Announcement: Session #113 – Mass Observation: The Pub and The People

Sign on a frosted glass pub door: VAULT.

We’re hosting the 113th edition of The Session in July and we’re asking you to go to the pub, observe, and report.

The beer blogging Session logo.In the late 1930s a team of social researchers descend­ed on Lan­cashire and spent sev­er­al years observ­ing the peo­ple of Bolton and Black­pool as they went about their dai­ly lives. As part of that, in 1937 and 1938, they made a spe­cial study of pubs, which led to the pub­li­ca­tion of one of our favourite books of all time, The Pub and The Peo­ple, in 1943.

This is an extract from a typ­i­cal entry from the orig­i­nal obser­va­tion logs, prob­a­bly from 1938, describ­ing the Vault of a pub in Bolton:

13 men stand­ing, 8 sit­ting. 4 play­ing domi­noes. 2 of the sit­ters are post­men.

2 men, about fifty, short, stur­dy, caps and scarves, shiny worn blue shirts quar­relling about pol­i­tics. One keeps say­ing, ‘If ee don’t like the coun­try why don’t ee go away? No one stops me get­ting a liv­ing.’ Then he sud­den­ly shouts ‘Why should­n’t the king and queen be there. I’m for them! They should be there.’ … Bar­man comes round with a small can­vas bag, jan­gling it, asks me if I want a pen­ny draw for a pie. So I put my hand into the bag and get out a worn brass disc about size of a half pen­ny, which says Rig­gs Pies and has a num­ber in the mid­dle. The draw takes place some­where else. Num­ber 9 wins… and he gets a small hot pie, the sort you can get for fourpence.

What we want peo­ple to do for The Ses­sion is to recre­ate this exer­cise in 2016: take a note­book to a pub or bar – any one you fan­cy – and write a note of what you observe.

  • How many peo­ple are drink­ing?
  • Which beers are on tap, and which are peo­ple actu­al­ly drink­ing?
  • What are they eat­ing?
  • How are they pass­ing the time?
  • What are the top­ics of con­ver­sa­tion?
  • How is the pub dec­o­rat­ed?
  • How many TVs are there and what are they show­ing?
  • Are there pot plants, par­rots, spit­toons?
  • How many smok­ers are there? And vapers?
  • Is there a dart­board, pool table or quiz machine, and are they in use?

Over the years, peo­ple have fret­ted about Mass Obser­va­tion’s atti­tudes to pri­va­cy and so, in line with orig­i­nal Mass Obser­va­tion prac­tice, you might want to anonymise the pub – city cen­tre sports bar, sub­ur­ban din­ing pub, indus­tri­al estate brew­ery tap, and so on. And it’s bad form to give names and details which might allow indi­vid­u­als to be iden­ti­fied from your descrip­tions.

And an Optional Extra

As a chas­er, after your obser­va­tions, write what­ev­er you like spurred by the idea of ‘The Pub and The Peo­ple’. Real­ly, what­ev­er you like, as vague­ly relat­ed to theme as it might be. Or instead of mak­ing any obser­va­tions, even. The main thing is that you feel inspired to write some­thing.

How this Works

Do your observ­ing in the next few weeks, pub­lish your post on or near FRIDAY 1 JULY and let us know about it by Tweet­ing (@boakandbailey), email­ing ( or com­ment­ing on this post. We’ll pub­lish a round-up in mid-July to allow for strag­glers.

If you’ve nev­er tak­en part in The Ses­sion before, or have lapsed, do join in – it does­n’t have to be a huge effort and it’s a great way to con­nect with oth­er beer blog­gers world­wide.

8 thoughts on “Announcement: Session #113 – Mass Observation: The Pub and The People”

  1. Sim­i­lar impres­sion as the last time we dropped in. Adroit use of colours in the place, quite above the norm. Sig­nage has its own approach, unusu­al fonts and cap­i­tals. But every­thing clear­ly explained or point­ed to. The hosts are a cou­ple and always wel­com­ing with per­fect poise, nev­er a cross word. A look round assures of good beer names here, Bass, Wor­thing­ton, Courage, Batham, Bate­man, trad­die names you could say. More “IPA” here than oth­er resorts of this type, unusu­al that. Good crowd around, respect­ful, wits about them: names like Mudgie, Phil, Gary, John, Mike. The best kind of guests, nev­er out of line. This is a good place, there should be more like it”.

    Oops sor­ry, I thought you said it was about blogs not pubs!


  2. Only prob­lem is the date – won’t foot­ball skew the con­ver­sa­tion and maybe the dec­o­ra­tion in many pubs ?

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