Brixton BookJam goes international

Arts contributor Rachel Segal Hamilton went along the latest Brixton BookJam to watch poets and novelists from home and abroad give readings to an enraptured crowd.
Japanese novelist Hideo Furukawa on stage at the Brixton BookJam © Stuart Taylor 2014
Japanese novelist Hideo Furukawa on stage at the Brixton BookJam © Stuart Taylor 2014

Brixton’s popular literary soirée returned to the Hootananny on Monday – this time featuring readings by special guests from Japan, alongside Lambeth-based authors.


In recent years the BookJam has built up a devoted local following, as much for its friendly atmosphere as the quality of its readings. This latest event, compered by the ever likeable Doc Williams, did not disappoint. An eager crowd turned out to see twelve authors present short extracts of their published work. In the intervals, readers and writers mingled, quaffed pints, browsed the book stall and refuelled with jerk chicken from Bickles of Brixton.


There was an international air to proceedings, thanks to the presence of three Japanese writers. Hideo Furukawa gave a dramatic reading of Belka, Why Don’t You Bark?, a surreal Cold War narrative told from the perspective of dogs. Both Keijiro Suga and Mizuho Ishida read poems inspired by the 2011 Japanese tsumani and earthquake, with Ishida performing his as a traditional Buddhist sutra. The audience was rapt.


As always the range of styles represented was wide, touching on everything from thriller to memoire, historical fiction and poetry. Costa first novel award-winner Christie Watson read a chapter from her latest offering, Where Women Are Kingsa sensitively imagined journey into the mind of a troubled young boy, while Joe Evans‘ punchy excerpt from The Olyphants are Cut Up took us out with a pair of bodybuilders on a stag night gone awry.


To round things off, we were treated to a taste of Simon Parkes’ much talked about account of his time running the Brixton Academy, having bought the venue for just £1 as a 23-year-old (you can read our interview with Simon Parkes here). In the delightfully suspenseful chapter, a young Parkes is faced with the dilemma of whether or not to evacuate the 5,000-strong audience at a Pogues gig, following a suspected IRA bomb threat. Audience members had the chance to hear more riotous tales during a Q&A session at the end.


For anyone who was unable to make it on the night, a podcast of the event is available on Sound Cloud.  The next BookJam takes place on 2nd June 2014 at the Hootananny. Entry is free. Visit for more information.