A not insignificant 9.8% of my life was spent in Nhulunbuy, which pales in comparison to some of the Honourary Members around ‘The Table of Knowledge’ with an excess of 60% of their lives invested in the region but like many who can say they have called Arnhem Land home and count The Arnhem Club as their ‘local’, indelible memories remain.
For better or for worse, much of my 9.8% was spent willingly subsidising staff wages at The Arnhem Club and it is not enough to simply say that it was an absolute pleasure to have rubbed shoulders with, drank with, talked (mostly) shit with, learned from and laughed out loud so much with the (mostly) esteemed members and associates of ‘The Table of Knowledge’ (it regularly felt like one had walked into a Monty Python sketch), I consider it an invaluable investment.
Whatever your preference of watering hole in remote Arnhem Land, The Arnhem Club had something its colder neighbour, the Walkabout Tavern, never had and never will have. Call it heart, soul, warmth or ‘hwyl’ from the Welsh word meaning “a complex and intangible quality of passion and sense of belonging that isn’t easy to translate”. Maybe The Arno was just more ‘Benetton‘ than the Tavern. Whatever you call it, the saddest part is that with last orders called for the final time on Saturday 6th 2019, this ‘je ne sais quoi’ will sadly never again be replicated and certainly not at the default sterile benefactor where I expect the heartless are rubbing their hands together with glee (read ‘schadenfreude’) at their expectant upturn in profit.
It genuinely moves me to think of a Nhulunbuy without The Arnhem Club. It was never about bricks and mortar but about the hwyl. Mostly though, it was about the people, Yolŋu and balanda.
The Arnhem Club ‘as passed on! This club is no more! It ‘as ceased to be!