Want to find new writing in honour of World Book Day this Thursday? Try one of these regular London lit and poetry nights
If you thought five minutes was a small window for the emotional gushings of an emerging writer, wait until you’ve got a minute and a half at the Boxed In open-mic night. Lend your ears to the snappy spoken words of gal-dem regular Sarah Lasoye and UK slam champion Sara Hirsh. Boxed In. Boxpark Shoreditch. Shoreditch High St Overground. Tue Feb 27. Free entry, but register your spot in advance.
With writers like Hilary Mantel on its books, the literary salon bit of the 4th Estate publishing house is never short on words when it comes to strong women. Its next event sees three speakers slice through the sexism built into the science that powers our technology. It might make you think twice next time you summon Alexa. 4th Estate Literary Salon. The Book Club. Shoreditch High St Overground. Mon Mar 5. £7.
If, like your host Jake Kerridge, you have an unhealthy interest in violence and murder, (his excuse is a job as the Telegraph’s crime fiction critic, what’s yours?) then take a break from ‘Mindhunter’ and join First Monday Crime, ‘a regular night of murder and mayhem for crime fiction folk’. Maybe swap your usual bedtime story for a nice cheery comedy when you get home. First Monday Crime. City University London. Angel tube. Mon Mar 5. Free entry, but reserve your spot in advance.
Ever reached for a Hobnob mid-read and wished you could rustle up a feast for the next chapter? Well, put the biscuits down and pull up a seat at The Literary Hour supper club. Its next culinary extravaganza plonks you slap bang into the world of British adventurer Phileas J Fogg. The Literary Hour. Secret location. Until Sun Mar 4. From £45.
Hammer & Tongue is a poetry night that spawns a new slam champ every year during an intense two-day battle at the Royal Albert Hall. It strips poetry back to its musical roots, hosting emcees, rappers and hip hop artists who spit bars that tug on heartstrings. Rapper, actor and British slam champ Usaama Minhas and Jonny Fluffypunk head up the next show. Hammer & Tongue. The Book Club. Shoreditch High St Overground. Tue Mar 6. £6, £5 concs.
Not everyone can handle three hours of uninterrupted poetry and so, to save us all from pins and needles, the Out-Spoken line-up always includes a musician. But before you think about skipping the lit bit, March’s event includes Hanna Silva, an experimental tour de force who rips up ‘Fifty Shades’ on stage. Our kind of kink. Out-Spoken. 100 Club. Tottenham Court Rd tube. Wed Mar 7. £8.80, £5.50 early bird.
If you like your lit with social purpose by the page-load, then consider joining English PEN. The English PEN Modern Literature Festival is not just a mouthpiece for some excellent writers (Eley Williams, we’re looking at you), it’s a collective that works to protect their artistic freedom. If you can’t wait for the fest (March 8), PEN is hosting an unashamedly ‘free speech’ comedy gig at the Union Chapel this Thursday. Prepare to cringe at the uncensored sets. The Big PEN Comedy Gig. Union Chapel. Highbury & Islington tube. Thu Mar 1. £25, £20 concs. The English PEN Modern Literature Festival. All Saints Church. Kingston rail. Thu Mar 8. Free entry.
If literary nights were only as good as their hosts, then Jazz Verse Jukebox’s Jumoke Fashola would outshine them all. She’s a Peckham-based Nigerian goddess with a singing voice that booms gloriously around Hoxton Hall and a devilish diva attitude to match. Her house band are the absolute kings of improvisation, who always get their accompanying music spot on – even when tasked with conjuring up a tune that captures ‘waiting in a really really long library queue’. Jazz Verse Jukebox. Hoxton Hall. Hoxton Overground. Fri Mar 9. £9.
Like so many good London things, the Polari Literary Salon started in the upstairs room of a Soho pub but has since spread its bookish wings into the cultural nucleus that is the Southbank Centre. Hosted by the fierce Paul Burston, it’s an essential night on the LGBT+ calendar. Catch the Polari crew at WOW Festival to hear readings from Jen Campbell, Sophia Blackwell and VA Fearon as they explore gender, sexuality and what it means to be a woman in literature today. Polari salon at the Women of the World Festival. Southbank Centre. Waterloo tube. Sat Mar 10. £5. £30 Saturday pass.
Once The Riff Raff contributors have finished their readings at this writer’s meet, the floor is open for questions. Don’t expect everyone to stare at their shoes in awkward silence, though. A college Eng Lit class this ain’t. Settle in among the wine-lubricated audience of authors who are eager listeners (and probably even eagerer critics). The March edition is an all-female affair for International Women’s Day. If you like what you hear, you can buy the books with a discount. The Riff Raff. Effra Social. Brixton tube. Thu Mar 15. £9.
Illustration Daniel Mitchell
Want some words you can take home with you? Try these London bookshops
Or get an eye-full of these beautiful London libraries.