Social Club scene
Emily Henderson checks out the Social Club scene in Glasgow and Edinburgh for an alternative take on clubbing
Social clubs were first established in Victorian times as places for working class men to relax, drink and listen to music. Today, they are fast shaping up as the best venues for an unpretentious, unusual night out, the perfect shabby-chic alternative to huge clubs churning out the same old chart hits.
In recent months, two great alternative venues in Glasgow have closed: the Riverside Club, a ceilidh hall which played host to Saltlick and Utter Gutter, and The Royal Air Force Association which has been put up for sale, forcing nights (including Spit Fire!) to relocate to Merchant City. But there is still a great crop of nights running in social clubs for the more adventurous clubber to sample.
Carol Byrne, who runs pre-club night iBop with Karen O’Hare at Pollok Ex-Servicemen’s Social Club in Glasgow’s south side and plays an eclectic mix of music, thinks the venue’s appeal is its ‘real character and lack of cool’.
‘It’s perfect because of its size [the venue holds 90], so it’s nice and intimate,’ she continues. ‘The dancefloor is right in the centre, with old school leather seats going all the way around and duct tape covering the holes.’
In the West End of Glasgow is Woodside Social Club. Tucked off Great Western Road, the walls could do with a lick of paint, there are drink stains on the carpet and an aroma of cigarettes clings on years after the introduction of the smoking ban. Nobody cares, however, as the atmosphere is friendly, the dancefloor hot and sweaty and the music interesting and varied, ranging from funk to soul, rock to hip hop. It hosts the likes of Superfly and National Pop League.
Edinburgh residents can head to Hillside Crescent for Worker’s Playtime (an offshoot of Acme Workers’ Club), organised by Lenny Love who also DJs under the name Dino Martini at Vegas! Billed as a night for ‘people with more taste than money’, club rules state that those who attend should possess ‘a sense of humour and a nice friendly attitude’. Clubbers can take advantage of cheap drinks and ‘no-frills’ food, play dominoes, cards and draughts as well as dance to country, funk, be-bop and soul music.
‘The problem with some of the larger clubs is that because of their capacity, they have to appeal to a very “mainstream” audience who are, predominantly, in the 18–30 age group,’ says Lenny. ‘The idea behind my club night was to provide an early evening night out that’s fun, and an antidote to the working week. I believe there’s a steadily growing number of people who, having enjoyed the contemporary style of clubbing for many years, have now grown up a bit. They still want to go out at night and have some fun, but they don’t necessarily want or need to stay out till 3am to get their jollies.’
Carol agrees: ‘You get to a certain age and you can’t be doing with people checking themselves out all night, and being cooler-than-thou.’
Worker’s Playtime, 11 Hillside Crescent, Edinburgh, Fri 28 Mar & 4 Apr; iBop, Pollok Ex-Servicemen’s Social Club, Glasgow, Fri 4 Apr; National Pop League, Fri 28 Mar & Superfly, Sat 5 Apr, both at Woodside Social Club, Glasgow.