Haven't you heard? Literary nights out are cool again. And the coolest of the bunch, might just happen to be one which is, really, a good old-fashioned literary night in.
Literary Dinners launched in early 2012, as the gourmet product of Charles Haynes and his associates in an attempt to buck the trend that saw a 'repetition in literary events', as Charles explains. 'What we try to create with Literary Dinners is an event that is unrepeatable, with atmosphere and intimacy.' What this means in practice is rather simple: a pop-up restaurant for a night, specifically located for the author in question, a lavish spread and a reading (or two) from the author hosting. Charles stresses the need for memorability, 'our first event with Alex Preston (author of This Bleeding City and The Revelations) was set in the Dissenters' Chapel in Kensal Green Cemetery, which features heavily in his novel, decorated in the style of the Last Supper and with Alex giving a reading from the pulpit.'
Alex Preston describes his experience as 'amazing', and praises the slick presentation of the whole affair: 'I was the first one they organised but you wouldn't have known it.' From the concept up, it seems Literary Dinners wants to provide a much higher level of interaction than the average event. 'What I think's important to point out though,' says Charles, 'is the format: there's a trend with literary events at the moment - salons, cabarets, deathmatches. Although they're great fun, somewhere the writing gets side-lined.' Alex completely agrees: 'Literary Dinners is the future, I think - forging a closeness between writer and reader, embedding the reader in the world of the novel. I struggled out the plot to The Revelations whilst around Kensal Green Cemetery. To have readers come to this place, have a The Revelations-themed dinner, and then a really interesting discussion about the book - it brings a whole new layer to the reading of the novel.'
The public appear to agree, with hungry fans snapping up tickets to the next event within five days of them going on sale. Evie Wyld (author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice), whose meal takes place on May 27th at The Society Club, thinks the formula is great in its simplicity: 'It's a fact that food and books go together so well.' But, that's not all. 'It's a showcase of creative talent,' she goes on to say, 'like the woman who has been commissioned to make wedding cake toppers for my nit at or Two Nightingales who are in charge of the rest of the food. It feels to me like such a lovely collection of creative work. A tangle of creative work.' Evie's menu is enthused with 'a hint of Antipodean epicurisioty', befitting of her novel, but is there scope to experiment even further? 'Oh, yes. There is just so much space for ideas and collaboration.'
Intrigued? Well, the next event involves Canadian playwright and author Craig Taylor, editor of Five Dials and author of Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now, and will be at the Islington Metal Works on 15 July. I'm informed that tickets should be going on sale any day now. 'Guests will be offered a newspaper of posh fish and chips and a bottle of London Pride while Craig goes from table to table reading from his interviews. Perfect!' adds Charles. Then, in a moment of hushed clarity, the sort of realisation not unfamiliar to a wolf on the hunt, poised to feast on its haggard prey, eyes alight with passion and desire... 'In a nutshell, we'd like to be the Secret Cinema of books, the Meat Liquor of literature...' Sold? Well, knives and forks at the ready. And perhaps a bookmark or two.
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