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Pics of our Love and Lust event

November 28, 2009

Robert Roland Smith, Darren Deller and Salena Godden – our panellests at the Love and Lust in a Lingerie Shop event – were entertaining, enlightening, and more than a little cheeky! Check out our latest piccies and see what we got up to at Bordello on Wednesday night.

Review: Underground Restaurant Collaboration

November 17, 2009
The Conversational’s first dinner collaboration last night – at Ms Marmite Lover’s Underground Restaurant – featured a Conversation Bingo game that dared guests to share their deepest feelings, and a ‘guru’ in the garden shed. We took as our theme ’emotion’, capitalising on the intimate link between food and emotion. Writer, blogger and journo Calum Walker, a previous Ideas Salon guest, took confessionals in the back garden between courses, chatting into the wee small hours on love, regret, hope and everything in between. 

Last night’s menu featured bread shots, pumpkin soup with Greek yoghurt, mushroom lasagne with ricotta and tarte tatin with home-made salted caramel and pecan ice-cream.

Sold Out! Sat 14th Nov. Miss Marmite Lover’s Underground Restaurant

October 28, 2009

…featuring The Conversational

Ms M L

Photo taken by Miss Marmite Lover

We’re looking forward to hosting a Conversation at the marvellous Miss Marmite Lover’s Underground Restaurant on Saturday 14th November, where each course will be served with a tasty, tantalising menu of conversation. 

All the tickets are now sold out, but keep tabs on what Miss ML is up to in the New Year on her site, and catch her at one of her dinners before they sell out again!

The Conversational features in the Soho Clarion

October 22, 2009

Soho Clarion Article

Max’s rather lovely review of our September event, Will a Hero Save Us? is featured in the Autumn edition of the Soho Clarion.

Special Event Wed 25th Nov: Love and Lust in a Lingerie Shop

October 22, 2009
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The Conversational features at Bordello

Wednesday 25th November, 7.00pm – 9.30pm

~~ Come along and chat with an exciting ménage à trois of guests for the evening: philosopher Robert Rowland Smith, male dating coach Darren Deller, and fiery wordsmith Salena Godden! ~~

Picture yourself strolling down a balmy beach into the sunset, hand-in-hand with the one you love. It might sound a little cheesy, but go on, admit it – you kind of warmed to the idea.

Whilst our grandparents and parents partnered up for convenience or convention, in the 21st century we’re increasingly bound to more diverse, yet often idealised, notions of love. Some people seek (or have already found) their ‘other half’, many have mental checklists to pinpoint their perfect partner, whilst others are content to stay single until their ultimate soulmate appears.

Today, we’re bombarded with images and tales of sex, romance, love and lust. Singles are speed-dating and internet-dating their way to exhaustion; couples are struggling to stay atop that starry-eyed peak. Books teaching flirtation or entrapment techniques are flying off the shelves. We’re talking openly about love and lust like never before.

Whatever your love status, if you want to question the nature of love, join the Conversational’s cheeky chat at Bordello. Come along and dig beneath the surface of ideas about how our expectations of love have been formed, the influence of other times and cultures have on our perceptions of love, whether we need relationships to be truly fulfilled, or if love can last forever.
There’ll be stimulating conversation, lubricated with drinks, nibbles, parlour games and naughty play-things. All opinions and experiences are welcome, as we trawl through philosophy, pop culture and more besides to challenge notions of romance and relationships in the 21st century.

Tickets will be £15.00pp, including a drink, a raffle ticket for a special prize, and a discount off all products in the shop on the night. Male and female tickets (to ensure diversity of opinion!) will be on sale from the Bordello website in the next few weeks.

Bordello, 55 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3HP

update: Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Tues 20th)

October 19, 2009

In less than 24 hours, we’ll be chatting about ‘Happiness’ here at The Conversational. To whet your appetite, our guest for the evening, philosopher and writer Mark Vernon, has a little something to say on the topic:

‘Ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so.’ So argued John Stuart Mill, though it seems that the renewed interest in happiness has forgotten the advice. It’s been called a science. The results are even being explored by policy wonks. So why does so much of it – work less, say thanks, keep fit – sound so trite? If it were that easy, wouldn’t we all be happy by now? The reason is that Mill’s insight is being glossed over. Moreover, how you try to promote happiness depends entirely on what you take happiness to be – and there’s a wealth of choice in that. In truth, happiness is but a byproduct of a good life, not an organising principle. And it will come and go. From this follows further questions to ask about the way the good life is being reconstructed via the study of happiness. What role might pain have in it, for a rich life of necessity will also include pain, perhaps very great pain? What about moral questions, even those traditionally addressed by religion? What we need is a return to the insights of the philosophers, who were not afraid to ask about the good life head on – for all that we’ll question their specific conclusions now. But we must, lest the focus on happiness itself does us a profound disservice.

You’ll have the opportunity to question Mark about Happiness and chat in a relaxed environment with other interesting people.

We hope to see you there (23 Romilly Street Soho, downstairs in Dick’s Bar, 7.30pm Tuesday)!

Michelle conversationalist

Ideas Salon: Don’t Worry, Be Happy! (Oct. 20th)

September 16, 2009
A quick browse through the self-help section of your nearest bookstore might suggest that we’re a nation of unhappy, negative people desperately trying to cheer up. Even the government’s worried about our mental state, with the NHS on high alert to help those who aren’t coping in the economic downturn. Happiness has become a political objective – and, it seems, the ideal emotional state that we should all strive to attain.

But happiness is a fluid concept that can mean completely different things to different people. It is doubtful whether aiming for some generic idea of ‘happiness’ is realistic. And even if it is, would trying to be happy all the time really be healthy? Will our lives be enriched if we manage to harness the power of positive thinking? Should we take responsibility for other people’s happiness? And if happiness is such an important state of being, what’s the best way to achieve it?

Join a lively, interesting conversation about happiness at the October Ideas Salon. We’ll post details of our guest closer to the event.

As usual, we’re in Dick’s Bar, in the basement of 23 Romilly Street.

Time: 7.30pm – 9.30pm
Cost: Free!
RSVP: On the post, via email ( or on our Facebook group.

!Change of Venue! Mirror, mirror on the wall… (Tues 17th Nov)

September 1, 2009
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==Please note that due to Dick’s Bar closing suddenly and permanently, The Conversational’s Ideas Salons will be held at the exciting new location, The Bath House, right near Liverpool Street station. The Bath House is a quirky venue, being a restored former Victorian Turkish bath! Arrive early and have dinner from 6pm…menu to be uploaded soon==

The Conversational’s final Ideas Salon of 2009 is only two weeks away; don’t miss out! Come along to our free gathering in Soho on Tuesday 17th November.

‘Mirror Mirror’ is an opportunity for you to tell people a little about yourself, learn a bit about others, and consider how our perceptions of ourselves are formed.

One of the things we often take for granted is a sense of ourself as a single, coherent and never-changing person. Sometimes, though, it can feel like we are really several people, acting in different guises in different situations.

Does this mean our sense of self is an illusion, that we are really just a constantly changing set of identities with no real centre? Or is it just that we are all accomplished actors who keep the real ‘us’ just for ourselves?

We’ve had an excellent line up of guests this year, and our November salon will be no exception. Join University Lecturer, counsellor, supervisor and writer Clive Carswell for an exploration of what it means to be you!

Clive will talk from a psychoanalytical perspective about the role of mirroring from primary care givers in early childhood development and how a failure of this process leads to narcissistic injury and the development of a false self in order to meet the needs of others and prevent the annihilation of the true self.

It won’t all be intense analysis however – we’ve thrown in a bit of old fashioned childhood ‘show and tell’ to lighten the mood and break the ice. Bring along an object on the evening that gives people an insight into who you are (and don’t worry, we won’t make you stand in front of the class, at least not if you don’t want to).

See you there, at The Bath House, 7-8 Bishopsgate Churchyard
London EC2M 3TJ


If you’re coming from Liverpool Street station, take the exit that is *above* the tube station. Walk straight up Old Broad Street, and you’ll see it tucked away behind the buildings on your left. See pictures below so you know what you’re looking for – it’s mostly underground and you’ll enter through what looks like a small folly!

The Bathhouse


RSVP here, on our Facebook group, or with

Will a hero save us? (Tues 15th Sept)

September 1, 2009
As children, we all had heroes – footballers, scientists, movie stars or even our parents. But do we still have them now we’re all grown up? What does the idea of heroism even mean?

Join The Conversational’s Ideas Salon to talk about why we choose some people over others as heroes, how our ideas of what we look up to have changed over the years, and what this says about us and our society. What shapes our choices – gender, ethnic identity, social influence, upbringing?

We’ll also be talking about why we have heroes at all. Is it actually a dangerous idea to have idols, to confer such an exaggerated status upon people who are, after all, just human?

We want to know what you think: whether the idea of heroism means anything today, or whether in fact we have only anti-heroes now. And whether, in a world where everything is scrutinised, anyone can maintain the halo needed to be a hero.

Our guest for the evening is John Price, a post-graduate research student at King’s College London, who is focusing on ‘everyday heroism’. John recently organised King’s College London’s ‘My Hero’ symposium, exploring celebrity and iconography, visual culture, gender identities and the recognition of heroism.

Entry is free!
Date: Tuesday 15th September
Time: 7.30pm – 9.30pm
Venue: Dick’s Bar, 23 Romilly Street, Soho
Getting there: Dick’s bar is downstairs at 23 Romilly Street, Soho (23 is a black club with a red awning, and a small ’23’ on the letterbox).
RSVP: email; or sign-up on Facebook.

August Ideas Salon Review – Emotion Vs. Reason

August 21, 2009

Which was Victorious?

When Welshmen peed on their partners’ dresses 200 years ago, they did so sure in the knowledge that they’d be rewarded with a kiss from their beloved rather than a kick back to their caves. Fast-forward to the 21st century and we may find the British man vomiting on his girlfriend’s shoes instead – as someone quipped from the back of the bar at The Conversational’s latest Ideas Salon, Emotion vs. Reason, this week. The social and cultural arenas in which love and other emotions are played out may have changed, but their powerful influence on our emotional responses remains.

This month, The Conversational invited Calum Walker – a journalist and blogger with a particular interest in the anthropology of emotions – to challenge our assumptions about emotions.  Drawing from historical, philosophical, anthropological and psychological disciplines, Walker explored the way in which the emotions have been understood over time. His personal interest in the field stretches from the romantic love favoured by 12th century troubadours to the lack of anger in today’s Utku tribe of Northern Canada.

The conversationalists chatted their way through personal differences in emotional responses, the dominant emotions of our society, and the potential to construct rituals to help people channel negative emotions into something more positive.  Walker’s contribution to the essential question ‘What is an emotion?’ formed the basis of lively debate.  His premise is that emotions are not as innate or impulsive as we might believe – they are more akin to ‘felt judgements’ that play out along the lines of a script. 

I had personally hoped to be told that emotions were something far more volatile and romantic, desiring to answer to D. H. Lawrence’s call to put our faith in the flesh “as being wiser than the intellect”. Alas, it seems my upbringing, my values, and my expectations about the way the world should work are all called to the fore when I emote, however much I feel I’m following my “blood”. It’s cognition at play when I bridle at queue jumpers or swoon at a bouquet of flowers presented on a date.

In retrospect, it was a risky topic for the second of The Conversational’s Ideas Salons. A discussion of the emotions cannot easily be divorced from the lived experience, and it was more than a little luck that ensured that the conversationalists felt safe enough to share their own highs and lows, challenges and triumphs. Many were overheard sharing their vindictive streaks, loneliness and disillusion with the opposite sex!

By the end of the evening, it wasn’t all sadness, disappointment and frustration.  Although we speculated that our society’s dominant emotions in the years ahead seemed likely to be anger, fear or grief, Walker gave us hope: anger’s definitely on the list, but so is love.