In a really lively pub, not everyone is going to get a seat.
If you do get a seat, there’s no guarantee you’ll have the table to yourself, or that someone won’t end up stood over your shoulder bumping you with their hip and yelling, laughing or otherwise existing out loud.
We found ourselves thinking about this as we worked our way around the pubs of Kelham Island in Sheffield on a busy Saturday night.
There, parties of people in smart Going Out Clothes seemed happy to stand about, cascading into spaces between tables even where there hadn’t seemed to be spaces moments before, and crowding the corridors.
“Can I just squeeze through there, pal?” Well, not really, and yet somehow, yes, and all without touching. (A British superpower.)
If you’re mug enough to wear a coat, you’ve either to swelter, to hold it, hope to hang it, or throw it on the floor. The tendency to hit the town in shirtsleeves makes sense in this context – cold between pubs, sure, but unencumbered once you get there.
That’s not to say that people aren’t keeping an eye on the availability of seats. There’s a way of glancing sideways: how near is this lot to finishing? How empty are their glasses? Is anyone making a move to buy another round, or have they started picking up coats and handbags? There are prime hovering spots, and sharp elbows are sometimes unleashed: “Some people’ll jump in your bloody grave!”
One party leaves (a gust of cold air, dead leaves across the carpet) and another group comes in. The crowd flows fluid to make way as hands reach over to lift pints from the bar, as scotch eggs are eaten from plates balanced on the mantelpiece, as giggling people sit on laps, or the arms of chairs.
These pubs are healthy. This pub culture is healthy. Life is good.
And those lovely, tranquil pubs where you always get a seat? Perhaps worry about them.
This is another in our series of posts sharing photographs and details about post-war pubs from mouldering magazines. This time, it’s John Smith’s of Tadcaster and the magazine is The Magnet.
We’ve only got three editions — we’d love more — but they’re packed with good stuff if, that is, your definition of good stuff is profiles of plain-looking modern pubs on housing estates in places like Sheffield and Doncaster.
The Flarepath, Dunsville, South Yorkshire
The headline for this piece in The Magnet is A ROYAL AIR FORCE PUB — The Flarepath, which opened in November 1967, served RAF Lindholme, near Doncaster.
The name refers to an illuminated runway used by bombers returning from night-raids over Germany during World War II. (Again, another wonderful name squarely of its time.)
The carpet in the lounge was specially woven and featured a Lancaster bomber taking off and the bars were decorated with RAF squadron crests. There were photographs of various types of bomb, again from the Imperial War Museum archive, on the walls.
Its first managers were Joyce Varley and her husband Arthur, late of the Magnet Hotel, Bentley.
Is it still there? Yes, with John Smith’s signage outside, too.
We’ve just acquired a couple of editions of Tetley’s in-house magazine from the 1960s and thought we’d share some pictures of the then state-of-the-art modern pubs featured.
We usually scan these things and effectively thrown them away on Twitter but thought that we ought to put them somewhere a bit more permanent in case they’re interesting or useful for other researchers, or just for the enjoyment of people who might recall the pubs in question as they were in their heyday.
The first batch of photos are from The Huntsman for Autumn 1964. This picture is on the front cover:
Explanatory text inside says: ‘The Cup & Ring, the new opened Tetley house on the edge of the moors by Baildon. It is almost certainly the only public house in the country with this name — taken from the cup and ring markings carved by Early Bronze Age people on certain stones of Baildon Moor.’ Today the pub is — obviously, of course, it goes without saying — gone.
Next up is The Earl Francis at Park Hill in Sheffield of which the magazine says:
[The] third Tetley ‘pub’ in the vast comprehensive area of Corporation flats which will ultimately house 10,000 people, was named as a reminder of the local historical association with the Shrewsbury family… The first two of these three Tetley houses were each an integral part of the ground floor of the block of flats in which they were situated. The Earl Francis differs in that it is a separate building. To ensure harmony with its background of flats the shell was built by the Corporation; but the main entrance and canopy, the internal planning and structure, and all fixtures and fittings were dealt with by The Company.
A rather peculiar move, in my opinion, if we compare it to the Belgian brewing giant’s recent operations, especially in Europe… La Virgen was born as a product designed for the Madrid market, and until a year ago it was basically focused on it. As a company, it has never quite been in the circles of the national craft movement, appearing in few festivals and without a significant presence in specialised bars. On the contrary, it has successfully penetrated the market with a craft-labelled product that delivers a similar experience to the ‘usual’ beers.
One of the locals most excited about her plan was [Rebecca Atkinson’s] friend Trevor Munroe. He and his wife run an oyster farm on Sober Island, and the 43-year-old thought the brewery would be great for the community. Not to mention, it was to be a mutually beneficial relationship: Munroe wanted to help Atkinson find land; she wanted to use his oysters in her beer. Better yet, they planned to team up to attract tourists to the island with tours that would end with cold beer and fresh oysters… But the relationship began to sour when Atkinson delayed the construction of the brewery and started brewing beer at her mom’s place instead.
The story highlights all kinds of issues around provenance, marketing, and the meaning of local — is Atkinson exploiting the island’s quirky name or is she sincere in her stated intent to eventually move production there?
It’s Sheffield Beer Week this week (14-22 March) which got us thinking about beer weeks in general — where did they come from, what are they for, and where are they going?
In the UK arguably the original beer week is Norwich City of Ale, which first took place in May 2011. It involves mini-festivals in pubs across the city featuring breweries from the region, and special events designed to create a buzz such as tasters of beer being given out in the street. It was the brain-child of lecturer Dawn Leeder and publican Phil Cutter, AKA ‘Murderers Phil’. As Dawn Leeder recalls there was no particular inspiration except perhaps, obliquely, Munich’s Oktoberfest. Its launch was covered by an enthusiastic Roger Protz in this article for Beer Pages which concludes with a call to action:
It’s an initiative that could and should be taken up other towns and cities in Britain with a good range of pubs, craft breweries and a public transport network. Nottingham and Sheffield, with their tram systems, spring to mind.
Glasgow’s beer week first ran in 2011. It was inspired equally by US beer weeks and by the Glasgow Beer and Pub Project organised by Eric Steen in 2010, a six-week arts and culture event which culminated with a home-brewing event in a pop-up pub. Glasgow Beer Week co-organiser Robbie Pickering recalls some of the difficulties faced by amateur volunteers:
We had our disasters, like the time we managed to schedule a meet-the-brewer in a pub where a live band was playing on the same night. I am very lucky that brewer still speaks to me. I am still proud of some of the events we put on even if hardly anyone came to them. We did the first beer and cheese tasting in Glasgow and the first UK screening of the US Michael Jackson documentary, and got Ron Pattinson over to speak about British lager together with people from the Scottish Brewing Archive Association. And I have a lifetime’s supply of beautiful letterpress beer mats with a spelling error.
It ran for three years the last being in 2013:
I think GBW collapsed in the end because of lack of interest. After the first year most of the other people involved had moved away and I was left running around on my own… I announced the dates for 2014 before deciding not to go ahead with it. Nobody ever asked what had happened to it which kind of suggests it was the right decision.
From our distant vantage point it also seemed to bring to a head tensions in Glasgow’s beer community with expressions of ill-feeling still being expressed via social media three years later.
Robbie Pickering sees some positives in it, however: the kinds of events that the Beer Week was built around now occur organically and frequently in Glasgow negating the need for a special event.
In 2012, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) ran a London City of Beer celebration piggybacking on the surge in visitors to the capital during the Olympic Games. But it was two months long, not a week, and didn’t turn into an annual event.
The next British city to get a beer week proper was Bristol. It launched in October 2013 when, having bubbled under as a beer destination for a few years beforehand, the city was just on the cusp of a boom in specialist bars and breweries. The initial idea came from Lee Williams who was born in Bristol but lived in the US for ten years where he ran a blog, Hoptopia, and wrote a guidebook called Beer Lover’s Colorado. When he returned to Bristol to work in the beer industry he brought with him experience of several US beer weeks and suggested the idea of running something similar to a friend and fellow beer blogger, Stephen Powell.
Bristol Beer Week featured more mini-festivals, talks, tastings and special one-off beers brewed in collaboration with beer writers who duly plugged the event.