At the risk of sounding like the beginning of the Madeline books – ‘in a small room in Carnaby Street all covered in vines’… Well, not quite, but stay with me. This October has witnessed the opening of The Other Club, created by journalists Joy Lo Dico and Katie Glass. It’s a tiny, intimate space in Kingly Court: standing in the quad-like space below (it’s on the first floor), the doorway is teeming with women: all chatting, laughing, drinking, and having a stonking good time.
During the day, the club serves as a hot-desk working environment, but come nightfall it’s transformed, as speakers descend and debate begins. There are Q&A sessions, dinners, networking events. Men are welcome, but only if accompanied by a woman. When ER toddled along to pop its Other cherry it realised, with a shock, that the last time it’d sat amongst so many switched-on, confident women was back in a south London GCSE English class in 2006. Considering it then stumbled unwittingly into a university which birthed the types of men’s only establishment that smashes things to smithereens, then goes out to charm (read goose) the laydees on a depressingly-empty dancefloor, this is a wonderfully refreshing and very necessary enterprise. ER‘s very own Rowan Pelling’s even made an appearance.
The women’s networking forum Big Blonde group was hosting on the night we went to review and the panel discussion was about ‘Dangerous Women’. Cognitive psychologist and author Professor Elaine Fox spoke alongside Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, founders of the Vagenda blog and soon-to-be-book. The sheer variety was telling in just three examples of ‘dangerous women’. Glass-ceiling smashing entrepreneurs (dangerous in a good way) were discussed alongside women’s glossy mag editors (dangerous in a bad way) and fictional characters who exhibit ‘vague nymphomania’ whilst trailing through the streets of Paris with bright pink hair.
Questions were raised about the dearth of decent book reviews in women’s mags (at the expense of discussing whether ‘meggings’ will ever take off. Hint: no one cares), the apologetic tone often unthinkingly adopted by some women used to being shouted down by bigger, louder blokes, the way in which, whilst men are often seen to become more pessimistic as they get older, the opposite’s true for women.
“We’d love to stay open forever, we’ll have to see how it goes”, said Katie Glass. “Our ethos is to be an inclusive club, to get women talking in part about women’s issues, in part about world issues.” But with speakers ranging from Rosie Boycott to Katie Melua, Mary Beard, Helen Lederer, Catherine Hakim, Liz Jones and FEMEN, this is one pop-up that mustn’t be deflated. If you’re a woman, go. If not, politely request to be taken. The alternative, for the XYers amongst you, is the likes of Pratt’s Gentlemen’s Club (yes, really): I know where I’d rather spend an evening.