Observations: Book club open to browsers

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The Independent Culture

If you thought book clubs were a bunch of people sitting around, discussing what they had read the night before, you'd be wrong – well, about this book club, anyway. Since it opened in London's Shoreditch in the autumn, visitors to the Book Club, which describes itself as taking an intelligent approach to social activity, have taken part in talks, cultural happenings, workshops and the odd unconventional club night.

The main focus is food for thought. Regular events include Thinking and Drinking workshops, where the topics of conversation span from fashion to philosophy; the Science Fair, with artists and astronomers putting on a night of pop-culture science; The Collective, a networking forum for musicians and artists, where their work is showcased and sold; and a weekly Carousel Cabaret with storytelling and dance classes. Heather Lawton, the club's creative director, wanted a place with a communal feel, where people with similar interests could talk and learn.

"I like the geekiness of it. A lot of the original Shoreditch arty types have moved on to other areas and we wanted to give people a reason to come back," she explains. "The Queen of Hoxton, round the corner, is like the Book Club's slightly naughtier sister, so we had to make sure our programming had its own style. The early part of the week is for getting your brain ticking and the latter part is for visual, music and performance-based events. It's that sense of a members' club without the membership. Regulars can have their own ping-pong bat complete with lock and key for the ping-pong table, and we have a strict no-suits door policy."