ACCORDING to a recent survey, Edinburgh is the seventh-best place in Europe for a night out.
• The well-travelled Jonathan and Anna Freemantle have created the kind of night out they felt Edinburgh lacked. Picture: Ian Georgeson
But while stag and hen parties might flock to the capital's bars and clubs in search of cheap drink deals and bad music, locals don't always agree with the customers polled by the travel review website TripAdvisor.com
Traditionally, Edinburgh has trailed behind Glasgow when it comes to a decent night on the tiles, and when Anna and Jonathan Freemantle moved to Edinburgh three years ago, they were disappointed with what the city had to offer after dark.
She is from Amsterdam, he from Cape Town, and as a model and artist respectively they both travelled the world before arriving in Scotland. Disappointed with what they found, they decided to do something about it, and last year set up Noir! a club night that combines music, art, fashion and film. The aim was simple: to throw a party that they actually wanted to attend. As it turned out, there were plenty of like-minded folk, and what started off as a one-off event has morphed into something of an institution.
The fifth night will take place tomorrow in Hawke & Hunter, a four-storey townhouse in the New Town, and there are plans to take the night to Los Angeles, Cape Town and New York. In addition, the Freemantles are planning to launch Noir! Productions, which will produce fashion shows and shoots in addition to art exhibitions and theatre productions.
Noir! recently staged "Comrade Couture" in Glasgow as part of the Glasgow Film Festival, presenting the award-winning Berlin documentary, Comrade Couture as well as a catwalk show featuring designs by Stirling fashion designer Iona Crawford.
"Noir! came about completely by accident but grew into something bigger," explains Anna. "Initially it was a kind of selfish thing. Since Jonathan's an artist, we created it as a vehicle to make an exhibition a bit more interesting. It can be hard to get people to come to an exhibition, after all.
"When we first moved here we went out a lot and we were quite disappointed. Edinburgh is such a beautiful city and the venues are fantastic, but people don't seem to maximise what they could get out of it. Since setting up Noir! we've had amazing feedback and after the first one, people were saying, 'My God, finally. At last, you're doing this'."
"Noir! loosely bases itself on Andy Warhol's Factory, particularly in the sense that projects are often shown as works in progress," says Jonathan. "I want it to be like having a party in an artist's studio, like being in the cutting room with a filmmaker, where all the excitement of the creative process is still fresh."
The upcoming event will feature a suitably eclectic selection of art, fashion, film and music. Highlights include a catwalk show of work by James Faulkner, 27, who describes himself as "the Susan Boyle of millinery" thanks to the way in which his work has caused something of an international media storm over the last few months. Why the storm? Faulkner constructs his hats using roadkill found on the highways and byways of Scotland.
He made his first hat just 12 months ago, when a friend was looking for a topper to wear to a wedding, to match a monochrome outfit. Inspired by catching sight of a dead magpie by the side of the road, he incorporated it into his design. In just a year he has enjoyed huge success, thanks in part to backing from Noir! On Friday he'll be showing more than 30 creations in his first catwalk show.
"Noir! are ambassadors for creativity," he says. "Before them, I don't think that there was much of a platform for people like me in Edinburgh. I don't know where I'd be without their support.
"Noir! really is like one of Andy Warhol's Factory parties. A whole spectrum come along and you have a great time and meet so many amazing creative people. It's great for networking but it doesn't feel like work."
Faulkner's work will be teamed on the catwalk with pieces by luxury cashmere specialist Belinda Robertson, whose classic designs you might think would not sit easily with something as edgy as Noir! But the event embraces creativity of every kind, and the contrast between such striking headgear and classic cashmere is sure to create an impact.
"We felt that Noir! and Belinda Robertson have a lot of synergy and the direction that the Noir! brand is taking, and the energy the events have, is very much in keeping with our brand," says Belinda Dickson of Belinda Robertson. "We are delighted to be associated with something with so much energy and with such vision – and beautiful too. We will be showcasing all our collections – not just cashmere, but our fab jersey wear too."
Taking place at The Green Room, which opened in August last year within Hawke & Hunter, Friday's event will also feature live music from new two-piece Top Hat and an acoustic set by The Little Kicks Unplugged. Glasgow DJ Craig Moogroove of Solardisco will be on the decks and guests can watch a new video installation by Rachel Maclean and a "macabre puppetry show".
Not bad for a city that is often criticised for its less than impressive live music scene, and tendency to cater to the dreaded stag and hen parties. Noir! it seems, is the new black.
• Noir! takes place tomorrow at Hawke & Hunter's Green Room. Doors open at 7:30pm and tickets cost 15, including entry to the after party at Below Stairs. For the guest list, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for the guest list and visit http://noirathawkeandhunter.eventbrite.com for tickets.
Clubs: Best of the rest
Vegas! at the Voodoo Rooms
Once voted the best club night in Scotland, Vegas! commands glamour like no other. A swing night featuring the likes of Frankie Sumatra, Bugsy Seagull, Dino Martini and the Vegas Showgirls, the dress code is over the top and fabulous, with discounts on the door for those who dress to impress. www.vegasscotland.co.uk
Modern Lovers at the GRV
Taking place on the last Friday of every month, Modern Lovers is one of Edinburgh's oldest club nights, and has been hanging around the capital for a decade, with its blend of soul, funk, reggae and rock 'n' roll. Promoter Craig Jamieson welcomes guest DJs from bands including the Kaiser Chiefs, Portishead and Teenage Fanclub. www.modernlovers.co.uk
It's Funtime at the Bongo Club
If you're a whizz at the pub quiz and can't get enough of retro game shows then this is the night for you. It recently celebrated its first birthday, and remains seriously popular. Pub quiz-style teams compete in rounds including Tower of Strength, Make & Do and Filleted Film before the winners gain access to the Pond of Prizes. www.its-funtime.com