There was a time when public spaces, bars, clubs and venues would open their doors to like-minded individuals to gather for an event, a celebration, a DJ, a band or anything really. Nights often remembered by a chance encounter with a stranger providing an experience shared, good or bad is nearly always a welcome addition to any night’s self-indulgence. We’re sociable animals and our segregation from other identities, cultures and communities only exasperates many of today’s contemporary societal problems.
But there isn’t enough time for that discussion, so on a smaller scale I argue wasn’t every friend once a stranger so shouldn’t everyone else be treated as so? That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my current circle of friends company, quite the opposite, but none of them would be so without such an encounter, or maybe they still would, living through the shadow of the ‘age of Facebook’ I suppose were all technically only one click away from being ‘besties.’
With that in mind there’s a burgeoning trend that’s left barely a venue in the city that can’t provide an isolated zone for a fee or minimum drink spend. Herded willingly into some sort of perverse zoo were the animals are the ones mocking and goading those who pass by. But it wasn’t always like this, I remember when I first started going to town, admittedly to Concert Square, but we all have to start somewhere.
Yet despite all its faults, the pseudo-glamour, the long sleeve Hugo Boss t-shirts, the eye lashes, the fake tan, the animal atmosphere and masculine posturing there was neither a booth nor VIP area in site. Being a VIP at the time meant not having to share a cubicle in the toilets while you snorted a line of cocaine off your thumb.
Were we choose to socialise is part of our civic identity, the public character of a venue sets the atmosphere, the vibe, while a booth by its self-appointed status implies those fortunate to be in one are having a better time, while those on the other side of the red rope can only look on in wonder. Ironically in a working class city like Liverpool, it’s not those who are actually really wealthy that pay for booths only those who aspire to the status it assumes, and spend a week’s wage for the ‘privilege.’
As a fashion statement it cannot just be accredited to market forces or surely in the current climate there would hardly be a full booth in the city? How much blame shows such as TOWIE, Made In Chelsea and the unbearable Desperate Scousewives should shoulder is debateable, but there a strong correlation between their perceived success and the explosion of side parts around the city.
Does wealth buy privacy? For £600 in Circo you can have a large VIP booth, starting at £160 for a small non-VIP booth, whereas over at Kingdom, there’s no prices on the website but rest assured their security team will keep your red roped area safe for the night while every bottle bought comes with their ‘trademark’ sparklers. While I expect it from those clubs mentioned situated amongst the more glamorous areas of the city’s nightlife, its student venues like Bumper and Aloha that have been sucked in by the financial windfall this stratified floor arrangement provides, that is most annoying.
Class mixing in public spaces and events has been fragmenting for decades, unfortunately we have now reached a situation where the divide of the working classes is well underway, both socially and politically. The emergence of booths are only one example of a culture that is both juxtaposed with its reality and uncomfortable with its own identity.
By Stephen Delahunty