Feb 4, 2013

Speakeasies and Duvet Fights: Welcome to the Trinity Literary Society

Shona McGarry | Societies Editor


When you think of the Literary Society you may not think of Bob Dylan, cats, or sean nos, but they’re just some of the things that you might hear about at any given Speakeasy. And if you thought that you had to win a table quiz to get a prize, think again: at Lit Soc you’ll get a trophy for having the skill to come spectacularly last (trust me, I’ve been there). If you just want to stick around for the literature, then you can pop into the writing and poetry classes, and if you’re more into the social end of things, there are cinema and theatre trips to keep you happy. Either way, behind the door of that cosy room at the top of House Six (affectionately nicknamed ‘The Attic’) you’ll find a whole lot more than just bookworms lounging about drinking the (free) tea and coffee. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good bookworm, but you get my drift. To find out more about this increasingly popular society, I talked to secretary Sarah Dunne and PRO Mark O’Donnell about events, getting involved, and keeping tabs on their pesky, ever-growing membership.

My first stop, however, was a Speakeasy. Every three weeks this free lucky-bag event offers a few hours of anything from slam poetry to sean nos and special guests. “We try to have a rotation every three weeks,” explains Mark. “Speakeasies would be the flagship event, so they’d be the ones we want to push for and budget the most for.” What’s behind their consistent success? It could be the relaxed atmosphere – you can come “for an hour, half an hour, then leave,” says Sarah, or the eclectic nature of the event. When I went along, there was a killer reading of Swinburne, the comedy stylings of poet-and-surrealist Shane Langan, with his bulging notebook of gags, and some original work by members of the society. But, before you even step into the curious world of the Speakeasy, you should take a look at their book-lined room at the top of House Six.

The Attic is home to duvets, sofas, and seemingly endless bookshelves stacked with everything from The Killing Joke graphic novel to classic college reads like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Sarah fills me in: “our library is open during coffee hours, so people are free to come in, browse, and borrow as many books as they like with no late fees,” she says. That’s right: “you can take it for the semester if you want, just as long as you return it by the end of the year.” Who needs Hodges Figgis when this kind of service is just a staircase away? Coffee hours are from 12-3 every day, and the committee have a unique way of making newcomers feel at home. While Sarah tells me that “there are regulars,” in the room, “if you’re a new person it’s no problem, we have two committee members on coffee hours every day so someone will always talk to you.” That means that if none of your friends are keen on a literary afternoon (spoilsports), it doesn’t matter – you’re bound to make a new friend or two up there. “Everyone’s pretty welcoming,” says Sarah. “Although there is competition over the duvet.” Well, I think we can handle that.

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There’s competition over most things involving the Literary Society this year, though. “This year we have way more members,” says Mark. “I’m still scared by it, and I think that we can’t actually cope with that many members,” he continues. “But we’re doing well so far.” They certainly are. With membership currently in the mid-500s, they must be doing something right. “The room is getting pretty full,” he says, as are the writing classes – they have even had to create another book club due to the overwhelming interest at the start of the year. “We’ve had a lot of demand for our classes this year, which we weren’t expecting,” Sarah tells me. Additionally, for the first time ever there are going to be two issues of the literary magazine The Attic, to cope with the number of submissions they received for the last one. Life in Lit Soc sure is busy.

Still not convinced by this group of lit boffins? Well, they’re not actually all literary types, funnily enough. “Honestly,” admits Mark. “I’d probably be the least interested person [in literature] in the whole society. I’ve been trying to read Wuthering Heights for about a year now. It’s an awful book.” So, what was the attraction of a literary society for such a un-literary-minded chap? “I saw the stand in Freshers week and I thought, sure I’ll join that. And during the week I decided to go up to the room one of the days and everyone was just really nice.” So, why should you join if literature’s not the very first thing on your mind? “From a purely objective point of view, there’s free tea and coffee. And biscuits. The people are nice, too, as I’ve said about 60 billion times,” he says. Well, it is important, Mark! They’re not afraid of experimentation, either, and while the traditional creative writing classes and book clubs are an integral part of their society, they are eager to “give new things to our members,” says Sarah. “We’re doing cinema trips – people like going to a film and discussing it,” she says. “We’re trying to expand.”

As if all of that wasn’t enough, they also have quizzes, bake sales, a trip away (this year they’re embarking to Edinburgh during Reading Week), a blog about their literary adventures in the Attic, and even had a radio show last year. The only question is – is there anything they can’t do? Mark worries that “being called the Trinity Literary Society is incredibly pretentious”, but explains that “it’s just a society of people with similar interests and it’s not really pretentious or cliquey. It’s just…” he searches for a word. “Nice.” And what more could you want from your resident Literary Society?

The Attic is open from 12-3 every day. Pop up for some tea, coffee and biscuits sometime. You might just find a book you like. Or head to a Speakeasy, a film, or a table quiz. Check out www.trinityliterarysociety.com for more information, or look for the Lit Soc on Facebook.

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