It’s Friday night. For once none of the multiple clubs in Southampton are looking particularly appealing, and financial funds are low. What is a student to do in this situation? Well, my flatmates and I found ourselves in this predicament one fateful Friday night last term, and it turned out that the answer lay only a U1C bus ride away in the city centre…
Luckily, one of us had seen a poster whilst out and about the day before, advertising a candlelit acoustic night at The Art House on Above Bar Street, promoted as ‘Power Down Friday.’ It sounded like just the chilled, calming, cheap vibe we were after. It is fair to say that on entering The Art House café that evening, it certainly did not look like it was hosting a bohemian, acoustic event and was curiously empty. After a few anxious minutes of wondering if we had got the date wrong, we decided to make the best of the situation and ordered some drinks from the lone waitress at the counter. Thankfully, she seemed to notice our baffled confusion and understand why we were hanging out in a café at 7:30 on a Friday night, so directed us up a small, wooden, spiral staircase. At the top was a beautiful, cosy attic room, housing a myriad of battered sunken sofas, most of which had already been claimed by eager acoustic fans, dimly lit by tables full of flickering candles.
It truly was quite the atmosphere, and once we had all squashed up with our ciders on a wobbly table towards the back, the ambiance was only augmented by the first group to play their folksy, melodic tunes. With the soothing guitar, tranquil atmosphere, people around us casually chatting and humming along to the music, and the candle light lambent and warm, it is safe to say we were quite relaxed. Even the increase in tempo towards the end of the evening with an energetic performance of, ‘What a Wonderful Kind of Day’, the theme tune from everyone’s childhood favourite ‘Arthur,’ did little to shake us from our chilled state. Several ciders and many acoustic acts later, and we unanimously agreed that our evening of local music had provided a much needed alternative to our usual student nights.
This memorable experience prompted us the next day to conduct some research into the café and its ethos. The Art House was set up in 2008 as a not-for-profit company and since its conception has grown continuously, not only as a café, but as a place of creativity. Offering everything from art exhibitions to language groups, from writing classes to live music, it is truly a space for everyone. The fact that The Art House is run solely in the interest of the local community means that as well as offering countless opportunities to try something new whilst supporting and promoting local arts, any money you do happen to spend there goes right back into furthering the project. And, as we discovered, it is a project we can all get involved with, one way or another.
Look out for the next ‘Power Down’ evening on 11th November at The Art House.