The Dally: Islington's Upper Street to get new private members' club

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The Dally private members' club will open in mid-April at 181 Upper Street, Islington. We meet the partnership behind the plan.

An idea born of meetings at the school gates will see a new private members’ club open in Islington.

The Dally will launch in mid-April at 181 Upper Street, which has been home to venues including Medicine Bar, the Hare and Hounds, House of Wolf, Albert and Pearl, Dead Dolls House, Upper House, House of Wolf and, most recently, Jacks.

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Behind the new club are Islington locals Caroline Baldwin and Claire Ilardi-Crow, who met as parents with children at Dallington School in Clerkenwell (“known as The Dally”).

The aim of the club, they say, is to create a community space for Islington, inspired in part by changes to social habits during the pandemic.

Work is under way at the premises and the pair said they are sensing a buzz from passers-by about the building coming back into use with a new venture.

Caroline told LondonWorld: "We really do want to make the club all about Islington. So, where possible, we're going to try to use Islington suppliers. We're going to showcase Islington suppliers on our drinks menu or our food menu, for example. It's gonna be all about connecting people, in whatever way that is."

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Claire Ilardi-Crow and Caroline Baldwin are opening The Dally private members' club at 181 Upper Street, Islington. Claire Ilardi-Crow and Caroline Baldwin are opening The Dally private members' club at 181 Upper Street, Islington.
Claire Ilardi-Crow and Caroline Baldwin are opening The Dally private members' club at 181 Upper Street, Islington. | André Langlois/The Dally

Inside The Dally

The team has plans to make full use of the three-storey townhouse, with designs by Busby Webb.

Claire said: "Coming in through the ground floor you have the living room. It's a big, relaxed space, lots of really lovely rich velvets. There are lighter bites so a bit of a club menu. During the day you can hang out, come in for tea and breakfast, a 'little bit of laptop time' - as we call it. We're not a workspace and it's very much 'do what you need to do', but we were all about seeing your face and being sociable really.

"Come five or six o'clock, and lights go down, our main bar is on that floor as well. We also have events in that space, and we're getting a piano for live music.

"And then on the first floor we have an intimate restaurant at the front for around 30 covers, the menu very seasonal. We try to use local wherever we can. There is a little cocktail bar to the back of that as well.

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Designs for the drawing room at The Dally. Designs for the drawing room at The Dally.
Designs for the drawing room at The Dally. | The Dally

"And then upstairs, we've got the big vaulted loft and there will be members’ events up there. It can be hired privately as well and we have another bar up there.

"So we've got three lovely floors, just lots of space for members to get a change or scene, explore and do different things."

Events planned range from comedy and live music nights to writing workshops and groups around wellness, running at Highbury Fields, dogs and the arts.

Caroline said: "We're all ears ao anything that people are particularly interested in, we can make it happen. I think one of the joys about being an independent club is that we really will be very close to our members and we can make things pivot. If they really want something then we will try our hardest to do it."

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Designs for The Dally's cocktail bar. Designs for The Dally's cocktail bar.
Designs for The Dally's cocktail bar. | The Dally

Why a private members’ club?

While Claire has worked extensively in the members’ club industry, Caroline’s working life was for a long while in shipping and logistics, based in Ghana and South Africa

But returning to Islington, Caroline began studying for an (Master of Business Administration) and the pair started discussing the idea of a members’ club.

Caroline said: "Following the pandemic, everyone was still working from home, and it was all about, well, how do people socialise now? They don't have a workplace to go to, they're not going into central London anymore, they're very much staying in their local areas. The local high streets are now booming, all of the artisanal bakeries and the butchers and everything that very much popped up after the pandemic. 

"But socially still something was really lacking. And so we were like: Islington needs this. Islington needs a home away from home, a hub, somewhere where people can just go and connect with other people." 

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The parlour at The Dally.The parlour at The Dally.
The parlour at The Dally. | The Dally

Claire said: "We found what came up in conversation was just sharing your week with someone. It ended up being called 'Friday Club'. Every Friday a group of us would get together and it was the highs and the lows and just having a bit of connection with someone else." 

Asked why a members’ club rather than a bar/face/restaurant, Claire said: "When you are a member of something, you really do invest in it and you want to be there - and the chances of you bumping into a person you had a great conversation with are higher, rather than it being from the transient setup. So we really want people to properly be involved - it's their club.”

Caroline said: "Back in the day, towns would have a social club that everyone would go to on a Friday night, or everybody would look forward to New Year's Eve or Halloween. That idea that everyone goes to the same place, you make connections through that, and that's what we're trying to recreate - just a place for local people to have that space of their own.”

Plans will evolve based on what the members want, but the opening time is expected to begin as 9am. The venue has a 4am licence but the pair said they will “ease into things” as far as closing times go.

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How to apply for membership of The Dally

The team said the membership so far comes from a range of backgrounds, and that ages range from 22 to 81.

"We want a very inclusive club," said Claire. "So it's not that you must be creative, or that we're 'women only'. We're very much about who you are rather than what you do."

A year’s membership is priced at £630 or £66 per month in instalments, plus a £250 joining fee.

Applications can be made via an online form and are decided by a membership committee.

Claire said: "The purpose of that really is just to maintain a level of balance. We are extremely inclusive and we would like to keep that healthy balance."

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