The Museum of the Lost Pub.
London loses ten pubs every week, according to the Campaign for Real Ale. The majority are converted into flats or supermarkets, or knocked down altogether. Already 4,199 boozers across London have pulled their last pints.
So what are the reasons for so many pubs shutting their front doors?
1. Banks are tightening up on lending to them, (also resulting in fewer pubs opening).
2. Beer is getting more expensive to produce - the prices of aluminium, hops, oil and natural gas are all rising.
3. There's the clampdowns on drink driving, (particularly affecting rural pubs).
4. The smoking ban.
5. And cheaper alcohol available in supermarkets.
And so it is,according to many in the industry, a perfect storm.
Since moving to London in 2015 I've been working in two very different bars; The Windsor Castle and The Heron, both situated just off the Edgware road on opposite sides. (Paddington v's Marylebone).
Having grown up in a Pub, I know there can be this feeling that a pub sits at the centre of community life. It is a social place where people can gather to talk or off load or just simply relax and read a newspaper. Faces become familiar and there's always the bar tender ready for a chat if you so choose.
"I want to drink here because most of us know each other. Even if you come on your own there's always someone to talk to."
This summer there has seen a spate of local pubs around Edgware Road calling last orders for the final time.
The Windsor Castle on Crawford Place was a unique establishment and will be missed by many local regulars and visitors alike. However, finding an alternative will not be easy. Nearby pubs that have also closed down include; The Duke of York (Harrowby Street), The Victory (Brendon Street), The Beehive (Homer Street)back in 2014.
Then if you head east you will still be thirsty as the Duke of Wellington (Crawford Street) closed its doors this summer too.
The Tudor Rose (Blandford Street) also shut as a pub and currently has a live planning application to alter the exterior of the premises to become a wine bar. Also lost are the Pontefract Castle (Wigmore Street) and the Apollo (Paddington Street) in the last couple of years for redevelopment. The Beehive (Crawford Street) had a fire and is still derelict.The George (Great Portland Street) has also pulled its last pint. And over the years other closures include 'Feathers', 'The old English Gentleman', 'The Worcester Arms', 'The Junction arms', 'The Gloucester', 'The Great Western', 'The Black Horse' and The 'Weatherspoons' on Edgware Road.
The Pub business has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. I have seen first hand the impact that a pub closing down has on it's locals, regulars and the community, these observations have had an effect on my work. Due to my own personal relationship to the pub as a home from home, I feel it is an important part of the social structure within a community.
So having been directly affected by the closure of one pub, whilst working in another where the regulars were being relocated to, having heard the drinking stories from days gone by, the "I remember when's" whilst witnessing the distress caused, I can greatly empathise with this sudden loss, the having to relocate, the adjusting and the starting over.
With the re-designing an re-configuring of the Heron Pub to accommodate the Patrons from The Windsor Castle great divides were caused, there was a sense of them and us, an attitude of 'Who do they think they are, coming in here taking our chairs!' A negotiation had to be made. Furniture was moved, photographs and pictures taken down and new ones hung in their place. The Heron Pub started to become a museum or a tribute to the Windsor Castle, the lost pub!
Working in the Museum of London at the same time I began to consider this idea of a Museum for a pub that no longer exists.How do you collect and display the memories and memorabilia? What's important? What happens to the regulars lost along the way? What elements would you gather?
All these experiences combined have informed my practice and the work itself. I think the most important thing that I have taken from all of this is the socially engaged aspects. Talking with customers and building up a rapport, gathering opinions, thoughts and stories.
I feel a stronger connection to the area now because of the people and the experiences we have shared.
This is still a work in progress. Something I am currently still immersed in and eager to continue. I am considering different lines of enquiry whilst thinking about collection verses archive.