Tuesday 30 November 2010

Becconsall to be demolished?

The closed down Becconsall in Hesketh Bank, which I have written about several times previously, is under risk of demolition within the next couple of weeks. The developers have knocked down most of the mature trees on the site and have posted a Notice of Prior Application to demolish the building later in December, without a Planning Application, and even though they don't exclusively own the land. 

The campaigners, led by Mrs Mc and her daughter Una, are trying to find out exactly how this has come about so suddenly with no prior warning. They don't want the large site simply to be turned into yet another housing development while the village has no communal amenities - pub, meeting place, etc - at all. Una is contacting the entrepreneur who had expressed an interest in reopening the pub to see where he or she stands on this matter.

Altogether, this is a worrying development.

Friday 26 November 2010

Political incorrectness gone mad?

This story should make you pause next time you feel tempted to use the cliché, "political correctness gone mad". A woman who uses a wheelchair tried to use the disabled toilet in the Coronation pub in King Street, Southport. She found the toilet was so cluttered that she was unable to turn her wheelchair around; the problem was brought to the attention of the management. On a subsequent visit, despite phoning the pub in advance to remind them, there was no improvement and when a friend of the woman complained, she and her group were effectively banned. If they didn't like it, they were told, they should take it up with the brewery, which was Greene King. The full story appears in the local paper, the Southport Visiter.

I note that the article does not say that the Visiter contacted the pub for the other side of the story, so it is possible that this is an incomplete report. If it is accurate, it's quite disgraceful, but how can we be certain? I assume the Visiter didn't ask the pub for a comment, because if they had, they'd have said so, even if the response was "no comment" ~ and if they didn't, why not? I do feel inclined to give this story some credence, because it would be a bizarre complaint to go to the papers with otherwise, but my doubts remain.

I remember in the 1980s the Old Ship in Eastbank Street, Southport, having a fully equipped disabled toilet situated up a flight of three stairs. The pub has been rebuilt internally two or three times since then.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Roy Bailey at Southport's Bothy

This Sunday 28 November, veteran folk singer Roy Bailey will be playing at the Bothy Folk Club. Known for his political songs, Roy is no rent-a-slogan type ~ his songs cover all aspects of human life, and that inevitably includes topical and political issues. He rejects the term 'protest singer', declaring instead that he is a dissenter. He has performed many gigs jointly with Tony Benn.

Wikipedia states: "In the 2000 Honours List, he received the MBE for services to folk music. On the 23rd August 2006, he returned the MBE in protest at the United Kingdom government's foreign policy with regard to Lebanon and the Palestinian territories."

Uncompromising, yes, but also a great entertainer. It begins at 8-oo pm and is likely to be a popular night, so I suggest you arrive early.  That's in the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. You can buy tickets on line HERE.

Here he sings Palestine, with Tony Benn sitting to the left . Unfortunately the sound is low volume.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Happy Birthday Dear Jukebox

It's the jukebox's birthday ~ 111 years old today. The world's first jukebox was installed at San Francisco's Palais Royal Hotel on 23 November 1899. The term "juke box" comes from the African American phrase "juke joint", which was a place with music, drinking, dancing and gambling, sometimes doubling as a brothel; the word "juke" originally meant disorderly, rowdy, or wicked, but later meant to dance. I wouldn't be surprised if it also referred to sex, like "rock & roll" originally did.

Although I like live music, as this blog attests, I don't think you can beat a good juke box in a pub . It's a pity that there aren't so many of them around now, piped music or big screen TV having moved in, but I can think of a couple of good ones, like the one in the Mason's in Southport.

It's also 47 years today since the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast, with the best theme tune ever (composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire).

Monday 22 November 2010


Last Friday was the Dave Hockley Tribute Night to raise money for Queenscourt Hospice. Dave, a friend of mine, and indeed of many people on the local music scene, spent his last days there in 2008. Thanks to those who did come to a varied music night, and also to the performers who all played for nothing, but regrettably there weren't many people there, despite the extremely worthy cause and a lot of local publicity.

There was Children In Need on the TV, of course, but would that really have prevented people coming out on a Saturday night? I really don't know. It was profoundly disappointing for Jason who organised the whole evening, which included a massive buffet, much of which will have gone to waste. But what can you do?

Thursday 18 November 2010

Lancashire Week 20 to 27 November

Lancashire Day is held on 27 November. It commemorates the day in 1295 when Lancashire sent its first representatives to Parliament. I have recently been involved in controversy in the local press by writing that Lancashire has been in Merseyside since 1974. I don't intend to repeat the debate here, just to point out that there are a number of events to celebrate our Lancashire heritage. I was born in Liverpool, Lancs, and despite my notoriety among the Friends of Real Lancashire, I intend to join in.

22 to 27 November:  Lancashire Beer Festival in The Barons Bar, Scarisbrick Hotel, Southport, with 14 Lancashire beers:
  • Arkwrights - Run of the Mill & Trouble at Mill
  • Cumbrian - Loweswater Gold & Melbreak Bitter
  • Greenodd - Best Bitter
  • Kirkby Lonsdale - Monumental & Ruskin
  • Lancaster –Amber, Black & Red
  • Lytham – Blonde, Gold & Lowther
  • Southport - Cloghopper
  • Winster Valley Best Bitter & Old School Bitter
Mon 22 November: Sir Henry Segrave, (Wetherspoons), Southport, Lancashire beers throughout Lancashire Week.

Tue 23 November: The Guest House, Southport. Annual Lancashire Night with The Southport Swords, Lancashire food and beers, proclamation read at 9-00pm by Ainsdale Town Crier, Stuart Elliott. Prize for the Best Dressed Lancastrians, sponsored by Southport Brewery.

Sat 27 November: The Inn Beer Shop, Lord St, Southport. Lancashire beers, themed food, quiz and proclamation.

Sat 27 November: Scarisbrick Hotel, Southport, 12-30 pm Tarleton Brass Band followed by the reading of the Lancashire Day Proclamation at 1-00pm then Lancashire beers,complimentary food in Barons Bar.Lancashire beers in Barons Bar from Monday,November 22nd with Lancashire Quiz and prizes on Thursday,November 25th.

Sat 27 November: Sir Henry Segrave: The Tarleton Brass Band from 2-00pm with Lancashire beers, charity raffle, quiz and reading of the proclamation.

Sat 27 November: The Hop Vine, Burscough, "Lancashire Neet", traditional Lancashire beers, food and entertainment featuring The Late Poets, Stone the Crows and reading of the proclamation by Don Evans, West Lancashire Town Crier at 9-00pm. Selected Lancashire beer at only £1-50 per pint and prize for the best dressed Lancastrians.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Two special concerts this week

Pete Coe and the Peacemakers ~ double bill in Liverpool
Pete Coe's website describes him as "a one man folk industry". He is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, broadcaster, dance caller, teacher, and folk club organiser. Always worth seeing ~ wonderful music & a great stage presence.

The Peacemakers have been called "Liverpool's own English folk/world beat orchestra". They make a big sound that gets feet tapping and brings a smile to your face.

This unique double bill is on at the Casa, Hope Street, Liverpool (near the Philharmonic pub) this Saturday 20th November at 8.00 pm. Admission £6 (£4 concessions). Proceeds to the George Strattan Memorial Scholarship and Merseyside CND.

Dave Hockley Tribute Night ~ Southport
The annual Dave Hockley Tribute Night takes place this Friday 19th November from 7.00 pm with local artists Shot in the Dark, Speechless, The Runnies and Nev Grundy (who?) at St Teresa's Social Club, Upper Aughton Road, Southport. Small admission charge - all proceeds to Queenscourt Hospice, where Dave spent his last days in 2008. Dave was a prolific song-writer, poet and a friend of many on the Southport music scene ~ some of his original songs will be performed. Website dedicated to Dave - it's slightly out of date.

Free beer

I've just received an e-mail telling me that I've won a free pint in Ember Inns' NovEmber Beer Festival. I simply print off the voucher in the e-mail. I wonder what's to stop me printing a dozen vouchers?  These are the beers on offer:
  • Thornbridge Wild Swan white gold pale ale 3.5%
  • Stonehenge Old Smokey malty and dark 5%
  • Project Green - the freshest beer in the land 4.5%
  • Davenport's Fox's Nob deep copper ale 4.4%
  • St. Austell Black Prince fruity black mild 4%
  • Brewdog Trashy Blonde statuesque fruity ale 4.1%
  • Copper Dragon Black Gold a 19th century recipe, 3.7%
  • Liberation Ale all the way from Jersey, 4.0%
  • Fraoch Heather Ale, with real heather, 5%
  • Alton's Pride, Champion at the Great British Beer Festival 3.8%
  • Wolf Brewery Granny Wouldn't Like It, fruity and dark red, 4.8%
  • Rampant Gryphon, sip gently, 6.2%!
It looks a rather good selection. My nearest Ember Inn is the Railway, 7 miles away in Formby. I'll hop off the train next time I go to Liverpool.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Liverpool Beer Festival 2011

The CAMRA Liverpool Beer Festival will be taking place from 24 to 26 February in the splendid surroundings of the Liverpool Catholic Cathedral crypt. Why mention this now so far in advance? Because it's a ticket only do, and your only chance to buy tickets is fairly soon on Saturday 4 December: you have to queue between 10am and 1pm at the Gibberd Room in the cathedral. Why they don't just put the tickets on line with WeGotTickets or some similar ticket agency is beyond me - it's so simple and people wouldn't have to make a special journey to Liverpool - but that's how it is. Full details are on the website.

Other ways to get tickets include being matey with a Liverpool branch member or volunteering to work. Otherwise, tickets are £7 for each session, and as they still close in the afternoon between 4pm and 7pm, the afternoon and evening sessions are completely separate - you can't drink through from one to the other.  CAMRA members get a discount in beer vouchers (£2, I think).

This festival has a large range of beers and the venue is wonderful. Plus, when they chuck you out, there are some great pubs in Liverpool. If you can't get tickets, the Ship and Mitre on Dale Street usually has a beer festival on at the same time, but even if they haven't, their beer range is exceptional anyway.

Friday 12 November 2010

Liverpool Folk and Roots Festival

I've only just heard about the Liverpool Folk and Roots Festival, described as "a celebration of the history, social significance and abiding presence of folk music in Liverpool". Yes, folk music in Liverpool is more than just In My Liverpool Home and Maggie May. The festival runs from 13th to 20th November in several venues, and includes an Irish music night, Chris Wood, Songs of the Sea, an Americana night, and much more. Some interesting nights there.

Full details and tickets are on the festival website. Obviously quite a lot of work has gone into organising this, so I'm surprised I've not heard about it before today. Still, better late than never.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Brewdog Punk IPA

Considering all the fuss that's made about Scottish brewery BrewDog (much of it by themselves), I bought a bottle of Punk IPA, currently in Tesco's for £1.39. The label describes it as a post modern classic pale ale; I've never really been sure exactly what post-modern means, and I'm even less sure how a beer can be post-modern. Still, the label goes on to say:

This is not a lowest common denominator beer. This is an aggressive beer. We don’t care if you don’t like it. We do not merely aspire to the proclaimed heady heights of conformity through neutrality and blandness. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or the sophistication to appreciate the depth, character and quality of this premium craft-brewed beer. You probably don’t even care that this rebellious little beer contains no preservatives or additives and only the finest fresh natural ingredients. Just go back to drinking your mass-produced, bland, cheaply made, watered down lager and close the door behind you.

Amusing tongue in cheek arrogance, except this brewery's style of self-publicity is becoming slightly irritating (I have written about BrewDog previously - see the posts here).  The beer is 6%, full-flavoured and extremely hoppy, and kept its head right to the bottom. I enjoyed it, but perhaps just for a change rather than all night. Immediately afterwards I went to the Guest House where they had Liverpool Organic Brewery Liverpool Pale Ale (4%), an excellent pint that tasted to me like a rather more subdued version of the Punk IPA - there was definitely a stylistic similarity. I decided to stay on this beer, but found it had run out. Adnams tasted rather ordinary afterwards.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Steve Ashley this Sunday

Steve Ashley is returning for a solo concert at the Bothy Folk Club this Sunday. His reputation for writing contemporary songs inspired by English traditional songs dates to 1974 with his debut album, Stroll On. Since then his songs have been recorded by many leading folk artists including Fairport Convention, Anne Briggs, Dave Pegg and PJ Wright, The Arizona Smoke Review, Martin and Jessica Simpson, Grace Notes, Phil Beer, Maggie Boyle and The Bushwackers. Fire And Wine has long been one of my favourites of his songs - I like the opening verse being sung acoustically, leading to a folk-rock peak.

As usual, the Bothy meets at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport PR9 0JS, beginning at 8.00 pm sharp.  Thwaites real ale too.

Sunday 7 November 2010


I hate it when events I want to go to clash.  Tonight, for instance, Andy White appears at Grateful Fred's in the Freshfield Hotel, Massams Lane, Formby while the Bothy Folk Club meets as always at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport with a singers night (free admission for performers).  Grateful Fred's will be moving to the first Thursday of the month in the New Year, thus avoiding such clashes.

On Thursday this week (the 11th), my singaround in the Lion Tavern, Moorfields, Liverpool will begin at around 8.30pm, while on the same day at the Park Golf Club there is a concert featuring Cara Luft (scroll down to 1 November for details), highly regarded former member of the Wailin' Jennies.

You pays your money and you takes your choice - except of course the singaround is free, as is the Bothy if you perform.  But I'd go to them all if they hadn't clashed!

Friday 5 November 2010

Hung out to dry

One thing that often irritates me about pubs is the inadequacy of the washing arrangements. Some people deal with this by simply not washing their hands, but if you do want to, it's often not easy. One of the worst examples I know is a pub in Liverpool pub where the wash basin has the hand dryer immediately above it and both are situated in the short passageway between the gents and the main room of the pub; while you use the sink and dryer, no one can enter or leave. The dryer is, frankly, rubbish too.

I wonder at the mentality of building a gents that can accommodate half a dozen or more people, but which has only one or two sinks, and a single dryer, sometimes over the sink. Hand dryers can often take more than a minute to dry your hands properly, which isn't very useful in a busy gents.  If everyone queued for the dryer, you could in theory be waiting 10 minutes; perhaps it's just as well everyone doesn't wash their hands! The best hand dryers I've come across are in Wetherspoons; they dry your hands in seconds. The worst are almost completely ineffectual.

My local has disconnected the hand dryer and replaced it with paper towels, and it seems to me that more people wash their hands as a result. I remember when pubs used to have blue roll towels, and my subjective impression is that more people would give their hands a quick dip under the tap and use the roll towel. I think washing facilities are used more when the process can be completed very quickly; you don't have to queue to wash and dry your hands at home so why should you in a pub?

Another failure is when there is a warning sign over the sink that the water is very hot, but there is no plug, so you have a choice of scalding yourself or washing your hands in cold water. It's not as though a plug costs a fortune.

These are not trivial matters - they are potentially health issues, and I am surprised that some pubs' washing facilities are actually legal, bearing in mind that the staff often use the same facilities as the public, so I would have thought that food hygiene laws would apply. I certainly recall that women would object to going into certain pubs because of the state of the toilets, but nowadays it's an issue men take more interest in than they used to. It's long overdue for some pub owning companies to clean up their act.

For obvious reasons, I can comment only about gents toilets!

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Alcohol "the most harmful drug"

The news has recently been full of the report in The Lancet that alcohol is the most harmful drug. The routine shock-horror clichés have followed as the news media simply grab the headline and swallow the propaganda of the anti-alcohol campaigners, who unsurprisingly have welcomed this report, but whose own motives are never questioned.

The report actually said that "heroin, crack cocaine, and metamfetamine were the most harmful drugs to individuals whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others". One of the reasons why alcohol scored so highly was because of its widespread use, much wider than other drugs. In other words, it has a greater effect because more people use it. The harm to others includes alcohol-related crime and disorder, domestic violence and the overall cost to the tax payer such as policing and NHS costs. I doubt that they offset alcohol tax against that.

While no one can dispute that misuse of alcohol is the cause of many problems, the grossly oversimplified reporting of a detailed and careful piece of research means that what has come to us is little more than propaganda. Unfortunately we have a generation of politicians who live by soundbites and policies made on the hoof (such as the child benefit fiasco) and a Daily Mail-style version of this report will probably constitute a detailed government briefing nowadays.

I wonder whether researchers get fed up with their meticulous work being condensed into screaming headlines to further other people's agendas and sell newspapers?

Monday 1 November 2010

Cara Luft in Southport

Cara Luft was a founder member of the Canadian folk trio, The Wailin' Jennies. She left them in 2004 to pursue a solo career. For more information, go to her website.