If you're looking for something worthy that will occupy that awkward hour or so before dinner and cocktails, you could do much worse than attend one of the Literature Live events at Manchester University. The Creative Writing Programme at the university has been running live literary events since 2005, allowing slightly pretentious people like myself to swan around with a book under one arm, listening to bookish people reading from their work.
The next event is Monday 23rd Feb, with novelist and poet Helen Dunmore (latest novel House of Orphans) and publisher Peter Fallon. The event starts at 6.30 and costs £5 (£3 if you are a layabout student) - best of all, this price includes a glass of wine afterwards which you can quaff whilst nodding and looking knowledgeable about what you have just heard.
Look out as well for A.L. Kennedy's visit on March 16th - her last novel, Day, won the 2007 Costa prize and is really very good. Full details from the University website.