Wednesday 24 June 2015

Bent & Bongs Beer Bashed?

The queue outside Formby Hall (I'm in there
somewhere). 'Borrowed' from BBBB website.
The long-running Bent & Bongs Beer Bash has been held in Formby Hall in Atherton for very many years. I've attended the Saturday afternoon session quite a few times, and it has always been tremendously popular. We'd arrive at least three quarters of an hour before opening when the queue would already run from the door round the corner, along the entire length of the building and across to the far side of the car park. You look at the building and think that there's no way that number of people will be able to get in, but they always do. It has always attracted a wide age range, including quite a few women drinkers; it has also provided live music that has generally gone down down well with the crowd (I've never heard anyone at the festival whinge about the music) and - obviously - a good range of beers.

An old BBBB logo
All of this is now under threat as the building has been sold to a housing association that provides supported accommodation. I can't see anyone having any objections to the building of supported housing, but was this site the only one available? Seems improbable to me, and the loss to the community of this amenity (it's not just the beer festival that uses it) is a high price to pay. Steve Hall of Left Unity Wigan said the hall "was needlessly sold off by Wigan's Labour controlled Council to Rose Leisure back in 2012, despite bids by the then existing Council workforce, and a consortium of local residents, both of which would have seen it continue as the town's principal leisure venue for years to come." He tells us that it could be knocked down as early as August 2016. Wigan Council says it has no contact from the new owners yet, but that is surely only a matter of time. Full story here.

The beer festival is now looking for a new venue, but it can be surprisingly hard to find suitable premises. I hope it's not the end of the line for the popular and quirky BBBB.

P.S. (25 June) Ken Worthington of Wigan CAMRA tells me that a new venue in the town centre is under consideration.

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