Sunday 31 May 2009

Paul Jones & Digby Fairweather

Southport Arts Centre Sunday 17th May 2009
Southport Arts Centre was the venue for a great concert of jazz and blues music featuring the talents of Digby Fairweather and his band, the Half Dozen. An apt description of this Digby is that he is a most affable of jazzmen and superb trumpet and cornet player, has been in the music business for over thirty years. This was to prove to be the truth as Digby and his band put together a wide ranging performance of jazz standards.

Added the mix was Paul Jones, who I guess is still best remembered for his vocals with Manfred Man and the Blues Band. Many will remember the late George Melly with whom Digby played for many years. Paul Jones has taken over from the great man with the same a real love for the music, plus a very wide range of musical styles, everything from Jimmy Witherspoon and Duke Ellington to his own self-penned music and of course hits from Manfred Man. Paul is also a great jazz/blues harmonica player.

Each member of the band was given plenty of space for solos and all played with great style and enthusiasm. It was a great concert and a fine start to what will no doubt be a great Southport Jazz Festival 2009

Words: Pete Rimmer....Photo © and courtesy of Barry Jones

Saturday 30 May 2009

Love Music Hate Racism ~ so enjoy jazz!

This short video (just over a minute long) is worth a look: LMHR video. I think it's self-explanatory.

As for this weekend, I've been enjoying some of the jazz festival, especially those acts in real ale venues.

Thursday 28 May 2009

Falstaff & other pub news

I went to the Falstaff last night as there was a CAMRA committee meeting there; I'm not on the committee, but they are open to all members. However, my first sight was a group of women for a night out from my old workplace. It was nice to say hello and have a quick chat.

The beers were Deuchars IPA, George Wright Mild and George Wright Cheeky Pheasant. I went for the Cheeky Pheasant, a 4.7% premium ale which for me has a good balance between the malt taste and the hoppy bitterness. I enjoyed this so much, that (as I usually do with a beer I particularly like), I stayed on it all evening. Other drinkers confirmed that the other cask beers were in good condition too.

I picked up the following bits of pub news at the meeting:

= The Oast House, 12-14 Stanley Street, is serving real ale again, probably Theakston's.
= Leo's Bar, 46-50 Nevill Street, is also serving real ale again, Black Sheep.
= The Eureka, 78 Halsall Lane, Ormskirk, is serving beers at £2 per pint on Wednesdays.
= The Heaton's Bridge, 2 Heaton Bridge Rd, Scarisbrick, is serving 2 guest beers: Black Sheep's Golden Sheep, and Boddington's cask.

The last two are long-established real ale outlets.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Jazz Festival ~ real ale gigs

I have perused the Jazz Festival programme and have picked out the following gigs that take place in venues with real ale. There are plenty of other events, many of them free ~ go to Southport Jazz Festival for a full downloadable programme and any programme changes. Apologies for any mistakes or omissions.

3pm Brady and Shaw, FREE, The Falstaff
8pm Festival Pub Quiz, FREE, The Falstaff

12.30pm Emily Remembered, FREE, Baron’s Bar, Scarisbrick Hotel
8.30pm Frank Garner at the Piano, FREE, Knight's Cocktail Bar, Scarisbrick Hotel (real ale in Baron's Bar).
9.30pm Tony Judge Trio, FREE, The Falstaff

12.30pm Emily Remembered, FREE, Baron’s Bar, Scarisbrick Hotel
8pm Perfectly Frank, £22.50, Southport & Birkdale Sports Club
8.30pm Frank Garner at the Piano, FREE, Knight's Cocktail Bar, Scarisbrick Hotel (real ale in Baron's Bar).
9.30pm Des Hopkins Original Guinness Jazz Band, FREE, The Falstaff

3pm Annie Long Quartet, FREE, The Falstaff
8pm Although not officially part of the festival, a blues night with Tom Doughty at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West. Admission charge applies.

Bank Holiday Monday

You've got to go out for a drink on a Bank Holiday, so I went to the Guest House. It tells us a lot about the times we're in that it was not heaving as it would have been in the past ~ yet another consequence of the out and out failures of the "free" market system. However, looking around the nine real ales that were on, I saw Prospect Gold Rush, a beer I hadn't had before. It is a 4.5% light beer with a hoppy finish that I found just so drinkable that I didn't bother with anything else. Yet another fine beer from Prospect Brewery, which is in Standish near Wigan. The Wigan area is increasingly the place for fine micro brewers, worth keeping an eye out for.

Saturday 23 May 2009

Beer Festival Etiquette.

My internet homepage put up a link today to "10 Beer Festival Commandments", and I just had to have a look. Some of them are rather close for comfort!

The picture is the view from behind the bar of the 2009 Wigan Beer Festival (more pictures here).

Thursday 21 May 2009

Recession? What recession?

Our two local papers have been urging us all to shop (and drink) locally and help Southport's economy through the recession. One of them has gone even further in saying that Southport is almost recession-proof. This is quite an odd view, considering the number of boarded-up shops around the town centre, and the sharp increase in the local jobless figures.

As for pubs, I have never in my life seen so many with 'for sale' or 'to let' signs as I have over the last couple of years. The Shakespeare, which only recently reopened as a 'bard rock pub' [sic] with Harleys in the windows, is currently sporting a 'for sale' sign, although the pub is still open. Although not really beer outlets, Café Matisse and Owens bar on Hoghton Street are just two of a number of cafés and bars that have closed recently. I have also noticed that pubs that were heaving at weekends a year or so ago, are often much quieter now. It's even possible to get a table quite late on a Saturday evening in the Guest House ~ previously unheard of. Pubs and bars are clearly struggling. What's to blame? The government's tax escalator, predatory and incompetent pub companies, cheap supermarket alcohol, and the effects of the recession, including job insecurity and losses, must be among the main reasons.

What's to be done? Just shop (and drink) local, according to the Pollyannas in our local press. While I have no problem with this message, and in fact do most of my drinking and shopping locally, I'm disappointed that our papers just leave it at that. Where is their campaign against predatory PubCos, or the call for a freeze (or even cut) in beer tax? Or even against the fact that we taxpayers subsidise politicians' booze? Their faith in consumer expenditure as the tool to beat the recession locally is hopelessly misplaced, especially when disposable incomes are under serious pressure. Unfortunately their 'shop local' campaign itself doesn't really bear close scrutiny: one of the papers is printed in Oldham and the other in Knowsley. So much for supporting local businesses.

Monday 18 May 2009

Crosby Music Festival this weekend

Over the coming Bank Holiday weekend, 22 to 25 May, there is the Crosby Music Festival in various venues in Crosby village, which is just under a mile from the Blundellsands & Crosby railway station. The venues include Stamps, the only one on the list that I can be certain serves real ale. Now in its 13th year, this festival is part of the Hope Not Hate campaign, and is free, funded by UNISON's general political fund. It's only a 25-minute train ride from Southport.

Go to Crosby Music Festival for full details of artists, venues and times.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Lunchtime Legends fundraiser

The Lunchtime Legends fundraising gig at the Park Golf Club last night was a great success, with most of the audience up and dancing throughout much of the evening. The event raised a total of £321 for Claire House Children's Hospice. Children were admitted free, and it was wonderful to see them jumping about to 50s and 60s music, which is after all at least 30 years before their time! The Thwaites Bomber was on good form and ran out, but fortunately only at the end. Thanks to everyone who donated to this excellent cause, and to all who contributed in any way to a great evening.

Friday 15 May 2009

Ship in Haskayne reopens

Roving reporter Bernie tells me he has recently been to the reopened Ship Inn at Haskayne. For those who don't know it, the Ship is an old canal-side pub, just off the A5147 between Scarisbrick and Maghull and about 8 miles from the centre of Southport, noted in the past for food as well as real ale. The new landlord is keen to reinstate the Folk singaround that took place on Thursdays for many years, and he also has had experience with open mic nights. The beers on offer when Bernie visited were Southport Sandgrounder and Golden Sands, along with the Warwickshire brewery's Ffiagra, and Theakston's mild.

He's certainly made a good start with an interesting selection of real beers, rather than going for the usual 'guests' that unimaginative pubs tend to plump for. I'll keep you informed of any further developments. (postcode: L39 7JP)

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Massive bonuses for AB InBev executives

AB InBev, makers of Bass, Bodddingtons, Stella, Becks, Budweiser, Tennents, and Castlemaine XXXX, among many others, are planning to award top executives excessive bonuses, such as 70 million euros (£65.5 million) to CEO Carlos Brito. Rather makes our expenses-grubbing politicians look like lightweights, doesn't it? At the same time, cost-cutting and staff reductions are the order of the day further down the ladder ~ naturally. Understandably, workers are up in arms about this, and so should drinkers be, although I can't see swillers of bottled Budweiser rice beer combining to form an InBev consumer action group.

If nothing else, this shows that it's not just tax and greedy PubCos pushing up prices. Thank goodness AB InBev don't make much that's worth drinking.

Monday 11 May 2009

Lunchtime Legends and Boo Hewerdine gigs this week

Reminder of two local one-off gigs this week:

This Thursday (14th) there will be a gig by the legendary singer guitarist Boo Hewerdine at the Old Links Golf Club on Thursday. £10 on the door. No cask beer, but this will be your only chance to see him locally. Click on: Boo Hewerdine gig info.
On Saturday (16th) the Lunchtime Legends local 50s and 60s pop and rock & roll band, will be playing at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, in a fundraiser for Claire House Children's Hospice. £3 on the door. The Legends' fifth album, "Four Pack", will be on sale, and the beer will be Thwaite's Bomber. Children under 12 free. For more details, go to: Lunchtime Legends. You can meet me (Rednev) at this gig, as I am the singer-guitarist with the band!

Saturday 9 May 2009

Falstaff ~ Meet the Brewer

Adrian Davies of the Falstaff in King Street is not afraid of the extravagant initiative to draw in customers, such as his demonstration down Lord Street as part of his Campaign for Real Chips. Another example, as the Southport Drinker has reported, is the theatre he will be putting on in the pub on 9th May; click on Theatre at the Falstaff.

On Thursday 14th May, he will hosting a Meet The Brewer event in the pub with Edward Theakston of Theakston's brewery, who will talk about Theakston's and the pub trade and will answer questions from the audience. He will be staying on for the regular Thursday night pub quiz. Whatever your views of Theakston's beers, this free event is likely to be interesting; it begins at 5.30 p.m.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Higson's Mystery

I attended a Higson's beers night at the Lion in Moorfields, Liverpool, on 29th September last year. Several Higson's beers were on and were quite enjoyable, although the bitter wasn't quite as I remember the legendary beer of the past, but it was probably as close as you can get after all this time. Since then, I haven't seen Higson's anywhere, and no one else I have asked has seen it either. I can't find any information on the internet and the Higson's website is 16 months out of date. I asked Liverpool CAMRA who told me, "Had some problems with drainage, no other info recently, and no sign of the beers."

Higson's remains a much-missed beer, fondly remembered by Liverpool drinkers after Whitbread closed the brewery in the early 1990s and moved production across the country before finally killing it off. The revived Higsons did raise some hopes that we could have it back again, or at least something like it, but it doesn't look promising at present. We'll see...

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Tourist Attraction

My favourite pub the Guest House is in Union Street (which - now I think of it - is a good name for a street); it usually has 8-10 real ales on. I didn't realise I'd become a tourist attraction!

Saturday 2 May 2009

SWORDS AT DAWN ~ then the Baron's Bar beer festival

Click to enlarge pictures
Pictures of the Southport Swords dancing yesterday at dawn to welcome the 1st of May in the Town Gardens, which is a yearly custom of our local longsword side. Across the road is the Scarisbrick Hotel, home of the Baron's Bar, where the beer festival opened at 6.00 a.m., immediately after the dancing you see here.

The Baron's is calling this festival "the English Counties Festival," which will run until Monday 11th May, so there's plenty of time for adventurous real ale drinkers to have something different from the normal fare. The Baron's Bar is Southport CAMRA's pub of the year for 2009.

Sadly, I was up until after 3.30 a.m. the night before & didn't make it, despite best intentions!