Literary stars in London!

London is such a world hub that you have access to some amazing events and get to see your favourite stars whether they are musical, theatrical or literary!
Last week saw World Book Night roll into town.  It’s a wonderful event which was held outdoors last year in Trafalgar Square but I think the literary folk got a bit too cold so this yea it moved into the Queen Elizabeth Hall, part of the South Bank complex. This was just as well, as it was a chilly wet evening again! The date was 23rd April, St George’s Day but more relevant for this night, is that it’s Shakespeare’s birthday and the day he died!
World Book Night is an evening of book readings by authors and famous book lovers and part of a major campaign to encourage reading. 25 titles are chosen each year, then 1 million special editions of these are printed and ‘givers’ pledge to hand out copies to those who don’t regularly read. That’s a lot of extra books going round to excite new readers!

Have a look through this photos gallery of some of the stars who read for us: Margaret Attwood (by video), David Nicholls (One Fine Day) Iain Banks (also known as Iain M Banks!), Mark Haddon (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night) Andrea Levy (Small Island) and Kathy Lette (loads of best sellers).


Margaret Attwood
Iain M Banks
Kathy Lette
Andrea Levy
David Nicholls
Mark Haddon

One other bookish event worth a mention was 5×15 held in Notting Hill. These evenings bring us 5 speakers who each have 15 minutes on a topic of their choice. The guests can be anything from famous singers to TV personalities to authors or campaigners.

The last event was a great mix including Paul Conroy who was the big draw for me. He’s just escaped from Syria where his colleague Mary Colvin sadly died and he arrived fresh from hospital with a drip! We had Andrew Davies who has written and adapted major TV successes including the famous Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and more recently Bleak House.  He told us just how easy it is to adapt a famous novel for TV! We were entertained by Bettany Hughes, historian TV presenter and writer, a passionate speaker, Prue Leith, the cookery master and now writer and Richard Davenport-Hines who has just published a book on the Titanic. And here they are:


Paul Conroy


Andrew Davies


Bettany Hughes
Richard Davenport-Hines
Prue Leith

That’s all from literary London for now!

Tea tasting, toe tapping and book reading in London!

I know I’m always saying that London offers the most amazing range of experiences, often just on your doorstep and this week’s blog shows that my last 7 days have been no exception. I’ve picked just 3 highlights: tea tasting, book readings and a bit of jazzy fun.

First tea tasting. In Notting Hill a man called Pei Wang has set up the ground floor of his house as a calm refuge to taste and learn about tea. He is absolutely charming and a group of 4 us tried out his Saturday morning one hour tasting event, which is free – amazing! He’s so enthusiastic that it lasted rather more than an hour and we tried 3 lovely new teas, my favourite being Dong Ding Oolong so I bought a whole packet to enjoy at home. He explains all about the teas you taste and can answer any question you may have about the ceremony itself and the teas’ properties including even the right sort of water to use. His knowledge is endless and we learned so much about what seems such a simple drink when you bung a tea bag into a mug! Here it is about taking your time and savouring the tea and choosing one for its taste but also being aware of the benefits that different teas bring to your health.

In his Chaya Teahouse you can have afternoon tea or try one of his tea appreciation classes or master classes (with great good) and I guarantee you will feel a million miles away from the hurly burly of your busy life after an hour or so in this tranquil hideaway. I could even manage a trip to the madness of Oxford Street afterwards without too much angst!

Look up Pei Wang at The photos show Pei himself, pouring my tea into delicate cups, his house and the tea tasting table set up for us.

Friday night was World Book Night in Trafalgar Square and I went down to find out what it was all about. The square was all lit up with a large stage set up so we gathered waiting to see what would happen. World Book Night is a major event to encourage more reading and on the next day the organisers were galvanising a huge number of volunteers to give away a million books to get people started! The Friday event was a great part of this celebration of reading as a whole host of top authors and famous folk were reading a small piece from a favourite book and it was captivating. Reading ranged from their own books to Dickens to a piece about a bad hangover, read by our very own Mayor Boris Johnson! I also saw: Alan Bennett, Rupert Everett, DBC Pierre, Sarah Waters, Andrea Levy, Mark Haddon……. all hosted by Graham Norton and here are photos of some of them and the square. It’s in the diary for next year already and I want more – it was such a treat to hear such great readings on a dry but chilly March night surrounded by fellow book fans.

And finally, the toe tapping! Kensington Roof Gardens was the swanky venue for a great jazz night starring Rebecca Poole. The Roof Gardens are just that, being a huge outdoor space on the top of a former department store with Spanish, English and Monet style sections (most famous for their flamingos who were not to be seen on a chilly night) and luckily a large marquee section too so we were indoors. I know Rebecca and she is great fun to go and see with her warm personality, husky jazz voice and great range of songs – her own compositions and covers. We even had a quick twirl together at the end of one song when she joined in the dancing on the floor! I’ve seen her many times and she just gets better and better so keep an eye open for her next show….


Bye for now,