David Pollock talks to Club Noir as the world’s biggest burlesque club reaches its fifth birthday
When Club Noir was first born to proud co-promoters Tina Warren and Ian Single five years ago, it stood in a field of one. Burlesque clubs weren’t the fashion then, or at least not outside of London, and the pair succeeded in their aim of presenting a cheeky, sexy breath of fresh air to Scotland’s clubbing scene.
Except now their success has been noticed, and it feels like every other week a new night offers burlesque as one of its specialities, even if that just involves a few girls in their underwear alongside some ropey music. While Warren doesn’t wish to slag off any fellow performers, she does note that many people are now out there chasing what she calls the ‘burlesque pound’.
‘It’s like any other type of club,’ she says, ‘some of them are done very well, and others aren’t quite so slick. And it’s the good ones which tend to last. It looks easy to do, but when you see bad burlesque you realise it isn’t.’
Club Noir isn’t so much a club night as it is an event. Now a regular at Glasgow’s O2 Academy (it’s now roughly ‘seasonal’, according to Warren, which means there are four or maybe five every year), the starting formula of live performances, ranging from striptease to rather old-fashioned comedy skits and then late-night DJ sets of rockabilly, punk and rock’n’roll, continue to serve it well. With an aesthetic which runs from bawdy Victoriana to retro Benny Hill naughtiness, the crowd are invited to join in by dressing up for the occasion; they don’t have to be semi-naked, but ‘glamour’, ‘fun’ and ‘sexy’ are words Warren keeps coming back to in describing the night.
In this respect, Warren is correct when she quotes Edinburgh’s VEGAS! as a comparison. Both clubs defy changing tastes by appealing to a very specific cross-section of fans who enjoy dressing up and showing-off, and not feeling self-conscious about it. ‘Of course burlesque is a medium for show-offs,’ she laughs. ‘But then, anyone who gets on a stage and performs is a show-off, whether they’re in a band or a dancer.’ Regularly using themed nights to keep things fresh, this fifth birthday celebration will be a simple ‘greatest hits’ of all Warren and Single’s favourite acts of the past five years.
Club Noir has also recently established its standing on the international scene by the most retro of means, inviting the Guinness Book of Records along to ratify their status as the biggest burlesque club in the world. Entry was achieved by selling 1630 tickets to their Valentine’s night in February, although Warren expresses mild disappointment; they usually, she says, manage to top 2000. Whether or not they really are the world’s biggest burlesque night, it’s still a benchmark which will take a bit of beating in future.
‘My favourite moment of every Club Noir is the point where the shows have finished, Ian and I have handed over to the DJs, and we go up on the balcony to watch everyone on the dancefloor flirting and looking fabulous,’ says Warren. ‘It makes me want more – I never thought we’d reach five years when we started, but now I’d love to make it to ten.’
Celebrate Club Noir’s fifth birthday at the O2 Academy, Glasgow, Sat 30 May.