7 questions for Salon [Interview]

In 2008, Salon launched with the unlikely strap line ‘a lot more fun than it sounds’. Helen Bagnall, Juliet Russell and Diccon Towns are the founders and claim that they are able to take a book and turn it in to an interactive event. We were intrigued…

How do you plan to run your events next year?

Helen: There’s a reason why the best our friend, a MD of a digital marketing agency could come up with was… ‘better than it sounds’.  We are quirky, stimulating, and difficult to categorise. We see this as a strength.  Anyone trying to market us may not, however…

Juliet: Next year, we’re going monthly with an unusual, additional venue coming online in March. We will also run more events outside London and will be appearing at a couple of key festivals that are a great fit for Salon.

Diccon:  We’re aiming to push our events beyond physical events to an on-line debate, and to take Salon beyond London.

Why should we attend then?

Juliet: Because only by attending do you understand the full Salon experience. Salon reminds me of your fantasy dinner party – it’s an entertaining night  with fascinating guests, and inspiring moments.

Diccon: Salon is a chance to learn about a subject you are unlikely to know about, in an environment that is beyond your comfort zone – in a good way.

Helen: We provide interesting events for interested people.  Our Salons are a bit like going to a festival for a night, but without the road-trip and Smirnoff Ices unfortunately, although we try to make up for that.  We know people have had a hard day at work and an ideas event rather than a passive pub experience is a tough sell.  We try to make everything else easy, so you can just relax and enjoy the Salon.


Interesting how you manage to get non-bookish crowds engaged with content, What’s the secret?

Juliet: By programming interesting and cutting edge content. I think our crowd trusts that regardless of who’s speaking there will a be a combination of the unsightful, the mindblowing and the unusual.

Diccon: The secret is our curation, which is to choose projects and subjects that were challenging to put in to book form in the first place, and of course subjects that people had a level of curiosity about already.

Helen: I’m pretty obsessed with trying to get books from their two dimensional physical form in to content that engages a wider audience.  The way publishing is changing is so exciting and means this blurring of book, author, idea and audience means it’s finally a lot easier to get publishers to understand what we’re trying to do with their authors.


How else do you work with authors?

Juliet: We try to find an angle for them to present their subject in a more interactive way.  We never programme a straight book reading as such as there are other events that already do this very well. We like people to showcase their passions and expertise in a way that enables them to engage with a new audience and to ignite the interest of the uninitiated and the curious.

Helen: We are open to working with authors in many ways, I feel we’ve only just scratched the surface of what we can offer at Salon to up-for-it authors.

Diccon: We sell books, and will be setting up a way of buying books straight from our site next year,  we also hope next year to bring authors in to our on-line space beyond the event.

Where would you like to see Salon in 5 years time?

Juliet: Solvent.

Helen: I’d like to see a cultural night such as Salon being an integral part of every Londoner’s social life. And I mean weekly, oh ok then, monthly.

Diccon: Solvent!


We saw that you had a Man Booker Prize draw, how did that work?

Helen: The Booker Prize was a really interesting session for us. Our most bookish session to date, we asked Clare Conville to deconstruct the Booker List.  This she certainly did, plus the idea of book prizes in general, the industry, its future and finished off by correctly predicting the winner.  The non bookish audience sat there never having seen the like, and scrabbling for a pen to write down the name of a book they’d never heard of half an hour ago, and now desperately wanted to read. It was a proper Salon moment.

Diccon: The prize draw meant we could approach the Man Booker Prize itself, and their support of us through social media meant we got some extra attention in a busy twittersphere.

Juliet: It worked, and we’d like to do it again. We’re open to offers.


Is there anything you’d like to ask us?

Yes, would you like to come to one of our Salon’s?  We also have hand crafted gin and tonics and the best glass of red house wine you’ll get anywhere in London.  We also bet you’ve never tried Mongolian Throat Singing.  Stay in touch with us here:



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