The Cross Club – independent culture centre with a twist
In this week’s Spotlight we take you to an independent culture centre decorated with an abstract array of industrial machine part artistry.
I’m now going to talk to one of the people behind the Cross Club, which describes itself as an independent culture centre responsible for promoting independent music and various forms of independent art.
“Hello and vítejte!”
Could you describe to me something about this outside structure here?
“Everything that is here in the club was built gradually. The whole thing began with no capital and us having no experience – we’ve been here roughly ten years now – and in the beginning we just rented part of the basement. František Chmelík, who is the creator of all of these structures here and the interiors inside too, used to have a printing business here and then friends started to gather in one of the spaces in the building and it grew from there. We envisaged the place as being an alternative centre for alternative culture and we always tried to make it affordable and accessible to ordinary people. But we started really with nothing and somehow a meeting place for friends grew into this club.”
“He’s actually a fully-trained electrician, who used to make a living fixing printers. And then he found his calling here in the field of design, finding his creative spirit, and he developed alongside the club, just as we all did. Of course, Chmelík leaves behind a truly unique mark with the design work he has done here.”
Our discovery of the interior of this multi-storey building begins in the basement, which is equally full of metallic, industrial designs, with machine parts, variously lit with coloured gels – greens and oranges. We’re now walking past a bar area and there’s also a stage. Is that for live music?
“This stage is for DJs. Smaller concerts also take place here; for example, an acoustic set-up of two performers with a guitar or electric music with live performances. And in this place is where it really all began with a few friends really just getting together for drinks for want of a better description.”
“When we started here it looked entirely different and reconstruction work was very gradual. Because we didn’t have any money, our designs would come from waste materials, so a lot of the things here are from the scrapheap or from disassembled computers or from printers – as we had access to them – so most of the décor is from recycled materials.”
So it’s basically junk. You’ve taken junk and you’ve turned it into art. Is that right?
“Yeah, you could say that. In the past it tended to be individual sculptures in various places; today, when we undertake reconstruction efforts, we try to have some kind of plan to work from so we know what we want and we now tend to collect more of the materials in advance and we even have some money to invest in the whole effort so it’s a much better process than it used to be.”
Wow! I’m now in complete darkness waiting for a light to come on. The fuse box is being turned on. [Whirring and hissing sounds]. That’s the sound of yet more machinery. A sort of spinning mechanical structure that’s full of whirling green and blue lights. And we’re in a room that’s a dance floor and it feels like something out of Ridley Scott’s 'Alien'. Tell me about this room…
“Here is the main stage and most concerts take place here; this is where our headliners perform.”
“This was the last floor to open to the public. We tried to create an atmosphere here evoking natural materials: wood and ceramics. We have a kitchen here, so this place functions as a restaurant also selling quality coffee, tea and so in. It’s ideal for a sit down and a chat during the day.”
Do you call this a kind of “chill-out” area?
This is indeed a standard restaurant here and there’s another separate room here. Again, the design really shows an extraordinary use of colours. We have yellows and oranges; lots of small lights that reflect against the wood.
“Those are old radios from the 1930s. And this room is also used for various screenings because we have a free cinema here every Wednesday. We also have various lectures and presentations or we have them on Sundays on the main stage.”
Tell me a bit more about that because you’re not just a dance club. You’re a cultural centre too…
“We now have the entire building leased. So apart from the main club downstairs, which is also used for various theatrical performances and so on, we also have rehearsal rooms and art studios in the floors above us. There’s even a radio studio up there somewhere. Basically, each month we try to showcase someone – a young, upcoming or interesting artist. Sometimes it is tied in with some wider thematic presentation. So, for example, if we’re focusing on the Middle East, then we have an exhibition of photographs from this region here and so on.”
It must obviously cost a lot of money to put together something like this. Do you have a lot of customers? Is it easy on the economic side to make money?
That’s the sound of someone touching wood! [Laughter]