INTERVIEW: Brixton Book Jam

Despite the rainy weather, plenty of Brixtonites turned out on Monday night to take part in the Brixton Book Jam, an evening for authors, publishers and book-lovers to get together. The audience heard readings from local writers in many different genres, from sci-fi, fantasy and comedy to hard-hitting drama, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A. Local pub, the Hootananny, played host to this cultural affair. We caught up with organisers Zelda Rhiando and James Wallis, both local authors themselves, to hear their thoughts about the evening and any plans for further book jams.

Alex Wheatle reading at the Brixton Book Jam

How do you think the first Brixton Book Jam went?

ZR: From my perspective it was brilliant, and exactly what we set out to achieve. I was astonished at the massive turnout, and heartened to see how engaged and absorbed the audience were by the readers.

JW: The evening went incredibly well. We reckon there were at least 150 people there, we had sixteen people read from their books in two hours, and everyone seemed to have a great time. Considering we only started planning it about a month ago, we’re really pleased.

Why did you want to hold this event?

ZR: Because there’s currently nothing like this available anywhere in London (where else can you hear sixteen writers speak for free?) and it seemed like an event waiting to happen. We’d both been doing talks and readings at other events, and thought ‘it can’t be that hard’.

JW: The book scene is changing very fast. There are amazing small presses and self-publishers popping up and great local authors getting terrific books published, so we thought it’d be amazing to have an event that celebrated all of that. Writers don’t tend to meet up very much, and a big social event with tons of diverse books seemed like it’d work. I’ve been to a lot of very dull book events; we wanted something that was more fun and social, more diverse and inclusionary, and involved more booze. So we decided to create it ourselves.

Are you going to hold more?

ZR: We wanted to see how the first one went, and then think about how we take it further. We’re thinking about quarterly events, and who knows…even a book jam festival in Brockwell Park next year?

JW: The rough plan is to make it a quarterly thing, so it’s more of a special event rather than a regular evening. And if it works well in Brixton it should work in other parts of London too.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

ZR: A massive thanks to Kit Fraser, the Hootananny publican, all the writers and all the staff!

JW: We really weren’t expecting 150 people to come out on a wet Monday evening, so thanks to everyone who did – particularly all the readers and speakers, the people who came to sell books, and everyone at the Hoot for having us. We organised the whole event in a month, on a budget of £30. If you ever hear someone moaning about a lack of great events, remember it really is that easy to do one yourself.

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  1. Hi there,

    Just as an update, the Brixton BookJam will be appearing in the Cultivate Zone at the Lambeth country show (we have a tent for two days) and returning to the Hootananny on October 1st with a sizzling line-up of brilliant writers. Looking forward to seeing you there!

    • Hi Kevin, as far as I know they were waiting to see what the reception was and then decide when the next one would be — watch this space! Zoe

    • Hey KeV,
      You missed the last event!

      Make sure you try and attend the next one or big Pete will take your seat.


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