45 for 7pm start – 8.30pm Monday 23 April
World Book Night Party

Manor House Library
Old Road
SE13 5SY


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About London

Authors of three London books – Iphgenia Baal (The Hardy Tree), Mark Mason (Walk the Lines) and Paul Talling (Derelict London, London”s Lost Rivers) – came to Lewisham Library to talk to Londonist.com editor Matt Brown.


The library’s so full, we’re having to put out lots more seats – the most popular event so far, it appears! Should be starting very soon now

Tonight, @Londonist co-editor Matt Brown talks to three authors of London-centric books

First to speak tonight is Mason, whose book Walk The Lines chronicles his time spent walking the length of every Tube line in London.

Mason was inspired by Phyllis Pearsall, who compiled the original A-Z map and walked every street in London. Wanted to do something similar.

Mason’s other inspiration came when stuck on the Tube – he was staring at the Tube map thinking “I could’ve walked this journey faster…!”

Mason recounts some of the things he saw on his walk, overheard conversation snippets and London and tube trivia picked up around the city.

For instance, the Monument is 202ft tall as it’s 202ft from start of Great Fire; and columns at St. Pancras were hardened with horse urine!

Second author to speak is Paul Talling, who’s really enjoyed stumbling across lost rivers around London, then researching them for his book.

Talling saw similarly titled book from the ’60s about lost London rivers, but it was quite academic; he wanted something portable, with pics

Talling enjoys taking people on walks exploring lost rivers and derelict London – with lengthy pub breaks wherever possible!

Talling selects an extract to read aimed at locals, about Deptford Dockyard, which ultimately proved too shallow & is now Convoy’s Wharf

Baal introduces her novel, which she feels captures “everything London runs on”. It’s about when the railways came to London.

The cheapest land to buy to build railways on was cemetery land. Baal’s book centres on a man with the job of arranging the great digging-up

Baal reads a short extract from her novel, then host Matt opens up the floor to questions from the audience.

First Q, to Mason and Talling, who’ve both wandered a lot of London: is there anywhere they wouldn’t want to go back to?

Talling says there isn’t – while some may suggest Woolwich, say, he’s not worried: “I’m a big boy – & there’s nothing wrong with SE London!”

Mason also perhaps pleases his SE London audience, by suggesting that he most disliked NW London, which he found parts of very depressing.

Next Q relates to London’s history as connected villages. Baal says all Londoners create their own village these days but not location-based

More Tube trivia from Mason: the first all-female-staffed tube station was Maida Vale – it opened during WWI, in 1915.

In response to another Q, the panel discusses the area around King’s Cross/St. Pancras, its safety, and the future of the big gas cylinders

Baal says her book needn’t have been set in London – it was “just a hook” for the story, unlike the others’ books of course.

Talling describes his motivation for writing his books as almost entirely for his own enjoyment – here just loves exploring derelict London

Mason talks about how his line-walking adventures have helped him form a strong relationship with the city

Mason thinks people not from London originally can form stronger bonds w/ the city; Baal, Londoner from birth, disagrees: “I own this city!”

Another great event – thanks to our panel. You know there’s serious London passion present when authors argue over who loves the city most!

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Tall Tales

After another hiatus (here’s a tip for would-be literary festival organisers: don’t immediately start working 60 hour weeks when your festival ends) we’re back to filling you in on what happened during any events you couldn’t get to. This is an easy one – it’s mainly photos. It’s hard to livetweet a night of comedy stories without giving away the gags, which would be even more of a shame since many of the performers at Tall Tales are taking their TT work to Radio 4.

If you liked Tall Tales, it takes place regularly on the final Thursday of every second month at the Good Ship in Kilburn.

Tall Tales host Robert Hudson

Hannah Jones, of the Why Miss Jones blog

Bolton poet Mike Westcott with his perhaps-not-entirely-true Wikipedia entry on Julian the Apostate

Toby Davies telling half a story about half a storey

Ian Leslie introduces an excerpt from Ernest Hemingway's brief time as an agony aunt

John Finnemore and Robert Hudson perform the roles taken by Daniel Rigby and Stephen Fry for Radio 4's Warhorses of Letters

By the way, you can buy all four episodes of Warhorses of Letters – cos you’ve missed it on Radio 4 now – on iTunes.

Susannah Pearse sang some hilarious songs, including one imploring Mr Rochester to ditch Jane Eyre

John Finnemore doing a sketch from his recent Radio 4 series


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Skeptics in the Pub

Science is cool. This is evident from the way Skeptics in the Pub’s Sid Rodrigues and guests Jenny Rohn (Experimental Heart, The Honest Look), Manjit Kumar (Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality) and Michael Brooks (13 Things That Don”t Make Sense) got one of the biggest crowds of the Festival…

L-R: Manjit Kumar, Michael Brooks, Jenny Rohn and Sid Rodrigues

Why become a science writer? Michael Brooks says he had a short attention span – more interested in friends’ lab work than his own.

Brooks also felt out of place in research+academia (and had a ‘challenging’ supervisor relationship) so decided to try out science writing.

Manjit Kumar started out as a philosopher then moved on to physics. He wanted to combine both interests and defend science against naysayers

Jenny Rohn is a practising scientist (her childhood ambition) as well as a novelist.

Inspired by Cantor’s Dilemma, she founded http://bit.ly/gliQ1N to promote novels about scientists: after years of searching, only found 120!

Surprised by scarcity of fiction about scientists despite their grand goals and interesting personalities, Rohn decided to write her own.

Hollywood focuses on disaster potential of science; Panel thinks it’s natural given their style of story-telling – goes back to Frankenstein

Brooks thinks comedians (eg @DaraOBriain @MrChrisAddison)’re making science cool; Kumar unsure scientists are cool too, @profbriancox aside!

Brooks argues Climate-gate not all bad. It showed the humanity of scientists, expressing passion and anger which people actually warm to.

Rohn: fiction distills society’s anxieties and paints a picture of them – e.g. recently we’re seeing more climate disaster stories.

Kumar’s book Quantum is driven by the human stories of scientists who made discoveries: inspired by a 1927 photo, a “Who’s Who of science”.

Brooks: Human stories behind ‘discoveries’ which fail are fascinating, e.g. people who thought they discovered cold fusion.

Double standard in society: don’t mind artists and musicians taking drugs, but idea of scientists doing same to boost creativity is taboo.

Rohn’s The Honest Look inspired by a job she took in a company developing ‘magic’ cancer drug. What if a newcomer realised they were wrong?

Host tells anecdote: scientist distracted from giving presentation by witnessing colleague next door spilling acid on himself and stripping!

Discussion of bad science. Brooks: Science advocates shouldn’t just mock homeopathy users or the religious. Lacks understanding of benefits.

Rohn frustrated when people don’t believe basic, proven biological principles, e.g. detox fans who forget humans have livers for a reason!

Audience Q about how to visualise quantum mechanics. Kumar: follow the maths and *don’t* visualise concepts, as it can be deceptive.

Kumar: however, teachers lie to students all the time – their models (e.g. solar atom model) grow in complexity as understanding increases.

Audience Q: does Lablit include sci-fi? Rohn: No, that’s popular enough without extra publicity. Want books based in real science.

Rohn: fiction is a good medium for expressing emotions inherent in science: many arguments, and much of science is “heart-breaking failure”.


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Fiona Rule’s illustrated talk on London’s docklands

This is how the history talk went down – Fiona Rule‘s written a book about the history of the docklands and came armed with pictures…

Tonight’s talk is by Fiona Rule, who’s written a book called London’s Docklands: A History of the Lost Quarter.

When constructed in 1880, the Royal Albert was the largest dock in the world – over a mile long

Fiona’s interest in Docklands began when a colleague told her with passion about the old docks where his dad had worked

Her colleague had expected to work in docks but his prescient dad arranged printing apprenticeship saying there was “no future” in the docks

Fiona contrasts pic of docks in use with view now from ExCeL over Royal Victoria dock, of disused factory & luxury flats. No future indeed!

London’s original Roman docks are now buried under Cannon Street station.

Elizabeth I opened docks along Thames, w/different quays for different products. Port of London contributed to city’s reputation worldwide.

Docks were built at Tilbury to ease congestion in Thames. Wharves & docks of Port of London occupied huge areas & employed lots of E London.

In the end, though, it was the advent of huge container ships that spelt the end of the Port of London – they were simply too big for it.

Fiona is now telling the story of the docklands industrial action of the late nineteenth century, over humiliating pay and work practices.

In summer 1889, walk-out turned into Port-wide strike, with dock-workers demanding improved conditions. Owners said demands’d ruin the docks

By Sept, strike fund was running low and dockers were worried about carrying on; owners convinced if they acquiesced, more strikes’d follow.

In the end, worldwide solidarity won the day, as donations poured in from Australia’s dockers, inspired by the story of the London strike

Dockers saw they could now keep strike up indefinitely, so the employers relented and the dockers returned to work with improved conditions.

Fiona describes dockers’ action as a watershed moment in industrial relations, as both owners & workers realised collective power of latter.

Answering a Q from floor, Fiona describes how dockers would get tip-offs about which pubs to buy people drinks in to get selected for work!

There was quite a drinking culture in the docks, she adds, which explains why there are (or were) many large pubs in the area

And with that, in the spirit of the old docks, everyone’s off to the pub (perhaps) after another great talk; thanks very much to Fiona Rule!

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