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Literary salons 'returning to Britain'

21st December 2009

A number of British writers seem to be reviving the 18th-century tradition of the literary salon.

Writing in the Observer, Gareth Rubin said that private members' club Soho House has relaunched the meetings, which see writers come together to debate and inspire their peers.

Established by playwright Damian Barr, the salon has attracted authors such as Louis de Bernieres, Naomi Alderman, Jenny Colgan and Geoff Dyer.

Barr told the newspaper that he welcomes comparisons to Madame Geoffrin, one of France's most famous salonieres, and believes the gatherings are an important opportunity for writers to 'entertain, educate and please'.

'It's an Enlightenment idea. You can talk to people, flirt, get drunk and still feel you've done something meaningful,' he explained, before claiming the meetings are 'social and literary alchemy'.

Rubin also noted that other literary salons have sprung up in the UK, such as one at The Quay restaurant in Ilfracombe, which counts Giles Foden as a member, and another at the Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh, attended by David Nicholls.

Last year, Foden argued in the Guardian that the UK needs more literary salons, pointing out that many clubs frequented by members of the media tend to be dominated by conversations about money not art.

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