Victoria Guthrie talks to Babette Kulik, founder of private member’s club The Society Club about East London and the literary world.
How did The Society Club come about?
I have always been passionate about books and collecting and it was always in the back of my mind that one day I would follow this passion in one way or another. When a close friend died in 2010 it taught me that, clichéd as it is, life is too short, and that is when, with the help of family and friends, I launched The Society Club. We have bookshops at both venues and for these I curate a collection of rare secondhand books alongside new titles which I occasionally add to with books from my own personal collection.
Where do you see the club going?
Our recent opening in Shoreditch means that I haven’t had a minute to think about the future beyond the next few months! The new venue is great as it means we can take on more members and be more accessible to people who don’t venture into central London as often. With this club we are looking to have more events with a broad appeal, such as a punk-themed night, and to make use of the great space (and garden!) that we have.
After that who knows. A fantasy is to one day open a club in New York. However for now I need two feet firmly on the ground and remain focused on the two venues that we have and make sure they stay aligned with the values of The Society Club.
Who is your typical member?
We really don’t have a ‘typical’ member. Some of our members are young professionals in their early 20s. Others are older established architects, creatives, poets. The great thing is that you can walk in on a Friday night, not know anyone, and within minutes be chatting to a group of people like you’ve known them for years. That for me is what makes a typical member, not who someone is or what they do, but how they become involved in the club.
Does your expansion into Shoreditch signify a growth in the interest of the literary world among young professionals?
I think people have always been interested in literature. I know I have! We have a great literary culture and history in England, with many writers making London their home both in the past and today. I think our expansion demonstrates that people are willing to invest in what they love. Fortunately for us that means rare books and good cocktails!
The Private Members Club
Open from 6pm to members only, The Society Club is a haven for the culturally engaged visitor, serving up an array of cocktails with a bookish theme. Whilst the interior is sophisticated and stylish, both the barman and well-stocked shelves of books create a welcoming atmosphere, and with members regularly striking up conversations across the room it is a far cry from the suffocating pretentiousness of other members clubs.
The drinks menu alone sets the scene of the club as a unique place to wile away the hours in central London. The cocktails have a literary twist, with the menu offering an array of quotes or short explanations from the literary greats. Favourites include Hemingway’s Daiquiri and a Margarita inspired by Kerouac’s love of the Mexican tipple, while non-alcoholic options include the ‘Lolita – the perfect blend of innocence and adulthood’ and the ‘Bloody Shame’ – an alternative on the virgin bloody mary.
A light but perfectly formed evening events programme supplements the club’s diverse offering, for members and non-members alike. Regular poetry evenings are interspersed with book readings and talks by some of the bookshop’s authors, while a smattering of cabaret and acoustic sets add to the well-rounded cultural prestige of The Society Club. Past events include a screening of Les Enfants Terrible, the launch and exhibition of London Life book and a ‘Private Collection’ talk with Danny Moyniham.
Owners, and prominent Soho fixtures, Babette Kulik and Michael Selzer, have personally curated both the collectable secondhand books on sale alongside a bespoke selection of new titles for both shops, occasionally bolstering the works with titles from their own personal collection. Their combined knowledge of the art, design, fashion and photography spheres shines through in the type and quality of the books available.