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Brighton Fringe 2011

The Catalyst Club ‘Exotica’


Genre: Storytelling


Playgroup Pop-Up Venue (previously Hector's House) The Old Steine, Brighton


Low Down

A unique event with a Fortean theme that takes place in Brighton and London.   This year’s Catalyst specials for the Fringe are around the loose banner of ’Exotica’, spread over 5 evenings with each night presenting different speakers.



The Catalyst Club (established 8 years ago and still going strong) is a unique event that takes place in Brighton and London. Originally devised by founder Dr. David Bramwell as a direct antithesis to programmes like Room 101, three speakers appear for 15 minutes each to talk about their passions, followed by an audience Q&A session. Usually the topics remain a secret until the night, but this year’s Catalyst specials for the Fringe feature named speakers and are grouped around the loose banner of ’Exotica’, spread over 5 evenings and following a slightly different structure, with each night themed and with fewer speakers, allowing for more in-depth presentations.
Slightly hampered by last minute venue changes, the first evening was loosely based around graphic novels—Sex, Death, Hell & Superheroes – and ended up being housed at Bramwell’s house, which gave the event the very appropriate  air of a Victorian salon. The first speaker was Hayley Campbell (daughter of graphic novelist, Eddie, who drew ‘From Hell’). Her amusing and personal look at her father’s work—and how it influenced her down a dark path of gothic horror comics—was dryly witty and a fascinating insight into the effects of the creative process on loved ones. Campbell was followed by Tim Pilcher looking at how superheroes and sex have been curious bedfellows since the 1940s. After a shaky start, due to technical difficulties, Pilcher’s examination of everything from Superman’s spanking fetishes to superhero "porn parodies" illuminated and intrigued a crowd curious for more.
 The next event, six days later, entitled ‘Spirit Broadcasts & Ghost Trains’, saw the Catalyst locate to it’s temporary festival home at the PlayGroup’s newly acquired Pop-Up Venue (formerly Hector’s House pub). Whilst temporarily and uncomfortably  squeezed in to the corner of the revamped venue, the event was suitably spookily lit and achieved an appropriate atmosphere for Colin Uttley to recount fascinating tales of Victorian ghost stories, phantasmagoria, train disasters and highly combustible fairground attractions illustrated with black and white slides. He was followed by Sarah Angliss, who gave a talk combining a great mix of Science and Art featuring  spiritualism, ‘spirit radio’ and the ‘technology geeks’, the subculture attracted in the late 1800s and early 20th Century, in a celebration of ‘analogue natives’. Unfortunately, her talk was somewhat truncated by a band setting up and we didn’t get to hear some of the promised EVP (Electronic Voice Projection) recordings of the dead. However, Angliss expertly rounded off the evening with a brief performance on her Theremin, accompanied by a sinister ventriloquist’s dummy’s head, animated and singing along. A most disconcerting end to an altogether haunting evening.
The third evening began like the first, with another daughter talking about her dead father – Daisy Campbell, daughter of the actors Ken Campbell and Julie Walters. Ken was an idol of Bramwell’s, an admirer of Charles Fort (who inspired the Fortean Times) and very much in keeping with the spirit of Catalyst Club. Daisy delivered a poignant tribute to her dad, very special, different and moving, with personal insights, hilarious vignettes and exerpts from Ken’s version of Macbeth performed in Pidgin English and expertly acted.   This was followed by an interview with Ken Campbell’s biographer, who gave further insights into the life and work of the great man.
There are two further nights of the Exotica Catalyst Club: On Thursday 19th May 7.30pm Bramwell performs his successful one-man show THE N09 BUS TO UTOPIA (see previous piece) and on Tuesday 24th May at 7.30pm Jamie McCartney, Kathleen Kotcher and Matthew de Abaitua will discuss FREAKS, VAGINAS AND THE ART OF CAMPING, though not necessarily in that order.
The regular Catalyst Club takes place on the 2nd Thursday every month, downstairs at the Latest 7 bar in Brighton.

What is great about the Catalyst is that it is a platform for genuine enthusiasts. It is a unique experience, different every night, skilfully curated by Bramwell and genuine in its intent and mission. The audience leaves the evening with a sense of joy, community and a deeper understanding of what makes other people tick.