With a name like The Society Club, I expected something rather fine, a little eccentric, and somewhat individual. Turning off from the hubbub of Carnaby Street, around the corner from Pret and the like, I walk into what seems to be rather fine although higgledy-piggledy sitting room.
Books adorn the walls and shelves, piles of new books, first editions, rare copies and magazines all around. Although billing itself as a bookshop cum gallery, the venue/shop/café (what is the correct noun for a space as eclectic as this?) also stocks London honey, Laundress Cleaning Products, vintage hotel ashtrays, Constance Spry vases and a selection of delicious and retro Tunnock’s treats. ‘Gosh, it’s like my ideal living room.’ I exclaim.
Perched next to the Tunnock’s biscuits that are trustingly and simply in the centre of the long communal table, is one of the hand-written menus – scraps of paper clipped together, revealing a fondness for coffee and cocktails created with flavour in mind. I order an Americano which is buzzingly brewed in the corner, and my friend and I sat down to discuss the event we hope to organise. The close proximity of everyone means that conversations are not private, and we soon have people tapping our shoulders with advice and ideas, which we are only too thrilled to receive. The ambience of the place means that we’re pretty sure that people in here are people like us.
Just then we are asked if we could be quiet for a few minutes. A book reading is taking place this evening, and they would like to film and interview with one of the authors. Just five minutes they promised, and as my fascination of all things wordy was in full pelt this afternoon, I am only too happy to hear secrets of the craft. We listen, we learn. The fifth time this happens, my curiosity is starting to wane as my deadline and need to talk looms. I am still captivated by the tales of those who have suffered for their art, but practical measures need to be taken, and so we do the unthinkable – we retreat to Pret. I will berate myself for this for days to come. But to offset the guilt, I first scribble the next five events taking place into my diary, and look forward to the poetry readings, story slams, and exhibitions that await.
By Francesca Baker