Do pubs exist? And is there music?

This week, we got an email from a reader in the US who had a few questions about UK pub culture. Here are his questions and our answers paraphrased.

Q: Are pubs in the UK generally the quaint, homey, and instantly familiar and comfy establishments we’ve been led to believe?

A: Those pubs do exist but need a little work to find. There are lots of types of establishment calling themselves pubs which are actually restaurants, fast-food joints, dive bars, nightclubs and so on, perhaps with wood panelling and handpumps.

Adrian Tierney-Jones writes very evocatively about traditional English pubs of the kind you have in mind at his blog and in this book he wrote for CAMRA.

Q: Is the occasional spontaneous song or musical number something that actually happens?

A: There are relatively few pubs where spontaneous music occurs these days. We’ve seen it at the George Inn, London, for example, and have heard of a pub in the East End of London where, on a Saturday night, the landlady sometimes plays the piano while customers sing. Here in Cornwall, people sing in the pub quite a lot — sea shanties and folk songs, mostly. Sometimes, a choir will turn up in a pub and sing while they drink.