Messy Histories: Nightlife

I miss the pub.

I don’t feel that I’ve done too badly with adapting to lockdown life. My life was in a strange place already, so apart from having absolutely no desire to write anything of any substance I’m doing OK. The main thing getting to me is when things are normal-but-not-normal. I both crave and dread participating in the various online replacements that have popped up for my usual routines. Whilst it’s a precious thing to hear other voices and see other faces right now, I also find they emphasise the void they’re seeking to fill. And all of those voids have in common being proper social experiences.

Going to the pub is such a simple thing to do, but it turns out it’s almost impossible to actually replicate. Sitting on your own sofa with a few cans, talking over your mates while you all have different Zoom delays, just doesn’t cut it. I miss real people. I miss the potential for a night out-out. I miss stupid drunk chat and talking about football and the background hubbub and…all of it. Heck, I even missed Concert Square the other week and I usually hate that place. But I’d trade almost anything right now for a beer in the sunshine surrounded by other people, even there.

I had loads of ideas of “Nightlife”, and in a positive moment it seemed like a great idea. Then I had a period of feeling differently and missing normality and wondering whether I wanted to be thinking about these things. So I asked you! And as well as overwhelmingly voting for Yes, a few of you also sent me messages about wanting to think about and look at cheerful things right now. So it’s going ahead! And I want it to be cheerful, and vibrant, and raucous and sensual. It’s also going to be a bit messy, and maybe a bit dark and seedy. Because a night out has the potential to be all of those things, right? The would at night is not the same as the world of the day, and we act accordingly. It releases something different in ourselves, and always has. We’re going to see that this week, from different times and countries that universal need to let loose.

I’ve started in the most obvious place – late 19th century Paris had to come in somewhere. It’s where the a night out became a properly glamorous ideas and popularised by imagery, as electric lights and posters and the growth of a middle class who could afford to go out all came together. Cheret’s poster comes the closest, I think, to capturing a sense of energy and true joy about this scene. Can’t wait until I can be acting like his Loie Fuller myself, to be honest, but for now we can enjoy its promise.

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