The Frontline Club - The Explorer’s Home
Thanks for the advice on practical jokes during expedition, i’ll have to rethink my strategy for when i’m guiding in the Sierra.
I was thinking about that conversation we had discussing the best explorer hangouts in London and it reminded me of our first meeting at the Frontline Club. I must have walked past it three times before I finally found the entrance, so nondescript is the door to the club. As I pushed open the heavy grey door I looked up the long, dusty looking staircase and immediately had the sensation of having stumbled upon something kind of exclusive, like a well kept secret that you’re not sure you should know about. I was greeted by a friendly looking porter to whom I explained I had come to meet my business partner and walked through into the main bar. It felt cool, tidy and surprisingly modern despite the wooden panelling of the back wall and a row of large sash windows that give plenty of light. I spotted you in one of the booths underneath the window. It had been raining and we were both wishing to be back in Namibia or elsewhere in the sun and sand - there’s a reason we specialise in desert expeditions right? We had met to talk strategy and following the growth of our team we decided to try out the Frontline Club as an upgrade from the previous Expedition HQ on the boat in Little Venice. The upstairs bar was filled with war trinkets, maps and huge tattered flags hanging from the walls, as well as showcases of battered old journals and postcards, all of which gave a strong sense of heritage and intimacy.
As you know the Frontline Club has the restaurant downstairs open to non-members, the members bar, meeting rooms, two bedrooms and a whole calendar of workshops and events (check out their events and workshops). It describes itself as “a gathering place for journalists, photographers and other likeminded people”, with a focus on international affairs and independent journalism - so I guess that extends to full-time explorers as well. The connection between exploration and journalism I guess makes sense, the Club said itself when it announced an exciting collaboration with the Scientific Exploration Society in 2014, “both journalists and explorers [operate] in high-risk environments with the shared objectives of investigating issues and reporting findings” (listen to the collaboration launch here) . This is definitely true and I don’t know about you but I feel this definition of exploration is too often becoming confused with adrenaline - where you can somehow get a ‘quick fix’ of adventure. Everyone and his uncle has achieved some kind of world first nowadays it seems, as Sir Ranulph Fiennes neatly put it in an old-ish interview with the Huffington Post “There’s a difference between being the first human to do something the hard way, and doing it in the footsteps of somebody but in a slightly different way.”
This is not to say that there is nothing worthwhile in revisiting destinations, but it really depends on your style, and i’ve found that what people truly value is an authentic experience. I wonder if that is what I liked about the Frontline Club, that it obviously has lots of history and with its emphasis on conflict reporting it represents the raw, authentic side of journalism - no frills, no bluff.
I know you’re leaving for Egypt and the Eastern Desert this week so I just wanted to say good luck with that and I can’t wait to hear all about it. How are the locals coping with terrorism and the way it’s screwing with their tourism industry? Take lots of photos and we’ll catch a pint when you’re back.