Women own Book Slam in night of harmony, humour and human rights at The Grand Clapham

Women took control of this month’s Book Slam, to confront the inequalities that plague the world today, in what turned out to be a humorous night permeated by a serious undertone.

Host comedian Felicity Ward took to the stage first, setting the tone for the evening as she seamlessly veered between silly and serious humour.

She brought to the fore the themes that night would later explore as she took aim at her native Australia’s government.

She owned the audience from her first appearance as she spoke about discrimination, namely sexism and Islamophobia, two topics that have dominated headlines of late.

After that, every subsequent appearance she made was greeted with cheers and at one point the audience begged her to stay on as producers attempted to haul her off stage for a short break.

Debutant Chimene Suleyman seemed a bit nervous as she was the first up, reading from her collection Outside Looking On.

Some poems, particularly in the series relating to Brian – a stranger she met in the pub and invented several life stories around – were rushed and not given time to make the necessary impact.

Her final poem though, To Whom it May Concern, was the absolute stand out with the delivery matching the immersive nature of the poem.

Next up was Book Slam alumnus Salena Godden, reading from Springfield Road, her childhood memoir that was released earlier this week.

While her amusing passage on the strange role-playing with friend Leslie highlighted the laughs and childish innocence found in the book, it was the passages that bookended it that hit hard.

The two parts on her father, whose absence is at the core of the book, were the most moving moments of the night.

In those moments, Godden showed true courage as she stripped her heart bare to a room full of strange eyes focused on her, transfixed by the deeply personal story that seemed to touch every heart in the room.

After a short intermission, human rights lawyer Shami Chakrabarti, author of recently released On Liberty, had a much drier run.

Given the seriousness of the matter at hand jokes rarely seemed appropriate which she mentioned herself as she said: “I try to be funny, but I end up just plunging into a hole of darkness.”

Chakrabarti was the only one who did not read from her book, using her time on stage to speak about the proposed abolition of the Human Rights Act in the UK. ‘

The most dangerous woman in Britain’ as The Sun had earlier described her left the stage with a simple warning ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone’.

As the evening neared an end, sister musical act Jagaara played a short set, soothing the audience with their classic pop sound exposed to its core.

With no backing band and no one but the trio on stage the music had a certain rawness and single Faultine was their standout.

In the end Everyday Sexism’s Laura Bates lived up to her top billing as she spoke about the origins of her famous project and her motivations behind it.

As she read from the shocking – but unfortunately not surprising – stories sent to her by women around the world the night seemed to be bound to end on a downer.

Bates though, didn’t want it to end there.

She read from the hilarious last segment of the book ‘People standing up’, before wrapping the night up with a plea for both male and female members of the audience to stand up to sexism and do their part in the ongoing movement.

She had dragged the audience to the lowest depths of human depravity to show that it’s possible to come out the other side if you stand strong for what you believe.

The audience was sent home with an inspirational and positive outlook that is so lacking in the world today.

Picture courtesy of Book Slam, with thanks

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