The closest I have been to sitting inside a clubhouse was when I was 7. It was a play-date with a friend from school; he was in my class, blue eyes, blond hair, the new kid in school. His house was a classic Greek apartment, with yellow lights, heavy wooden furnitures, pictures of dead people and lace decorations on marble surfaces. His parents left us in the living room, and they went in the kitchen, where they continued the argument they had before my arrival interrupted them. We sat at the couch. It was a greenish shade of grey, and it was made of 6 pillows: 3 on the bottom, and 3 on the back. We were convinced that there was something behind them; so, we decided to take them off.
3 minutes and a bare sofa later, we were bored. We decided to arrange the pillows into a small house. We used them as walls, and went inside, closing the entrance with the last pillow. There, in the dark, we stood still for a second that lasted hours, laughed with secrets that were shielded from the outside world and believed that life could continue hidden inside these fabric walls forever. We achieved the contentment of living a lifetime in a single moment, of being able to forget that life exists outside the confines of a structure, that times moves on even if you don’t.
That was the feeling I had when I stepped into the Little Joe Clubhouse. Hosted in the Rich Mix (one of the most creative social enterprises in East London) café gallery, the clubhouse was a construct to behold: a specially commissioned structural installation, it managed to serve as hideout and a visual playground at the same time, the structure holding the outside world at distance, evoking a feeling of safety; of peace.
The creators of Little Joe, the most interesting Queer & Film culture magazine, worked day and night to create an absolutely amazing program of rare films that were shown as a part of Fringe!, East London‘s Alternative Film Festival. The crowd could just sit back and enjoy the film, engage in discussions with familiar strangers, or just sit still and feel the creativity buzzing through the space and the people.
The clubhouse was taking most of the space, with a really interesting library on the side, covering all things queer, and a fantastic mini shop (ranging from previous issues and the iconic Little Joe badges, to the special limited edition publication, with contributions from prominent artists, filmmakers and writers) making it the central point of the Fringe! Film Festival.
What I found really striking is the you blink and you miss it quality of this experience; the films are not commercially available, ranging from digitised versions of underground masterpieces to 16mm projections of rare gems. It was not only the structure that was fleeting; it was also the feeling it produced, the ephemeral pleasure that hides a pang of sadness in the knowledge that it is finite. Thankfully, Little Joe is full of events, with one of the best Film Clubs in town, as well as a selection of their back issues in their online store; Rich Mix has a variety of new events; and we will have to wait for next year’s Fringe! for more exciting films.
As far as my first ‘clubhouse’ experience, by the time that his parents came back in the room, all the pillows were back on the couch, and we were on the floor laughing, kicking the air, tears coming out. I can not remember what was so funny; just that we were laughing. I do not talk to him anymore.