Everything’s Up for Debate: The Rise of Salon Clubs

Everything’s Up for Debate: The Rise of Salon Clubs

With the increasing popularity of literary salons, intellectual discussion is no longer reserved to university seminars, party politics or the dinner table. Held in places ranging from fancy hotels to intimate pubs, they serve as public forums for debate on a whole host of topics. Audiences are urged to participate and engage in dialogue about big ideas which aren’t constrained by 140 characters.

As exclusive and somewhat intimidating as they sound, it would seem that people who have no trouble voicing their opinions across Twitter or Tumblr are taking to their local art centres or cafés for a highbrow evening of conversation and interaction that would otherwise have taken place behind a screen. As well as debate, a number of salons focus on the spoken word and a revival of oral traditions. So long as novels are being published and poets have been composing, readings will continue to take place in bookshops across the world. However, the number of audience members being invited to the stage to tell their stories has grown immensely over the last few years. Events such as Literary Death Match and Damian Barr’s Literary Salon have given new life to the art of public storytelling in ways which conventional readings would never have been able to in quite the same way.

The Institute of Ideas, an organisation which regularly runs forums, declares itself committed to “the legacy of the Enlightenment: scientific and social experimentation, intellectual ambition and curiosity” and “open and robust debate, in which ideas can be interrogated, argued for and fought over.” Harking back to Enlightenment traditions from France, salons still display characteristics in line with their origins as literary gatherings of women which aimed to educate attendees and refine their tastes. While no longer quite so concerned with politeness and formalities, salons are held across the country to stimulate audiences regardless of location. From Manchester to Birmingham and undoubtedly London, almost all of the UK’s biggest cities have their own salon nights to enormous success.

Often controversial, they remain a fresh way of discussing ideas, opinions and stories in an age where the media can so easily distort facts and steer its readers down a particular route of thought.


Written by Victoria Rodrigues O’Donnell

Images via wikimedia.org, literarydeathmatch.com, ahotellife.com