Every few weeks a bar in Kemptown fills with people going to The Catalyst Club – a night of conversation, debate and drinks. The format is simple: three speakers are each given the opportunity to speak passionately about a topic for 15 minutes. It’s a sort-of cross between TEDx and the salons of the French revolution. But that doesn’t really do justice to the oddities that tend to arise on a platform of this kind in Brighton.
The first time I went was last year, and I had no idea what to expect. I dragged along a few friends, we found the place, got our wrists stamped and were told to go downstairs. The venue is ideal – a beautiful building with a cosy basement in which the event takes place, filled with round tables and plenty of red wine. I love that nobody knows what the three speakers of the evening will talk about, adding an element of curiosity. Some speakers are brilliantly comical, while others are more serious – but the range of topics is wildly eclectic.
The catalyst club lets you peep at a unique sort of bookish eccentricity; I’ve witnessed catalyst talks on Nazi UFOs, Seinfeld and an account on how it is to live by old Yoga texts to the letter (not worth it). Others topics have included: bees; emergence theory; anarchist cooking; cunnillingus; James Joyce; the exciting world of slime mould and the dawn of civilisation. The club has also heard a talk from Brighton’s oldest prostitute. Catalyst has also played host to a number of musicians, authors and poets, including Faithless guitarist Dave Randall and Bunny Suicides creator Andy Riley.
The open-platform is a strength and weakness – naturally some talks are more entertaining than others, though it’s rare that I find myself looking at my watch.
The evening is always superbly put together by the lively and entertaining host: Dr. Bramwell, who holds the talks together with witty commentary and anecdotes. As of this month, this long-running talking shop has started to be recorded, for the purposes of Dr Bramwell’s latest project, the Odditorium podcast.
The Catalyst is something you should come to at least once while you live in Brighton, not least to meet some of the interesting regulars.
The Catalyst Club is held at Latest Music Bar, and is £6, which is “still less than the price of an organic lettuce at Infinity Foods”.