Pubs at Risk? Ask ‘The Choir of Man’..!

The Choir of Man in their onstage pub ‘The Jungle’!

I first saw the singing lads in their fictitious on-stage pub The Jungle, a few years ago – I think it was one of their first performances – at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.

It’s one of the few benefits of being a Fringe performer. As long as you have your performers pass, if there are any unsold seats at ANY of the other productions hosted by your venue, you can get in for free

I’d produced versions of the plays Road, Strippers and Shakers and I’d had an idea for a new production – a sort of girls club – with songs – set in a specific place, maybe a pub. So when I saw The Choir of Man I was both delighted and disappointed! But watch this space!

And the sentiment here is entirely true. There are a number of brilliant pubs that are having their leases snapped up by (Greedy?) property developers who know that they will turn a much quicker profit by turning pubs into luxury flats. And I know of at least two brilliant, busy pubs in Birmingham that have been forced to close because developers have built luxury flats either next to, or opposite them. The pubs have then had to close due to complaints of noise by the new flat dwellers!

And I think since the pandemic, we’ve all come to realise the value of pubs. Of being able to be together again. Traditionally for the working-class (which is great for me as I AM traditionally working-class! THAT’S why I’m in the pub so much. Honest!) there are few places like a pub. For meeting and greeting. Occasionally talking with strangers. All types of people are at a single destination for a million myriad reasons. It’s really not all about the alcohol. There was a brilliant piece in a Birmingham Irish newspaper about ‘The Irish Govt is concerned at the lack of old fellas in pubs! There’s a shortage of old Gray-haired men, sitting at the end of the bar, supping a single pint for hours and dishing out unwanted advice to anyone who passes by!’ I’ll try and find it again.

But the reality is that even without the current crises we’ve all gone through recently, according to Altus, 400 pubs in England and Wales closed last year and some 200 shut in the first half of 2022 as inflation started to eat into their profits.

And Bohemians have always been attracted to pubs. Places to talk, discuss, disagree and fall in and out of love. The French House, Norman’s Coach and Horses, Gerry’s in Soho. The Newmans Arms, Fitzroy Tavern and The Wheatsheaf in Fitzrovia. Brilliant pubs with a great Literary history (it’s why I wrote the London Literary Pub Crawl by the way.) Recently in Edinburgh, I was able to see the brilliant author Ian Rankin in the equally brilliant Oxford Pub – review to follow soon. And I write a lot in pubs. Usually, The Raven in Hammersmith, but also The Cross Keys, Black Lion, George 4th and The Tabard in Chiswick and I wrote most of my second Shakespeare adaptation, Hamlet – Horatio’s Tale in The Station, Hare and Hounds and Red Lion in Kings Heath, Birmingham. I like to write in pubs because you can be in a crowd and connect with ‘real life’ yet be isolated and undisturbed.

So thanks to Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay for The Choir of Man – and this very relevant speech. Go see the play. Then go to the pub afterward!

Cheers!

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