Series

Spaces: The Reading Rooms

In December of 1910, St. Roques Library was constructed in the Blackscroft area of Dundee in a futile attempt to rehabilitate what was at the time deemed a “sordid district.” Although its creators probably would not have approved of what became of their literary haven, The Reading Rooms has since evolved into a unique, underground clubbing experience that brightens Scottish nightlife.
In December of 1910, St. Roques Library was constructed in the Blackscroft area of Dundee in a futile attempt to rehabilitate what was at the time deemed a “sordid district.” Although its creators probably would not have approved of what became of their literary haven, The Reading Rooms has since evolved into a unique, underground clubbing experience that brightens Scottish nightlife.

Today, The Rooms retains many of the same features of St. Roques Library. Its entrance leads into a Mediterranean terrace and garden enclosed by gates, an unexpectedly picturesque space that now serves as a smoking section and respite from the tunes inside. A small bar area precedes a warehouse-style room of exposed brick housing a packed dance floor. With a capacity of 350 people, The Rooms can feel a bit crowded (and sweaty) on a busy night, but to me its unwavering intimacy is what distinguishes it from other venues in Dundee.

Even more than a captivating visual history, what keeps club-goers returning to The Rooms is its connected group of music promoters. A monthly programme serving up nights like Locarno (50s and 60s-themed) and Contour (House, techno and garage accentuated by a light show), along with a 3:00 am license, consistently fills this club to capacity.

The Rooms boasts one of the best rigs in Dundee (D&B Audiotechnik C-Series), with a clear and punchy sound that serves its occupants well. At times it can lack slightly in sub-bass, but the extraordinary reputation of great atmosphere that has been built over the past decade never fails to attract heavy hitters such as Jackmaster, Cinematic Orchestra, People Under the Stairs, Goldie and Mr Scruff. The idiosyncrasies of this tiny club allow for some truly singular moments shared by the crowd and artists.

My first night at The Rooms saw legendary DJ and radio broadcaster David ‘Ram Jam’ Rodigan spin an extensive collection of customized dub plates to a devoted crowd of reggae enthusiasts, backed by the raw power of Mungo’s Hi Fi soundsystem. The evening was one of ecstatic nostalgia, revelling in the lineage of reggae, dancehall and dub. Most recently I got to hear New York DJ and self-described “scientist working in the field of ass shakery,” Levon Vincent. His industrial beats expanded into full-bodied house melodies, never failing to get the crowd bouncing. The disparity between these two nights, one celebrating musical heritage, the other paving the way for future electronic music, embodies the spirit and diversity of The Rooms.

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, an eminent Jamaican reggae producer and pioneer in the development of Dub music, called the venue “a haunted building with lots of ghosts.” Whether through traces of bygone performances or the very legacy of the building itself, dialectic between the past, present and future animates and elevates The Rooms above other clubs in Dundee. Deceptively easy to get to and from, The Reading Rooms is an untapped resource that St. Andreans should exploit if they’re keen to have an educational experience in music.

Words: Lily Belk