Binge thinking

Having spruced up my pyjamas for semi-acceptable outer-wear, I stepped out into the London rain with my laptop and headed to my local pizza place to write my blog tonight.

At the time I was hounded by an immediate need to eat.

Had I not been skidding towards the close of a workday about an hour earlier, I would’ve been enjoying a last-minute invite to join an acquaintance attending an event right around the corner where 5 personalities, well-known-to-some, often but not always, authors, take the stage for just 15 minutes each.

Their entertainment mostly comprises a short story or meandering talk. Usually one of the 5 is actually a musician …there to throw variation into the chatty line-up.

Right now as I enjoy my sausage pizza and side of broccoli salad, Sarah Bakewell is one of those 5 speakers.

I’d love to have heard her. Once my writing teacher, Sarah has since written the surprise-success biography slash philosophy masked as self-help book entitled How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Ron Johnson, another non-fiction writer and author of the book I am currently devouring, The Psychopath Test, will also take the stage tonight. At least I caught him 2 weeks ago at a different event — Book Slam.

The weird thing about getting the last minute invite via Facebook for the event that I am now missing, is that I’d mentally written my blog for today and it was already about the rise in binge thinking — it was already about this exact sort of night out. Even before I received the random invite.


Yesterday I tweeted a link to an article that appeared in the London Evening Standard a couple of months ago – it was about under 35’s hitting the talking shops for a night out, rather than the pub. I’ve christened them talking shops for want of a better umbrella term.

I’m referring to evening lectures as they’ve recently reincarnated in more unusual guises – such as the 5×15 session I am missing tonight and the monthly BookSlam series.

According to The Standard, from which I ruthlessly stole the “binge thinking” caption,

Here in London, being cerebral is now sexy – especially if you’re under 35. Twentysomethings have been drinking and clubbing for decades but a host of festival organisers and club promoters have sensed the need for a new kind of night out – one that involves using our brains. Young creative minds [want] talks, workshops and field trips covering everything from art to science and politics.

In short, we want to think while we drink.

Now, I’m not under 35 and I hadn’t heard of any of the upcoming events on The Standard’s radar, but these are exact sort of nights out that recently I’ve had to work a whole lot less to track down. They’re sprouting up everywhere. Grassroots style. And of course I’m happy to be deemed up to something sexy.

Unlike the traditional lecture secretly underway in elite university settings or members-only saloon clubs, this new brand of live spoken word has been packaged into something smaller and bite-sized, more popularly-minded and genuinely accessible to all. They really want us to come, join in – unlike their meaner, snobby cousins where even if we can buy a ticket we’ll need to be well-rehearsed to answer “And sorry, but you are … whom exactly?”

These new cool nights out are mostly talks with the odd bit of performance art and music tossed in.  They’re less lecture and more informal chat — local heroes talking down from a small stage to a relatively small audience. Increasingly, that size of the audience has much more to do with the special venues chosen and the philosophy of the events – and less to do with the volume of appetite for more.

The venues are local, keep a neighborhood spirit alive and have us put our money into niche/community funded art.

And they are perfect for me.

Before I found Spoken Word Nights Out (SWNO), I suffered cultural deprivation. I can’t help it, theatre and art exhibitions are not for me (why – is the subject of another blog.) Cinema and photography work better for me but to be honest I’d rather stay home (or go to the pizza place) and read books or meet friends for dinner or at the pub for a chat than go to the movies or look at photo’s. And the idea of musicals actually distresses me. Even though I did get a kick out of Cats when I was 10 because it was such a treat and I have occasionally thought that sing-along Sound of Music would be fun to do for a birthday – I mean fun as a concept – not as a reality.

SWNOs changed all that for me. They are my exact cup of tea. I can now go drinking and use my brain and meet people – all at once. And they make socializing with people I know only a little or just recently, a breeze. This is no small benefit for me. New people – speaking to them – is certainly one of my handicaps. Unless they are more freaked out than me, then I can.

If my friend from Facebook had messaged that he was in my local pub & did I want to go for a drink, it would’ve been ….well, odd.  But that he had a spare ticket for 5×15  made it the most natural sort of invite. Of course I wanted to go! And I’m really sorry I got the invite too late. Good thing these nights out are no longer some sort of freak happening. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my pizza.



Filed under Bibliotherapy, London, Random idea

3 responses to “Binge thinking

  1. Heidi Barry

    Interesting….while I was waitressing in San Francisco, I was the eldest by far among the 20somethings servers there. I had noticed that they were a much newer, refreshing, cerebral 20 something- much different from me when I was in my 20’s. They were constantly going to poem-slams and book-jams, etc. and I thought that was SO cool. And I also thought it was just another hipster San Francisco thing. But apparently not! P and I are constantly looking for something interesting to do- I am looking for this in Boston! Do you think I can find something here? Might prompt P to start writing…. he’s been planning his first written word for 25 years….

  2. Liz Athens

    Coming from a locale that is as culturally spartan as the landscape, I DEVOUR book signings, readings, anything that remotley LOOKS like it could raise the cultural bar. I have started a writing club with some friends and that has been fun. I am reading mostly non-fiction too….(when did that happen?) and I am reading the psychpath test right now too, soo GOOD! Keep writng Nat, I am so enjoying it.

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