Q&A: Louize Clarke, The Curious Lounge

Louize Clarke was made in Reading in 1972 and has lived here most of her life. She wasn’t a huge fan of the education system, so left college as soon as she could to start work. She’s been hanging around in the tech and digital space for the last 25 years and loves to juggle many things. Her big passion, however, is for talent and working with diverse groups who could be plugging the digital skills gap. She runs The Curious Lounge with her long-suffering husband Matt and owns a 21 year old tree surgeon called Jack, a Sproodle called Bernard, Bear or Whirly (depending on her mood at the time) and a very grumpy cat.   

The Curious Lounge has been running digital events throughout lockdown, but re-opened on 6th July after being physically shut for 12 weeks. They have just launched an adopt a plant campaign.

What have you missed most in lockdown?
A bath, because we’ve had over 70 giant plants living with us in lockdown! Don’t worry, we do have a shower.

What’s your favourite thing about Reading?
The indie businesses in Reading: they are unbelievably hardworking and incredibly passionate about what they do. It’s been lovely to see them all supporting each other in lockdown, despite the obvious challenges thrown at them.

For the uninitiated, how would you sum up what The Curious Lounge is and what it does?
We are a bit of an eclectic mix: we have a co-working area with coffee shop run by Anonymous Coffee, a business lounge with meeting/training rooms and we are a digital and business skills hub. We’ve been described as “the secret love child of a coffee shop and a co-working space” – a place to listen, learn and meet.

What’s your earliest memory of food?
Liver and bacon. I grew up in a culinary challenged house, which is why you won’t find me whipping up anything in the kitchen.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
For me a meal is about more than just the food. It’s also about the company and the setting, so it would have to be slow-cooked lamb at a beach bar in Menorca, watching the sun go down.

You’ve been very vocal on social media about being a business let down by the government during this crisis. What do you think needs to be done?
Sorry about that – ranting on social media is my speciality! I understand that these are unprecedented times, but I’ve found it really hard to watch the government help some and not others. I’d like to see a level playing field in terms of rates support and grants to give everyone the same fighting chance in the challenging times ahead.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Starting a conversation in my head and then thinking that the person I am talking to joined at the start of the conversation rather than the middle.

Where will you go for your first meal out after all this?
This required no thought at all: Fidget & Bob for a full English breakfast.

What’s your superpower?
I’m often described as a whirlwind of energy, so probably juggling multiple things at once.

What’s your favourite city break destination?
Madrid. I love the food and warmth of the people, and I can while away hours in El Retiro Park just watching life. I am lucky that we know locals who have been kind enough to share their secrets, so we’ve avoided the tourist side.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
I had to ask my long-suffering husband this one – apparently Eva Green or Tilda Swinton, because both ladies are slightly bonkers.

What one film can you watch over and over again?
Love Actually. I’ve even done the London tour and I made my son sit on “that bench” when he was about eight. I also share a similar vocabulary to Bill Nighy’s character.

Do you think, post-Covid, that the traditional office is dead – and is that good or bad news for spaces like The Curious Lounge?
I don’t know if the traditional office is dead but I think they will be used in different ways. I think it will be good for us in the long run – there are definitely more conversations around working closer to home and doing less commuting into London. In addition, the novelty of working from home is clearly starting to wear off for many.

What one restaurant do you wish you could pick up and drop in Reading?
An indie tapas restaurant, one that serves little plates of Spanish warmth washed down with a decent red served at a long bar where you can chat to other people. There’s one in Soho called Pix Pintxos where I’ve spent far too long enjoying their dishes and a copa de tinto.

What’s the finest crisp (make and flavour)?
Tyrrell’s Sea Salted.

Where is your happy place?
Bigbury on Sea. There’s a fantastic circular walk with a dog friendly pub in the middle and the waves are great for body boarding. I can’t wait to be back there again.

You must get asked to spell your first name a lot: is the Z a blessing or a curse?
The Z is a blessing: people can always find me. I’ll let you into a secret – it’s not officially spelled with a Z. I swapped it when I was 12, because my mum wouldn’t let me change my name.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure when it comes to food?
Fish finger sandwiches with vinegar and tomato ketchup. There is always a pack in the freezer.

Tell us something people might not know about you.
I’m most comfortable hiding at the back. I’d rather be the drummer keeping the rhythm: I’m not really a fan of being at the front.

Describe yourself in three words.
Kind, unforgiving, mischievous.

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