Time Gentlemen Please!

The Great Eastern, formerly the Waterman’s Arms, formerly the Newcastle Arms. Photo by Reading Tom from Flickr, under Creative Commons.

Pubs and beer have frequently been the subject of television documentaries in the UK, though few are available on DVD or are ever repeated. Dan Farson’s Time Gentleman Please! is one example.

Dan Farson was a journalist, writer and television presenter who, in the early nineteen-sixties, became fascinated by pub cabaret — the last, limping traces of music hall — while filming a documentary on the subject, and was inspired to buy his own pub in London’s East End, the Waterman’s Arms.

The pub was a complete failure, as he recounts in an essay in PUB, an anthology edited by Angus McGill and published in 1969:

After Robert Carrier started his restaurant, he pointed to his waistline and boasted, ‘Since I started Carrier’s I’ve lost several pounds.’ ‘That’s nothing,’ I replied sharply. ‘Since I started the Waterman’s, I’ve lost several thousand.’

The TV programme, however — an hour-long TV special filmed partly at the Waterman’s, which featured various variety acts performing in an ‘authentic atmosphere’ to tipsy crowds — was very successful. In fact, it was sufficiently popular to inspire a spin-off series, Stars & Garters, filmed on a studio set, without Farson’s involvement, and to turn the Waterman’s into a heaving, overcrowded hipster hangout overnight.

In the absence of a DVD release or YouTube clip, the sequence set at the Waterman’s Arms in exploitation documentary London in the Raw probably gives the best idea of what Time Gentlemen Please! was like. Let’s hope TGP! is included in Volume II of Roll out the Barrel.

Thanks for the tip re: McGill’s PUB, ATJ — a veritable goldmine!

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