My visit to Duckie’s POSH club, Crawley – 8 / 3 / 22

I was met and welcomed at the door by Annie, POSH Club’s fabulous co-founder and our host for the afternoon in Crawley. Coats were hung on a rail in the corner, walking frames stowed neatly underneath. Arriving 10 minutes before noon, I could see the afternoon was already in full swing.

Annie showed me to my seat where I met Chris, Jennifer and her husband Jim who made me feel very welcome. My three companions for the afternoon had arrived together and were on their third and forth visits to POSH club. They were telling me how much they enjoy it and the events are so popular that people need to book. There is a rotation system in place, 1 week in, 1 week out.

Many tables at POSH club are group bookings but POSH club is also an event that welcomes people who come alone, putting solo visitors with other solo visitors. I later met a lovely lady (who was originally from Sheffield) who had met her new partner at POSH club and she told me they weren’t the only ones. POSH club enables you to make friends, feel part of a community and even find romance.

You are well looked after at POSH club. On arrival there is a three tier stand of scones and cakes for each group, followed swiftly by a plate of triangle sandwiches and tea and coffee is brought round with frequent top ups. Each table has a white linen table cloth and vintage lamp in its center and all are arranged facing the stage, enabling every chair to angle and get a good view of the afternoon’s entertainment. The stage, complete with fringe curtaining and vintage lights, is the property of POSH club and is assembled and put away before and after every event.

After we’d eaten our sandwiches and scones, maraca shakers were brought round. I didn’t know what these were for but I was excited. Chris said “you’ll see in a minute” so I followed her lead, shaking my maraca as our host Annie led the rest of the staff (90% volunteers) in a conga line through the audience and onto the stage.

The afternoon of entertainment began.

First up, a violinist playing two James Bonds classics. The thing you need to visualise whilst reading this is that everyone at POSH club is dressed to impress. All the staff are in suits, bow ties, black dresses, white pinny aprons, hair rolled up, red lipstick. Annie wears a fascinator. The musician is the same – a black dress with silver sparkling headband and necklace. Jim on my table is in a suit and tie, Chris in a long sleeved sparkly top (with a thermal vest on underneath she informs me) and Jennifer with a royal blue top and blue and silver sparkly flower necklace. Suffice to say we all look dam good. We all look posh good.

The James Bond music goes down well, one woman on the table next to ours calling for quiet as the chatter of afternoon tea subsided.

The afternoon is well paced. After each act, we have time to chat, have more tea and enjoy a raffle. Prizes range from a book on the Sopranos TV series to an omelette maker (this was the crown jewel prize). Chris won a pot of lavender body scrub with accompanying bath sponge and Jim won a pair of moisturising gloves. All prizes were gift wrapped so it was exciting not knowing what people had won.

Just before the raffle, a glass of fizz, orange juice or a mix of both is poured for everyone. As I sipped from my champagne flute I smelt New Year’s Eve and really felt like I was on a wonderful evening out. When actually it’s two in the afternoon on a Tuesday in a community centre in Crawley. Not to play it down, but this is the magic. Everyone is transported. I feel it too. They tell me so during the afternoon – 

“This is great. We’d be sat at home staring at the four walls if it wasn’t for this”

Up second on stage is Sweet Shop Revolution and the ‘Delinquent Darlings’ with new work ‘happy endings’. POSH club doesn’t shy away from edgy, weird, arty. They offer entertainment and art, when the two are the same and also polar opposites of the Entertainment-Art spectrum. Good thing the audience know this and so does choreographer Sally Marie. The performance received mixed reviews from the audience. One big grumble was that they started the performance off stage at the back of the audience area and many of the audience couldn’t see. Sight line issues among other feedback were a few of the comments I could hear around me. Perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea and I was told later by a few people it was a bit more weird than usual but then, everyone was talking about it. Everyone was watching it. All were engaged and thought provoked.

I find that performance work created for the older generation can become frilly and soft. Older people often fall into a category of needing everything softened, toned down and tame. An afternoon of hand holding swaying along to Doris’s ‘que sera sera’ and slipper marching to ‘it’s a long way to tipperary’. Don’t get me wrong this is a totally validated choice and an enormous amount of joy in this (and I speak from first hand experience of creating and delivering arts projects with older adults and adults living with dementia which is why my examples are so specific)…

But really why not invite a naked ballet dancer to a POSH club? Book a Drag Queen to work the room?

The final performance was choreographed by Joseph Mercier and performed by seven third year students from the Northern School Of Contemporary Dance. The room was ready for a finale. After the POSH clubbers singing and dancing to the DJ classics like “Sweet Caroline”  the energy of the room was geared up. The piece had fun music, great outfits and brilliant dancing. A high leg kick and a couple of back flips got some oooo’s and rrrr’s from the audience and everyone wished the young people well. Annie asked a few questions of the dancers after their piece: what would they like to do when they finish dance school? “Perform at posh club again!” That got a cheer. Others said “to work out how to be a freelancer and make money”. 10 years since graduating and I’m still working that out but thank you Arts Council for this grant so I can experience events like POSH Club and develop my creative practice. 

So, my research: to be inspired and learn from the work already happening in the UK that is created by, for and with older adults and how I can apply this learning to my local context in Sheffield. A visit to POSH club and hearing from the people who benefit from these events was at the top of my list. During the afternoon Annie announced on one of her compere sets that I was there and would love to chat to people. Once I was introduced and people had smiled and waved at me I felt like I could travel the room a bit more. I was enjoying the comfort of my table chatter with Chris, Jen and Jim. We were bonded now but with a room hosting around 100 POSH club goers I was eager to hear from as many people as possible:

“It’s so great”

“We love it”

“We make friends”

“It’s a safe place where I can bring my husband with alzheimers. He enjoys it and so do I. My other friend used to bring her husband who had alzhiners too”

“We met here three and a half years ago. We were on the same table and got talking. He said he liked walking and I said me too…”

“…I invited her out for a walk and then the next time out for dinner and that’s how it began. It’s been 3 years now”

“POSH club is great. We normally have singers. Those dancers were brilliant” 

“We hope we get the funding so we can have more POSH club in the winter”

“You should apply to that lottery and set something up like this in Sheffield!”

“This is great. We’d be sat at home staring at the four walls if it wasn’t for this”

“Everyone needs it”


Thank you Annie, Simon and all the POSH club for having me and thank you Arts Council England for making this visit possible.