Hosted by wild & wonderful poet Salena Godden, this was the fastest-moving Book Slam I’ve ever seen and the only one where I really enjoyed every performer.
The event was in association with Wellcome Book Prize, which is now 20 years old.
The gig began with Turkish writer Elif Shafak, who hit bullseyes with everything she said.
Elif noted that in the early 2000s there was a lot of optimism in the world and that control had started to become democratised.
Damien Slash, a voiceover artist and mixtape maestro, wore shorts and was very sharp and funny.
Agony aunt and psychotherapist Phillipa Perry gave us an astute seminar on looking after small children. She is Grayson Perry’s wife and noted that, “We’re all changed all the time by each other.”
Comedian Rob Orton, a star of recent Edinburgh Festivals, has a big shaggy beard.
He said, “I like talking because people can’t correct your spelling.”
On the subject of autumn, Rob revealed what the leaves say to each other as they fall off the tree one by one and float down to the ground:
“He’ll never get leaves like us again.”
“I hate it down here.”
Rob also said, “I saw the list of the 100 things dolphins want to do before they die…and swimming with humans wasn’t on it.”
Folk singer Sam Lee sang beautifully and gently persuaded half the girls to become a choir and they sounded really lovely.
A guy who joined our table had recently retired from the NHS and knew Sam, who came over for a hug and a chat before the gig and we talked to our new companion between sets.
I said, “Jeremy Hunt would sell the NHS to an American corporation in a heartbeat.”
“So would Matt Hancock,” he replied.
As we were leaving something totally random happened.
Jan bumped into Emma, her niece.
The disbelief and delight on their faces was the mutual shock of: What are you doing here?
The pair had met for lunch in town on Sunday, so Emma now said: “You didn’t tell me you were going to Book Slam.”
Jan said: “I didn’t know I was coming, Myles didn’t tell me about it till yesterday.”
Emma’s friend Sam, an Arsenal supporter, recalled seeing Will Self do Book Slam at the National Maritime Museum in 2016.
We were also there that night and I can easily picture the configuration of the room, the long low stage, the rows of chairs, the staircase to the ground floor, the easy sightlines, the fascinating facts about Samuel Pepys, a colourful naval official.
How could we have missed each other at the Maritime Museum?
So that was a lesson for the old beatnik: you can bump into people anywhere but you can also not bump into them.