Hannah Castleman’s next night out will be at The Candlelight Club…if she can find it.
Sometimes, when I’m waking up to start my morning with a cup of coffee and some toast and thinking about the day ahead of me, I can’t believe that I am lucky enough to have the job that I have. An average day at work for me includes putting on my best ‘40s dress, applying some false eyelashes and a slick of lipstick (MAC’s Ruby Woo), and attending a party, wedding or other event in order to provide the evening’s entertainment while guests drink, dance, and have a great time. While I couldn’t ask for a better way to earn a living, it does means that most of my weekends are taken up with gigs and events. It’s rare that I have a weekend off, and so my weekday social life outside of work is pretty low key, and normally involves staying in and watching an episode of Doctor Who on iPlayer, which suits me perfectly, thank you very much.
When I occasionally find that I have an evening off that falls on a weekend, I like to go somewhere that I can dress up to the nines, have a dance, and do my own time travelling. There are quite a few vintage themed events all over the country, such as themed evenings out, events that the organisers set up in your own home, and fairs and markets that are an entire weekend away with or without the family. However, after spending some time talking to Clayton Hartley, I’ve decided that my next night off will be spent at The Candlelight Club.
Clayton Harley is the co-owner of The Candlelight Club, and describes his creation as a ‘warehouse style speakeasy’ – a night out at a random location of which the attendees are only informed of a couple of days beforehand. Each night is themed, with a corresponding cocktail menu and live music and DJ sets from 1920s style bands. The 1920s seems like the perfect decade to use; as Hartley says, ‘you don’t need to know anything about the era to have a picture of the 1920s in your mind’. Flapper dresses and sharp bobs fill the room, with people taking some serious inspiration from 1920s classics such as The Great Gatsby. Hartley says that the aesthetic of the 1920s involved a lot of rebellion through dressing up, and that his guests at The Candlelight Club clearly appreciate that, making a huge amount of effort with their costume, hair and makeup. The Candlelight Club must truly provide a feeling of escapism; people can step away completely from their lives and feel like they’ve transported not only away from work and their everyday routine, but into a totally different time as well.
Hartley also comments that what is striking about his events is that he doesn’t often recognise the people; there may be a handful of people who come to each night, but ‘most people just come for a fun night out’, whether it’s a birthday or a hen night. The fact that it is almost a completely different crowd at any event is a striking comment that a vintage night out appeals to a huge number of people, whether a vintage look is something they embrace every day, or if it is just an experience that they’ve always wanted to try.
Hartley says that The Candlelight Club took off fairly quickly after its conception, and after the first three events they threw, it ‘blossomed’. The changing theme allows each event to evolve, and Hartley’s idea is to ‘keep it fresh’; the aim is to provide something different for every night, such as ‘a different cocktail menu each time connected with the party’. The bands and musical artists that Hartley uses have solid 1920s repertoires, and there several DJs who specialise in vintage music.
Talking to Hartley and hearing how passionate he is for all things vintage has convinced me that The Candlelight Club must be a truly amazing evening out and a fully immersive experience that captures the spirit of the 1920s completely. Next time I have a night off, I’ll be ditching the 1940s look, stealing Julie Andrews’ style from Thoroughly Modern Millie and heading straight back to the roaring 20s where I hope to Charleston the night away at The Candlelight Club. That is, if I can find it. After all, a Speakeasy is notoriously hard to track down.