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You might think that the last thing London needs is another private members’ club. Twenty years after Soho House first opened its doors to the town’s creatives as an alternative to the 80s establishment, the Groucho, a new ‘exclusive’ club seems to spring up every few months or so. But despite having only opened at the end of May this year, Lights of Soho, London’s newest members’ lounge and art gallery has already become something of an institution.
Distinguished by its appearances alone as more than just another exclusive London venue, by day, Lights of Soho operates as a gallery and meeting space for the district’s cultural connectors and influencers. At present the walls are ablaze with pieces from the space’s current exhibition, The Art of Burning Man, with vivid prints from photographer NK Guy bringing the vibrant art and culture of the iconic Burning Man Festival to life. Last month, on the other hand, the space had more in common with its Soho roots than the Nevada Desert and its debut exhibition, City of Lights, featured installations by artists including Tracy Emin and Chris Levine, as well as vintage neon signs from Soho days gone by.
By night however, Lights of Soho is, in the words of founder and curator Hamish Jenkinson, “the Soho House for creative types”. From 6pm it becomes a “members’ lounge”, serving cocktails and a small plates menu by Michelin Star chef Mark Hix and hosting fashion, film and music events. In the last week alone it has been the venue for a talk on veganism from So Much More, showcased musician Hannah Boleyn’s latest album and held a party to celebrate the launch of “the Art of Burning Man”.
Yet its unique selling point isn’t limited to its aesthetics or its intriguing variety of kooky events. As a private members’ club it’s a far cry from its contemporaries, who pride themselves on their social and financial exclusivity. Groucho Marx might have famously said that he refused to join any club that would have him as a member (a quote that lead to the the aforementioned Groucho Club on Dean Street being named in his honour) but at Lights of Soho, the emphasis is on inclusivity.
It is this that makes the club more accessible than other private members’ clubs and that attracts everyone, but especially creatives, to Soho’s newest social epicentre. Whether they’re eighteen or eighty, all applicants have to do to apply for membership is fill in an online application form explaining how they’re contributing to the London creative scene and send it off to be reviewed by Jenkinson and the space’s other founders, Jonny Grant and Dudley Nevill-Spencer. If they make the cut, the cost of membership, which is limited to 2,000 people, is only £150 a year and with it members can bring up to four non-member guests at any one time.
The result is a coming together of an assortment of artists, both lesser-known and well-established, in a space that pays homage to just that. And in London, a town where creatives are increasingly being turned away by the ruthless commercialism of the city, it’s clear that Lights of Soho is a much-needed breath of fresh air.
The Art of Burning Man runs from 24 July until 10 September, with further exhibitions and events to be announced.
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