The Oasis Social Club [TOSC] is part entertainment venue, part discussion space, incorporating the long British tradition of Working Men’s Clubs, infused with Davies’ warmth and humour. The club also provides an important arena for debate on more serious issues such as housing justice and diminishing social space as well as quality performance from local and national acts.
Mobile and sustainable, TOSC has been popping up in unexpected places across the UK, taking up residence in the shadow of a closed community centre in Stoke, on Platform 3 of Preston Railway Station and now to the Orchard Park estate in Hull.
The structure is a clear-walled, modular design, created in collaboration with architect Niamh O’Reilly, providing a multi-functioning space that hosts a programme of local and national artists’ work, while also acting as a canvas for Davies’ hand-painted illustrations. The clear walls create an inviting atmosphere, making it easier for local people to cross the threshold and get involved and at night, lit up from the inside, the club is a glowing beacon in the community.
Prior to The Oasis Social Club arriving in each city, Rebecca undertakes an intensive consultation period, working with local people and organisations who are integral to every phase of the project’s residence. These people form the club’s committee to create the club’s president – a character-host played by Davies, inspired by local women. In each location, the committee also creates the program of events that will take place in the space, which has included everything from aerobics to political debates and mothers’ groups. The first character-host, Mavis Davis, was based on a woman based in Hackney, a warm, welcoming woman with stories from being a barlady for 40 years. Davies’ character-hosts draw on the Mavis Davis in every community in the UK, women who are funny and instrumental in bringing people together but command a strong presence and are not to be messed with.
Working with policy makers, council members, local organisations and a range of individuals, Davies brings together a range of different voices who might not usually meet. Philosopher and collaborator on the project Ayisha De Lanerolle explains: “In Stoke, the structure was set up on Portland Street, an area where the corner shop, the pub and the community hall had all been shut down. The structure, being such a vibrant, welcoming spectacle, drew in big crowds and lively discussions about the importance of having a communal space in the area. That energy was already there, it just needed a space to activate it.”
Since working in Stoke, Davies and residents of Portland Street have been in talks with Stoke City Council about finding a permanent site to run as community hub and co-operative. Negotiations continue with the council but what is clear is that by finding new ways of bringing people in a space with creativity at its core, TOSC is making an impact everywhere it goes.