31 x 2015
Almost exactly a year ago, I posted a blog entitled ‘The Triple Goddess of Soho’. Time marches on and Mandana Ruane still presides Athena-like over the Academy Club, sustained by that god-in-the-wings Andrew Edmunds. The Trouble Club of Jo Lo Dico is in temporal abeyance as she continues her bravura career as journalist and ponders the availability, cost and travail of reopening in a district whose ‘left bank’ tradition is rapidly being eclipsed by millionaire trendies. The third of the goddesses, Babette Kulik, has with her partner led the Society Club on to the new Soho of Shoreditch, where their exquisite second bookstore/bar has just opened. Yet with typical bravery and at risk of doubling her ‘trouble’, this wonderful goddess has kept the Soho club going.
For this, we veterans of the no longer mean streets of the district are grateful, immensely. People arrive at the friendly, well-lighted place for a drink, perhaps hardly aware of what sacrifice has gone into its making. Creative folk – the kind who attend our poetry nights – are sometimes too preoccupied to recognize the risk and personal over-extension involved in provision of what is enabling for them. We should always be aware, especially in London of now, of the long treks staff must regularly make from bedsits at the end of some tube line, of late night bus rides and wee-hours’ strolls through conclaves of drunken cat-callers. Exuberance in our city has its dark side of unspoken tension. Whether financial, physical or simply psychological, it lurks. We must be kind to each other.
Poetry nights can be fun purely. They can also be time and place for catharsis. Who knows the fear behind words when someone new answers the bell to read from her work for the first time? There may be tears behind laughter in an old guy’s jaunty ballad or a youth’s perfectly rhymed Petrarchan sonnet. Death of a gay lover or decades-gone joy may be clapped for an instant, then we go back to light chat and the next sip of a cocktail. And all the while the ones behind the bar are working. And there is a host trying to shape an evening’s pleasure. And shadowing all are the hidden anxieties, petty or real fears, quotidian sorrows, egos and physical quirks.
It takes a true goddess to make a place like the Society Club work – first to provide the venue, second to make it attractive, third to make it ever welcoming, fourth to transform it into a family, fifth to keep that family loving, sixth… Well, I won’t go on. Those of you who watch and who know can fill in the rest. We of the Society Club, Soho, are all devoted to Babette. Out of the aether she has captured a delectable dream and through diligence formed it into an entity we have all sorely needed. Long may it last. And long may she preside over it.