Cleikum Club

In 2011, Carol Wright of Stravaigin and Neil Butler of UZ Arts launched a new dining/debating club to debate the issues of the day in convivial surroundings with presentations drawn from the arts and sciences, from every walk of life. It will celebrate inspiring thought, good food and good drink.

The original Cleikum Club was created by Sir Walter Scott over 200 years ago housed in the Cleikum Inn of Peebles, with its formidable host Meg Dodds. Carol and Neil had decided to resurrect the club to showcase the nation’s past, present and future through the medium of good food, good food and good conversation. Wanting radicals, revolutionaries and reformers but from every walk of life the idea was to explode myths and controversies and dispose of stereotypes.

4th October 2011

The first debate covered the topic of “What is Glasgow?” presented by born again Glaswegian Neil Butler.

The evening featured Herald Columnist and general dosser Tom Shields discussing “Glasgow’s use of Language” as well as Johnny’s Garden publican and guerrilla bee keeper Michael Smith’s, musings about “Bees tasting Glasgow”. Pete Irvine, fete accompli and tour guide, asked “Is Glasgow still Miles Better?” and “wee blond burd wae big baws,” Marion Samson (Fiesco Financial Services) shared her thoughts on being a “wee blond burd wae big baws”.

The Museum of Cleikum was inaugurated with the first absolutely genuine artefact, “The Horn of Cleikum”.

3rd December 2011

“The Future of Risk”. The risk of debate was thoroughly assessed and no major incidents occurred in the making of this month’s Cleikum Club. Full to the brim, excellent and wise thoughts fluttered through Stravaigin on the 1st of December like the veritable and delicious pheasant on the menu. Robin Hoyle, Director of Science at the Glasgow Science Centre, applied the science of risk to his argument identifying that various world issues like the mining of titanium in the Congolese jungle as well as other political, social and economic factors around the globe. Graeme Jackson was next presenting each member of the expectant crowd with a simple egg in an egg cup with the strict instructions ‘DO NOT TOUCH THE EGG’.  After this strict instruction has been repeated several times – it was revealed that the egg in front of each person may or may not be an ordinary egg and so everyone would be taking part in this experiment of risk. Disaster averted, next entered performer Angie Dight completely encased in white, elasticised fabric. Writhing and contorting across the floor to a haunting soundtrack of heavy breathing, the white sheet came close to knocking over many wine glasses on nearby tables as it was a very tight space. Bob Hannah was the fourth and final speaker. The crowd were getting rowdy now but compere Neil Butler intervened to introduce Bob pointing out it is always risky to be the final speaker of the evening. Undeterred, Bob began his debate by explaining the ridiculous prospect of someone from the insurance business coming to talk to a group about the future of risk as – it’s the same as it’s always been! 

1st March 2012 – What is Scots?

The Cleikum Club reconvened once again for its first meeting of 2012. With the most politically charged subject to date – not least because of its prevalence in current news and affairs – ‘What is Scots?’.

Neil Butler opens the meeting with a sacrificial deep-fried mars bar and the question for diners to ponder about what makes someone or something Scottish? First to present their offering of what exactly is Scots was Alistair Ogilvy, traditional Scottish singer with a penchant for the darkness found in Scottish folk songs. ‘Cruel Mother’ was introduced as a ballad of infanticide and to Alistair, Scots is about sex, death and murder without even a hint of tartan or shortbread. Keith Bruce, the Arts Editor of The Herald Newspaper, brought his take on Scots by saying that art companies in Scotland, by in large, should be small, mobile and highly intelligent units which brought us full circle to Mr Bruce’s opening question; ‘How big is my Scottish art?’ being cannily rephrased in his closing words to ‘Does my art look big in this country?’ Diane Torr explored the risqué subject of the more exiled pieces of the great Robert Burns’ work. Born in Aberdeen, Torr moved to New York in 1976. ‘What does it mean to be Scottish?’, and in particular, ‘what does it mean to be a Scottish woman?’ crossed her mind several times over the years. In 1986, combined with a hen night, Torr hosted her first Burns Supper with fifty other women gathered in a studio apartment on East 9th Street and re-created their own brand of the traditional shindig. Author Alan Bissett then recited ‘Vote Britain’, his ‘contribution to the debate on Scottish independence’. A barrage of words and terms so synonymously linked to the tenuous struggle for and against independence for this small country almost perfectly rounded up the views and opinions of all the previous performers of the evening. The line;

“That’s why we send you over the top with your och-aye-the-noo Mactivish there’s been a murrrderrr jings! crivvens! Deepfriedfuckinmarsbar wee wee dram of whisky hoots mon there’s a moose loose aboot this smackaddict”

resonated throughout the room as the sacrifice of the deep-fried Mars bar in the opening introductory words was recalled– us Scots are nothing but self deprecating and the irony tickles everyone in the room.

3rd May 2012 – What is Radical?

The May meeting met with the radical contingent of Glasgow. Carol Wright is introduced as our free-radical hostess for the evening – as Neil points out – ever the non-conformist, Carol certainly embodies the resistance to acquiescence so abundant in free-radical thinking! Karen Lawson took to the stand as the Curator of Dangerous Ideas. She introduced the festival of the same name that took place across Scotland in mid June as a commemoration of how to change the way we see and think about education. Donny O’Rourke then talked about the radical concept of love and not just in the conventional sense and performer Ian Smith offered another way of perceiving the subject merely as radical cookery; much like the type the group experienced that evening from the chefs at Stravaigin with the mention cannibalism. We are assured that no humans were harmed in the making of the meals that night. Singer-songwriter Alistair Ogilvy also gave us a performance singing some radical songs from Rabbie Burns.

4th Oct 2012 – Sex

After a short sabbatical, the Club returned with a trident of meetings covering Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll taking place in October and December 2012 and February 2013 respectively. The Cleikum Club saw over 150 members attending between October and February with this meeting witnessing the largest audience to date with the basement restaurant of Stravaigin heaving at over 55 members in attendance. The traditional introduction from our Master of Ceremonies Neil Butler saw him introduce Ian Drury’s mantra, discuss the changing perception of what was once considered radical and now thought of as banal and provide a brand new artefact for the Museum of Cleikum. The Wynd of Cleikum, apparently, contained a massive fart and would be the mascot of the subsequent meetings. After the first course of oysters is consumed, Dr Kevin O’Dell took the floor to explore the world of drosophila melanogaster; the humble fruit fly, explaining its promiscuity and extraordinarily large sperm. Next up was Lindsay Thomson Lecturer in medieval history at the University of Glasgow addressing the concept of controlling sex and ideas of sex from Rome, explaining that Aristotle had a theory that a woman’s body was basically a man’s body that hadn’t heated up to the right temperature.

6th Dec 2012 – Drugs

The Cleikum Club returned in early December with the second instalment in Ian Dury’s trilogy. Former speaker Ian Smith was the compere for the evening and he kicked off by drawing the packed room’s attention to the auspicious artefacts in front of everyone. Each person had a chilled bottle of hemp beer in front of them as well as some curious looking chocolates containing a type of acid. Both are designed to heighten the experience of the evening so all were encouraged to consume them to start the evening with a bang; add to this the first course of ‘Magic’ mushroom veloute and the audience seemed suitably addled to welcome the first speaker. Lindsay Hogg works for a charity called Sense about Science which has started the ‘Ask for Evidence’ campaign that aims to help people make sense of the policy of drugs and pushes for an evidence based approach to drugs procedure. Lindsay stated that over half of the people consulted in a survey thought that current drug policies were ineffective as they focus on drug abuse purely as a crime issue without analysing other factors. Lindsay’s point overall is that more money needs to be spent in the evaluation of policies so they work best for all involved. The evening’s next speaker was David Graham Scott, a documentary film maker, ex-heroin addict and proponent of the use of ibogaine in the treatment of drug addicts. He told us how, in 2003, he turned his life around and chose a strange but effective method of detoxing after being a heroin then methadone addict for a number of years. Scott’s story was the subject of a BBC documentary called Detox or Die is still available to view online. It received critical acclaim and showed a sometimes distressing yet highly personal journey with an ultimately positive outcome. Professor Judith Pratt of the University of Strathclyde took to the stage next to address the audience on how drugs affected the music and lyrics of the Beatles. Judy began by giving the audience a crash course on how drugs affect the brain. The brain contains reward pathways that are arranged in regions in the brain and work together. Judy’s closing statements reconfirmed just how influential drugs were over the music produced by the Beatles among other factors. It is fair to say that these creative masterpieces wouldn’t have happened without them so, in this case, you can’t deny that the drugs worked! The evening closed with another drug-fuelled masterpiece from singer and musician Alistair Ogilvy and his accompanist Jeana. Even with the somewhat dour subject of alcohol and domestic abuse, the troops are successfully rallied in to joining in the rapturous chorus of ‘Mickey’s Warning’.

7th Feb 2013 – Rock ‘n’ Roll

The third and final installment of the epic trilogy endeavouring to answer all of life’s questions posed to us by Ian Dury saw it’s culmination in rock ‘n’ roll in the first meeting of 2013. Neil Butler returned as host for the night and got off to a great start by brandishing the axe of Cleikum in a way Jimi Hendrix could only attempt to replicate. He took us on his own personal rock ‘n’ roll journey through the genres. His influence from the punk era saw him start his own band in college called the ‘New Rotics’. As the new romantics took off they changed their name to ‘Extremists in an Igloo’ and moving into the more sophisticated art rock era he re branded yet again to ‘Screaming Sirens in Search of Utopia’. So on that bombshell – the first course of an Elvis Burger was served…. The first speaker of the night was introduced as Ewan Macleod – managing director of Scotland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, a really really bad drummer and all round music aficionado. His passion for music seemed only to be topped by his outrage at the British schooling system who still insists on giving children the recorder to play as a so-called stimulus for musical creativity. An exceptionally fervent introduction for the next speaker was given by Mr Butler about Hilary Westlake who was in charge of the Queen’s jubilee celebrations, performance director of Disneyland Paris and responsible for various street theatre events by Conflux. Hilary first pointed out that not all rock ‘n’ roll moments involve knobs – ‘there is always hitchhiking, jumping out of moving cars, sleeping in the streets, driving to a certain death in Mexico but surviving, the all nighters, the uppers and the downers….and where is it now?’ she exclaimed. The concept, amongst other stories, of ‘ligging’ was explained in its entirety; an essential to any rock ‘n’roll lifestyle, getting you into parties, backstage at rock concerts and lifts in limos. Last to take the stage is Al McCusker-Thompson who is a lecturer at the UWS and models himself on Marcel Duchamp who also described himself as a ‘breather’. A disclaimer was given about his foul language before he began but hey – it’s rock ‘n’ roll after all. McCusker-Thompson also informed the audience that he had had no sleep and had decided to read his speech word for word. Through blistering expletives he extolled the wit and wisdom of legendary rock ‘n’ rollers such as Iggy Pop and David Bowie and told how music represented sex and sensation; “The idea and concept of rock ‘n’ roll is meaningful and life affirming. It is righteous without being self righteous and you can dance to it, making it highly evolved.” The audience and Al all exhaled. Rock ‘n’ roll and the Ian Drury trilogy was over and what a time it had been.