Wednesday 31 October 2012

Scolds Bridle

Scolds Bridle
I first saw Scolds Bridle about 30 years ago in the former Old Ship Folk Club, where as I recall they went down very well. They are an acoustic duo comprising Sue Bousfield (vocals, English concertina) and Liz Moore (vocals, guitar, bouzouki) and their songs range from the poignant or wistful to ballads and rousing chorus songs, often presented with fine harmonies.

"Fine harmonies, good music and excellent presentation; splendid." Alan Bearman, Sidmouth International Festival.
“Scold’s Bridle just get better and better.” Jan Lardner, BBC Radio Lancashire.
A scold's bridle, yesterday

Scolds Bridle are appearing this Sunday 4 November at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. The venue serves Thwaites real ale. It begins at 8.00 p.m. Click for on-line tickets. 

It's unusual for the Bothy to have guest artists in such quick succession (Pilgrims' Way are just two days earlier; see previous post), but they're worth two nights out in one weekend.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Pilgrims' Way replace stranded Jez Lowe

Jez Lowe has been trapped in New York by Hurricane Sandy and is unable to appear at the Bothy this Friday. Young folk trio, Pilgrims' Way, have stepped in at very short notice and will be appearing in his place. The band is named after the Rudyard Kipling poem, which was set to music by the great Peter Bellamy; they state that their aim is to present gimmick-free English folk of the finest kind.

This is a Friday Special at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. Click here for on line tickets; the club house sells Thwaites real ale. 8.00 p.m. is the start time.

Here's a sample of what they do:

Monday 29 October 2012

Zetland Beer Festival

I picked up a flyer at our CAMRA beer festival about one being held at the Zetland Hotel. It's planned to run from the 10 to 18 November with beer being sold from £2.25, with a try before you buy policy. They are also advertising three course meals for £4.95.

The last beer festival I remember at the Zetland was around 20 years ago when Dave Dobson, who invented the idea of the pub beer festival in the late 1980s when he ran the Bold in Churchtown, was in charge. The Zetland is a large pub in a residential area close to the Southport town centre.

The beers listed are:
  • York Guzzler.
  • Youngs Bitter.
  • St Austell Trelawney Bitter.
  • Nook Norton Cotswod Lion.
  • Bateman's Autumn Fall.
  • Everard Equinox Autumn.
  • Titanic A Night To remember.
  • Jennings Cumberland Ale.
The pub is in Zetland Street, Southport, PR9 0RH. ( 01704 808404. If anyone's wondering, Zetland is an old form of the name Shetland.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Jez Lowe solo gig

For update, see post of 30 October.
Singer songwriter Jez Lowe makes a welcome return to Southport after a long period of absence. He is especially noted for his songs about life in his native North East England, many of which have been recorded by other artists. Some of his songs are regarded as folk classics, such as "Last of the Widows", written to mark the death of the last of the many widows created by the Easington Colliery disaster. There are 13 albums on sale on his website, and I know that is an incomplete list.

Jez is currently completing a tour of North America, but will be back in Blighty in time for a solo gig in Southport on 2 November. It's at a Friday Special at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. You can get tickets on-line, anf the venue sells Thwaites real ale. 8.00 p.m. is the start time.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Local Pub Awards

The Southport beer festival (details here) opens at 6.00 p.m. tomorrow and early in the evening, the CAMRA Southport & West Lancs Branch will be making its annual wards. These are:

The Heaton's Bridge, Scarisbrick
Licensees of Excellence
  • Janice Brogden and Mike Litherland of the Derby Arms, Prescot Road, Aughton.
  • Gail Heyes of the Guest House, Union Street, Southport.
  • Mike McCombe of the Hop Vine, Liverpool Road North, Burscough.
Merit Awards
  • Simon Cox & Steve Gregory of the Freshfield Hotel, Massams Lane, Freshfield.
  • Leslie Baker of the Yew Tree, Grimshaw Lane, Ormskirk.
Best Newcomer
  • Anna Gervasoni of the Ring O' Bells, Ring O' Bells Lane, Lathom.
Best Country Pub
  • The Heaton's Bridge Inn, Heatons Bridge Road, Scarisbrick (licensee: Steve Winrow).
The Railway, Ormskirk
Best Community Pub
  • The King's Arms, Delf Lane, Downholland (licensee: David Storer).
Best Bar Staff
  • Ceri Evans of the Railway, Derby Street, Ormskirk.

Monday 22 October 2012

Southport Beer Festival: beer list

Here is the full list of beers, ciders, perries and fruit wines that will be served at the Sandgrounder Beer Festival from 25 to 27 October in St John's Hall, Wright Street, Southport, close to the railway station. Click here for full details of the festival.


All Black
Ruby Mild
Castle Rock
Black Gold
Liverpool One
Father Tom's Ruby Mild
Dark Night

Bitters to 4%

Swan Blonde
Trappers Hat
Mere Blonde
Priory Gold
Kirkby Lonsdale
Stanley Pale Ale
Liverpool One
Mersey Mist
Berry Blonde
Ginger Ninja
Elderflower Blonde
Golden Sands

Bitters to 5%

All Gates
Swift Bitter
Oyster Catcher
Dunscar Bridge
Dunscar Bridge
George Wright
Black Skull
? (monthly special)
Liverpool Craft
American Red Ale
Liverpool Craft
Tane Mahuta
Liverpool Organic
Higsons Stout
Harvest Gold
Thieving Rogue
Storr Cask Lager
Reedley Hallows
Monkholme Premium
Ruck And Maul
Triple Chocaholic

Strong beers 
& Porters

Rum Porter
Sutlers IPA
Castle Rock
Screech Owl
George Wright
Northern Lights
Kirkby Lonsdale
Jubilee Stout
Liverpool Organic
Cambrinus St Anthonys
Liverpool Organic
Shipwreck IPA
Midnight Porter
Captain Smiths
Plum Porter
Wellcross Porter


Rosies Wrexham Cider
Perfect Pear Perry
Rosies Wrexham Cider
Perfect Pear Perry
Rosies Wrexham Cider
Wicked Wasp Cider
Rosies Wrexham Cider
Black Bart Cider
Rosies Wrexham Cider
Double Vision
Potters Wirral Cider
Mental Ward
Potters Wirral Cider
Bombsite Boy
Potters Wirral Cider
Incendiary Device
Potters Wirral Cider
Potters Wirral Cider
Stretcher Case

Fruit wines
Black Beer & Raisin
Blackberry & Apple
Rose Hip

Friday 19 October 2012

Railway Tavern, Hoscar, closes

Regrettably, it's looking certain that the Railway Tavern in Hoscar will not reopen. The pub has been struggling for a while, despite being situated next to Hoscar station on the Wigan to Southport line. It had been a reliable real ale pub for quite a few years, with the Spring 2012 edition of Ale & Hearty reporting that it was selling Thwaites Wainwright and Greene King IPA, but at the same time stating that it was struggling to keep its head above water. On an earlier visit, the beers were Tetley Bitter and Black Sheep.

CAMRA opposed planning permission to redevelop the pub into residential accommodation, but their objections were overruled, so that is pretty much that. The pub dates back to the 1850s when it originally provided food and lodgings for the workers on the Wigan to Southport line. It was out in the sticks, really, with few houses nearby and just a bit too far away from Burscough to get much trade from there. While it was a cosy pub and popular with its regulars, there simply weren't enough of them to keep it going. I did anticipate that it might not last when I wrote about it after I had visited in February last year. Unfortunately I was right and we've lost another country pub in our area forever.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Anna Shannon returns

Anna Shannon plays the chord of Am
Anna Shannon is a singer/songwriter who writes and performs songs on a wide range of subjects, accompanying herself on guitar. She sings with clarity and conviction, and was awarded BBC Radio Yorkshire Songwriter of the Year in 2006. With nine albums listed in her discography since 2006, she certainly doesn't let the grass grow under her feet. She went down so well with the audience the last time she appeared at the Bothy, hence this early (by Bothy standards) return visit.

"Anna is a very good songwriter and her songs are of great merit. She is a polished performer who deserves greater recognition. We will hear more of Anna in the years to come." Alan Bell, Director of Fylde Festival.

"stunning singing voice and distinctive guitar style" Roots magazine.

She is appearing at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. The venue serves Thwaites real ale. It begins at 8.00 p.m. Click for on-line tickets.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Driven to drink

Or more accurately, driving to drink. While working on the latest edition of Ale & Hearty, our local CAMRA magazine, I drove to several pubs that are normally out of my way in order to discuss advertising. For the record, I stayed within the legal limit.

The rear room in the Greyhound
The Greyhound, Aughton Street, Ormskirk, is a pub I haven't been into for a while. It has a snug to the left as you enter with two small rooms to the right and at the rear a larger room suitable for meals and the TV when sports events are on.  As you enter, there is a mosaic with the initials WC entwined, which I took to be Walker Cains, which would be right in this former Walker's house, but apparently they refer to a previous brewer whose name Joe the licensee couldn't remember. The pub is unspoilt, and I enjoyed a friendly half hour or so chatting to a couple of the regulars. The beers were: Pennine Real Blonde, Prospect Tiger Eye, Jennings Lakeland and Tetley Bitter. Joe says the real ales sell well, and the Pennine Blonde was very nice; what a pity I was in the car.

The Royal Oak is an attractive pub on Liverpool Road, Aughton, near Ormskirk. It was recently closed for refurbishment, which has brightened the place up considerably without spoiling it; it had needed it as it had been rather dingy before. Food is important here, as it is increasingly with our rural pubs, but the beers on sale were Dunscar Bridge Bombshell, Dunscar Bridge Rialto 47, George Wright Mark’s Mild and George Wright Cheeky Pheasant. I had the Mark’s Mild and found it very pleasant.

The Railway, Duke Street, Formby, is an attractive pub right next to the station. Food is an important part of the trade here, and their selection looks good, but it doesn’t get in the way of the main function of a pub, which is to have a drink: up to nine real ales are regularly served. When I called on a weekday, they were serving Thwaites Original, Itchen Valley Junga, Sunny Republic Huna Red, Liverpool Organic 24 Carat, Thwaites Original, and Downton Chocolate Orange Delight. They usually have nine on at weekends. They also have quiz nights, and they say families are welcome.

The Arion pub is a modern estate pub in Kenilworth Road, Ainsdale. It was closed down for a good while until just over a year ago, and our local CAMRA branch was concerned it might never open again. Fortunately it did, and it’s now an attractively decorated modern pub that is well known for its food. When I visited, they were selling Marston’s EPA, Marston’s Pedigree, Banks’ Mild and Old Hooky. It has a large car park if you’re taking the family for Sunday lunch.

My only problem with all these visits is that I was driving, as I was on CAMRA business. I am encouraged to try to get out of town more, but the public transport links really don’t help.

Friday 12 October 2012

The Baum: Greater Manchester Pub Of The Year

CAMRA’s Greater Manchester Pub Of The Year 2012 is The Baum, Toad Lane, Rochdale. Runner up in the competition was Costello's Bar on Goose Green, Altrincham with the White Lion in Leigh coming third.

The Baum is run by husband and wife Simon and Heidi Crompton whose team includes other members of their family. The pub is therefore family run and aims to have a strong community focus. To that end, they welcome a wide variety of customers into their pub: office workers popping in for a drink after work, shoppers calling in for a meal or real ale fans trying one of the changing range of cask ales and ciders. There is always at least one beer from a local brewery and the ingredients for their meals are locally sourced.

The pub is on a small cobbled street on the north side of the town, next to the original Co-op store which is now the Pioneers Museum charting the birth of the Cooperative movement. The pub opened around 30 years ago in a building that was previously an ironmonger’s called Morris's, taking over the building next door a few years later, and in 2010 building a large conservatory to the rear. Simon began working at The Baum in 1993, becoming owner in 2005, just as the couple's first child was born.

The Baum is at 33-37 Toad Lane, Rochdale OL12 0NU.
( 01706 352186.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

The Lion Sups Tonight

The attractive bar in The Lion
Well, tomorrow night anyway. My acoustic music session in the Lion is on again. Usual business: free, come along and play or just listen if you prefer. Eight real ales (other drinks are available). The Lion is in Moorfields, Liverpool, just across the road from the railway station. From around 8.30 p.m.

Also on Thursday in Liverpool, there is a singaround in the Belvedere 8 Sugnall Street, Liverpool, L7 7EB, between 2.00 pm and 4.00 pm. This takes place every week. It's a good real ale pub too.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Ship Inn Beer Festival

I heard of this beer festival only this afternoon; it runs from next Wednesday until Sunday. The Ship always has real ales on and today they were serving Burscough Mere Blonde, Coastal Hop Monster, Greene King IPA Gold (far better than their ordinary IPA) and Holt's Bitter.

The Ship Inn is an attractive, canalside pub in Haskayne, and is popular for its food as well as its beer. It hold two open mike nights each week on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Friday 5 October 2012

Music deregulation ~ merely righting the wrong

A folk session in the Station Inn
in Whitby, North Yorkshire
Music is a natural activity, and pretty nearly everyone can sing. That doesn't mean that everyone has an inner superstar just waiting to be nurtured and released: it simply means most of us can do it.  Not well, necessarily, but then plenty of people who play Sunday football aren't very good - they still have fun though. The condition of tone deafness is actually quite rare; people often can't sing simply because they've never done it, not because they're incapable.

Because singing is so natural, the music licensing system brought in by "New" Labour in 2003 was absurd; unfortunately, it was also draconian and punitive. As I've written previously, it was nonsense that strumming an unamplified acoustic guitar in a pub could be illegal, while big screen sports with all the noise they create from both the TV and the people watching it were completely unrestricted. Even worse, a licensee who put on a solo performer without a public entertainment licence was committing a criminal offence and could be fined up to £20,000 or sent to prison. That's a high price to hear me play Sunny Afternoon. In one extreme instance, some Morris dancers who went into a Sam Smith's pub for a post-dance pint were asked to leave because the tinkling bells on their outfits constituted music for which the pub had no licence!

In a rare outbreak of common sense, Parliament has decided that venues in England and Wales with a capacity of under 200 people will no longer need a licence for live music between the hours of 8.00 a.m. and 11.00 p.m., and unamplified live music can now be played in any location under the act. The change was contained in a private member's bill introduced by Don Foster, Lib Dem MP for Bath. While this will be a real boost for live music and local performers, it will also help pubs and clubs that are seeking ways to improve trade and increase the range of entertainment available to the public.

A band in CafĂ© Matisse in Southport
(lead singer: yours truly)
The Noise Abatement Society claims there will be a "dramatic rise" in noise complaints that will "set residents at odds with local businesses", but this is an overreaction: no laws about noise have been repealed and people haven't lost any rights to complain about noise nuisance. There are no changes to local authorities' powers to deal with noise from fixed premises or land if they think it is a statutory nuisance. Organisers of music events should not be under the illusion that it is now a free for all; they can still receive substantial penalties if they allow too much noise.

It's not just licensed premises that will be covered by this change. To give a couple of the silliest examples: school concerts didn't need a licence unless they made a small charge or admitted members of the general public, and a carol concert was unrestricted in the church, but would need a licence if held in the church hall.

I welcome this release of the simple pleasures of music and singing from the stifling dead hand of the nanny state.

I've previously written several posts on this topic - click here if you'd like to read them - and you can read the full BBC article here.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Christine Kidd in Southport

Christine Kidd is a renowned interpreter and champion of the Scots song tradition and she has performed and recorded, over a number of years, with other singers and musicians to produce some of Scotland’s finest and often award-winning harmony vocal sounds, including successful and groundbreaking projects with Janet Russell, who has herself appeared locally several times, and in supertrio, Chantan.

She is well-known for her traditional material but is also a contemporary songwriter and is currently working on a project involving songs she has written over many years. Her latest solo album, Dark Pearls, was released on the Culburnie label and has received enthusiastic reviews. 

“Solo or accompanied, Christine's clear voice and feisty delivery imbue ballad and song with the emotional intensity many singers miss”. Highlander Records.

It's at 8.00pm at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. On-line tickets. Thwaites real ale.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

The great craft beer "debate"

Definition of craft from my Cambridge dictionary: "(a job or activity needing) skill and experience, especially in relation to making objects."

Most beer drinkers won't have noticed because they've got better things to do, but in the extremes of the beer drinking world, there are snooty, superior beings who consider they are discerning iconoclasts: they drink craft beer. What is craft beer? Basically, posh keg.

My view is: fine - whatever turns you on. But that's not good enough for these beer snobs - they want the Campaign for Real Ale to embrace these new keg styles, or (they keep on saying), it will be left behind, and become an outdated irrelevance. Some write about this in a carefully cultivated "more in sorrow than in anger" manner, while others shower unrestrained abuse upon CAMRA and its members. You'd think it was an organisation of devil worshippers sacrificing virgins - in beards, sandals and Arran sweaters, of course - rather than a collection of quite disparate beer drinkers with only one thing in common: they all like real ale.

Definition of craft keg: well, there isn't one. Hard to rally to this particular cause, then: "What do we want?" "Not quite sure." But individual lovers of craft beer each know what they mean by the term. Then you have another "debate" as to whether real ale can be craft, with opinions going both ways.

The issue has arisen because some new breweries have decided to follow the American example and brew quality beer to put it in kegs. The main reason why American brewers do this is because they don't have an ongoing tradition of serving beer in real form after the Prohibition wiped out most old American beer styles; it wasn't a deliberate rejection of cask beer. Scottish brewery BrewDog produce only keg beer now, and Hardknott, Meantime and Thornbridge are some of the breweries producing the new keg beer alongside real ale. The beer is often sold in modern bars at inflated prices, but that doesn't matter because craft drinkers love to pay over the odds to show how discerning they are.

Looking again at the definition of craft at the top of the page, it's clear that real ale can't be excluded. Some craft drinkers argue that the term should apply to small, artisanal breweries, which ignores the fact that the term "craft brewer" was coined by the American Brewers Association, who define it as a brewery producing up to 6 million barrels of beer per year! And as one wag pointed out, artisanal is a good term because it breaks down into art is anal.

The craft drinkers yearn for a definition they can all rally around, ignoring the fact that, with no broad agreement, there'd immediately be a load of dissenters muttering terms like sell-out. Real ale has a definition that is not only in the dictionaries but has the backing of law, but there can never be a craft beer equivalent because there is no consensus as to what it is. To be fair, though, I'd bet most people who drink it don't give a stuff about a definition, don't ever go near a blog, and never give a thought to CAMRA policies or what real ale drinkers prefer. It is, after all, a beer style, not a movement, but you'd never know that from the way some people write about it.

Is there anything in their predictions, such as CAMRA going into decline? Membership is increasing year after year; a lot of organisations would welcome that type of decline. Craft is the beer of the future? Real ale is the only sector of the beer market showing any increase in market share, and it now outsells keg, craft or otherwise.

I don't have a problem with the existence of craft beer, including keg, and wouldn't refuse to try it, if I knew anywhere I could buy it, but the nearest place I'm aware of is in Manchester, 40 miles away. I become very annoyed when craft drinkers start telling the Campaign for Real Ale (clue in the name, chaps) that it should embrace a style that most of its members don't want, as proved by repeated democratic votes at its national AGM. Either form your own organisation - after all, CAMRA began with just four men in a pub - or join CAMRA, get active and try to change the system from within. But, for heaven's sake, just stop whingeing on blogs.  

Tandleman has posted quite sensibly on this subject, but some of the comments below his post are bizarre, while Meer For Beer decided that this disagreement wasn't one she wanted to engage in. I don't blame her.

Perhaps with me, it's fools rush in ...