Book lovers of Brixton rounded off their sunny bank holiday weekend with shot of local literature at the Brixton BookJam on Monday night – an evening of book readings from Lambeth-based authors held at the Hootannany.
Now in its fifth outing, the Brixton BookJam had the Hootananny packed, the audience sitting elbow-to-elbow on chairs borrowed from local schools. This BookJam was the first event in the Lambeth Readers and Writers Festival, a month-long programme of free literary events organized by Lambeth Libraries that takes place every year.
As at previous BookJams, the authors were an eclectic mix, ranging from established veterans of the London literary scene to newly published writers. Adam Mars-Jones, Guardian columnist and twice Granta’s Young Novelist of the Year, delivered a hilarious reading of a typically irreverent short story written in 1980 which was followed shortly by a heartfelt piece from writer Alom Shaha about his love of books, an excerpt from his new work, The Young Atheist’s Handbook.
Other highlights included a knowing depiction of teenage life from Gaylene Gould’s first novel The Sacrifice and an unapologetically rude look at the life of a writer who likes to party from Paul Basset Davies’ new novel Utter Folly. Book Jam organiser Zelda Rhiando also took to the stage to read the first chapter of her upcoming second novel A Fist Full of Cherries, written following a research tour along the Japanese coast.
At the back of the room, there was a stall selling the author’s books, tirelessly gathered by Zelda from various bookshops around Lambeth. In breaks between readings, members of the audience thrust newly purchased copies of books into the hands of the authors they’d just heard. It was a rare chance for book lovers to not only get books signed but to chat about them with the authors.
It’s a testament to the hard work put in by Zelda and team that the BookJam has become such a well-attended and enjoyable local institution. The standard of reading is high, the gloriously shambolic compere Ivor Dembina hilarious and the atmosphere extremely convivial. It gives authors the opportunity to mix with both their readers and other authors in a relaxed and inclusive arena, and it seems a fitting start to this year’s Lambeth Readers and Writers Festival.
The next event in the festival is a talk with former Home Secretary Alan Johnson about his new memoir This Boy at South Lambeth Library at 7.30pm on Tuesday 14th May.