Talkaoke turns 25!

From a furry to a glowing doughnut – a conversation with Mikey Weinkove

It is hard for me to believe that Talkaoke has been going for 25 years. It’s been one long party – says Mikey Weinkove, the initiator of Talkaoke and co-founder of The People Speak art collective.

The origins of Talkaoke – the famous pop-up talkshow are indeed linked with the party scene. It all started in 1997 at the Hydra club in Brick Lane in East London, a fabled hang out spot for artists, anyone who was up for a party and something slightly unusual. Mikey, then a young art graduate, thought that there was one crucial element that the evening was missing. He rocked up with what became the prototype Talkaoke table no 1, with a round hole cut out in the middle, covered with faux fur for that extra cosy vibe, and of course, with the host in the middle, a couple of pints down for some courage. Did it work? Hell, it did! People just couldn’t shut up! It turned out that apart from wanting to let loose and seeing some art, people wanted to connect, talk and get deep!

When I created Talkaoke it was out of a feeling of powerlessness to participate in the mainstream media – reminisces Mikey. That very same year, Princess Diana was killed in a tragic accident. The blanket and homogenous coverage of this event served to underline the implied passive consumer nature of media at the time. Talkaoke became a welcome outlet. 

Since then there have been many events which have shaken the world, for example: 9-11, the Iraq War, the 2008 crash, Brexit, the Covid 19 pandemic and, most recently – the war in Ukraine. There is a demand for diverse narratives and a need for people to speak and to be listened to. It does not matter if the conversation is about local issues or events of a global impact. In the course of the conversation we explore how it all fits together. A Talkaoke chat is also about the immediacy of reaction and connection with others. When you grab that mic and experience others listening, chiming in, throwing in different views, you feel there is power in the room – explains the founder of Talkaoke.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you have been involved in The People Speak network or sat around the Talkaoke table before and don’t need to be told how it works. If, however, you need a visual prompt, have a look at one of the early video featuring The People Speak crew tending to a public art emergency. In a nutshell, the premise of Talkaoke is simple. There is no set agenda. It’s about forming a consensus of what and how to talk about something through the spontaneous flow of conversation. The onus moves towards listening, understanding and contributing.

Looking back on the early Talkaoke sessions, it took a long time to firstly understand the role of the facilitator and then to be able to explain it to others. There are some early video recordings of Talkaoke, which should never see the light of day! – jokes Mikey. And even if that is true – you are welcome to go through hours and hours of archival footage, which is largely available on The People Speak YouTube channel. All the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Talkaokes form a very impressive record of conversations featuring hundreds of talkshow stars.


We are planning the big 25 Years of Talkaoke celebration event on Sunday 10th July. In the build up we will be sharing snippets of The People Speak’s history and anecdotes, including a podcast with Mikey. If you have any stories or old photos, please share them and join the conversation! 

More details on the event will follow soon. We hope you can be there to celebrate with us.

Photo: First Talkaoke ar The Hydra Club, 1997

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