The gathering is more immersive than a book club, less formal than a book signing and much more intimate than a literary festival.
Sitting among the guests are authors who have come to read from their latest work, discuss ideas with the guests and socialise over a glass of wine or a cold bottle of beer.
“The literary festival format can traditionally be a bit stuffy, but a more relaxed atmosphere allows spontaneity and magical discussions,” explains Andreas Loizou, the man behind the hugely successful Margate Bookie, a literary festival held every September in the seaside Kent town.
After moving to Madrid he realised that the Spanish capital was crying out for a similar event and teamed up with Vanessa Fabiano, an Italian-Swiss national living in Madrid and Giedre Pavalkyte, a Lithuanian living in Madrid, to put it together.
The team behind Madrid Bookie: Co-founders Vanessa Fabiano (L), Giedre Pavalkyte and Andreas Loizou. Photo: Madrid Bookie
The Madrid Bookie isn't a literary festival per se, but a monthly social gathering of likeminded types – people who love to read and talk about books – to which one, or sometimes two, authors are invited to read from their work and then discuss.
Each event has so far been a sell-out and seen the gathering continue in true Madrileño fashion, by spilling into a neighbouring bar and continuing long after the event was scheduled to end.
“There's a wonderful sense of community built around reader and writer that breaks down the traditional barrier between author and reader. We have a very strict no-diva policy that sees everyone get together mingling in the bar afterwards.”
Events can become quite emotional and a long with a healthy dose of laughter they can also provoke tears.
At the first event, the room was brought to tears by Laura Garcia Lorca, who read a poem penned by her father (the brother of Federico Garcia Lorca) that she had found among his papers after his death. She revealed that her father, in view of his famous sibling, had never felt confident to show the world his own poetry but had left it behind for those closest to him to find.
“All there witnessed a very intimate moment, the first time the poem had ever been read it public and it was touching and beautiful,” said Loizou.
The most recent evening also had its share of raw emotion when Pulitzer Prize winning poet Forrest Gander read aloud from a collection he wrote about the grief of losing his wife and fellow poet, C.D. Wright.
The event also saw the first ever public reading from historian Giles Tremlett's soon to be published account of the International Brigades.
Other guests have included the Nigerian writer Nnamdi Ehirim discussing his ambitious debut novel Prince of Monkeys and poet Spencer Reese.
“It's the kind of supportive space that invites the author to open up and take a risk,” explains Loizou. “Their audience is sitting down at their level in what is essentially a living room. It invites intimacy”.
The team behind Madrid Bookie met through Madrid's vibrant literacy scene, connecting first at a creative writing workshop and then teaming up with bookseller partners Desperate Literature, who offer books by the relevant authors for sale on the night.
More and more people are looking for social activities that have a focus, that are not just about meeting a group in a bar and drinking, but building a community of like-minded souls.
“We recognised a need for a focus point for high quality writers and give them an audience that was inquisitive and literary-savvy. There's a whole underground book club scene in Madrid with people wanting to meet and connect face to face and actually talk about things that are important to them,” insists Loizou.
“After the success of the Margate Bookie, I wanted to expand elsewhere and unexpectedly found in Madrid that there was a real buzz about the literary scene and a general revival in literature. We've just tapped into that community.”
Pavalkyte, who also runs the Discussing Books in English book club, has seen literary gatherings grow exponentially in Madrid. “We now have over 600 members, and many other English language book clubs are emerging in the city.”
Photo: Madrid Bookie
The Madrid Bookie has started small, with events hosted by troupe an exclusive community for the world's most adventurous creative professionals, who host in their Space Next Door, a private apartment style event space on Calle de Fernando VI, but even bigger events are on the horizon.
“We've already planned a summer creative writing retreat in Sierra de Gredos, monthly events around Madrid and are talking about a Madrid showcase at the Hay Festival Segovia in September.”
This Feb 18th, #MadridBookie says bienvenido to @MichaelSctMoore, who joins us for a talk about his book, his experiences, and broader issues of piracy. Guests can also expect food, wine, and a relaxed mingle in our amazing venue. Only a few tickets left! https://t.co/Je313y5zG5 pic.twitter.com/EHNFKPD5ez
— MadridBookie (@MadridBookie) February 14, 2020
The next event takes place on February 18th when co-founder of Madrid Bookie Vanessa Fabiano will interview Michael Scott Moore, an investigative journalist, novelist and avid surfer. Michael will discuss his latest book, The Desert and the Sea, a memoir about the 977 days he was held by Somali pirates.