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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Chuck Berry, godfather of Desert Trip, turning 90 without fanfare

Chuck Berry, godfather of Desert Trip, turning 90 without fanfare

Yay!

Hail Hail Rock n Roll
Thirty years ago I was GM at Legends in Old Burlington Street, Mayfair and organised the London opening night party for 'Hail Hail Rock n Roll' the Taylor Hackford film documentary made to commemorate Chuck Berry's 60th birthday.

By and Large, 'stars' don't get involved much in organising parties, instead someone from their management company does the tedium of planning how the big night will go, who'll be invited and what they're gonna be fed and watered with.

 Legends club, Mayfair
Legends
So here I sorted the spread for four hundred glamorous people and hangers on. When you do catering professionally all this kind of stuff is pretty pedestrian really, your job is to make sure a load of people have a great time enjoying themselves without being distracted by the delivery of the event. Your job is about managing your clients' expectations while translating their ideas into a workable smoothly delivered event. You get to have to deal with lots of ego and bollocks as every client is fragile and precious and special in their own different way. To be fair, some people just say 'we've got a party for X and there's going to be x number of people and we've got x amount of quids can you do something nice?' They are the BEST clients and always get the BEST deal and have the BEST time AND they usually go out of their way to say so to you and the staff who made it all happen...

This event organiser was particularly picky about every last detail of a reality which was they wanted four hundred people to be meticulously attentively looked after when the reality was the club's limit on number was 420 and 400 fans of Chuck Berry would be hanging out in a huddle waiting for the great man himself, little bothered with the elegance of the finger food and champagne flutes... Chuck's fussy food demands and fear of offending his taste seemed high on the agenda of his management company's events organiser. Basically, I knew we'd deliver a great time, the party would go down a treat with everyone and Mr Berry would likely enjoy himself but the organiser's unfounded fears made the whole thing a right pain in the arse.

So. On the night of the party I, being God of the club, got an invite to the film premier. I went with a mate who'd also got an invite and we arrived at the cinema to a red carpet and the press pack flashing us walking in and sat in the same row as Chuck, three seats along with my mate Richard Watt to my left, him next to Mick Hucknall who, another whole story aside Watty and I were at art school with, and him sitting next to Chuck Berry.

A couple of hours later we arrived at my club for the big fabulous wonderful carefully crafted and planned party laid out in honour of the great man and Chuck Berry turned round just after we squeezed into the throng through reception and said 'Hey Mark, is there a good Indian takeaway nearby? Can we get one delivered?' Actually, I think he called the curry a 'carry out' and I was completely confused initially because: 'can we get an Indian carry out and have it delivered?' surely was the last thing on earth i'd ever expect to hear coming from the mouth of any American abroad in the UK let alone in a swanky West End nightclub when there was a couple of grands' worth of canapes and champagne on tap ... You know; I heard the words but the synapses just couldn't process what was coming into the ears.

Curry for fifteen was duly ordered and one of the doormen went and got it, Chuck and his closest entourage ate in private in the mezzanine...

What a man. :)

shot from 1987 editorial for the club. photo J Mark Dodds  Ricardo Ostaccini is the bartender

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A SHORT STORY about the power of people working together against all odds.

A SHORT STORY about the power of people working together against all odds.


James Watson is one of Protect Pubs' founders. James is an ordinary bloke who likes a beer. Yet James is also a #PubHero He is in large part responsible for the campaign that led to a closed 'suitable for alternative use' local pub being saved from inevitable conversion into housing.



Like all stories about pubs, it is a long one; James may put more bones on but basically the pub suddenly closed and was a goner, sold to a developer for a ridiculous figure who immediately boarded it up and made plans to turn it into residential... Locals came together and worked their socks off for a couple of years and against ALL odds, made a miracle happen. Eventually the predatory developer had to give up and re-let the pub as a pub and the Chesham Arms eventually reopened again, completely refurbished in part BY the community, in 2015.

ONLY A YEAR LATER IT WON EAST LONDON PUB OF THE YEAR!
Chesham Arms East London Pub of the Year 2016 26/02/16# Some pics of the evening

James is a senior, highly trained and experienced electrical engineer. The principal responsibility of his metier translates modestly to:

'It's my job to make sure London's lights stay ON'.

To put this into context James' work involves fiddling with cables thicker than a telegraph pole and switches bigger than a domestic oven.


James' wide ranging non-professional interests take in photography, the collection of, playing and listening to vinyl recordings on high quality very high fidelity equipment. He's a sociable person who loves very well kept ale and everything it goes with, including pies; so he's been a CAMRA member for some time, and he and wife Sarah enjoy visiting pubs wherever they go, to get a feel for the locality and the offchance of meeting people and getting to know more ...

He and Sarah Watson (who created the Protect Pubs' website) lived in Poplar for some years. James noticed that ALL the local pubs were closing and became concerned that without pubs there was nowhere for he and Sarah to meet people in their neighbourhood and saw that without pubs there was no way to sustain the traditional weft and warp of local community, no way that people who don't know each other can meet and glue together socially and this became a great concern.

James began looking into this and began to come across others, similarly concerned; people like all of us in Protect Pubs, people who are, for all manner of reasons, alerted to the very serious deleterious multiple impacts each pub closure represents to its own community, as local social networks rapidly fray and to the fabric of wider society and to the very foundations of Britain's unique Sense of Place. That bit of Britain that peculiarly defines US to the rest of the world...

When The Chesham Arms, HIS Local, closed James got together with neighbours and then mobilised parts of the wider local community. Together they arrested the inevitable and put the pub's history back on track... They made history.

IMAGINE what WE, all of us in Protect Pubs, thousands of us, can do together. We can make history on a much bigger scale. All we need do is work together...

First thing we can all do is send emails to Government and demand that Permitted Development Rights be removed from Pubs' planning class... Might put a template below here.

https://goo.gl/photos/Pit7SSfWJb6duVKDA

Thursday, September 22, 2016

CAMRA's 'Revitalisation Project': HQ's deliberate navel gazing while Britain's unique traditions and cultural heritage burn furiously out of control

Bull and Swan, Diseworth, Nottinghamshire. Proud to be a Former Pub 
In full view, such as this, of a passionate, committed and sizeable but under resourced on the ground force of volunteer firefighters CAMRA HQ studiously ignores blatant evidence that to stop the calamitous rate of British Pub closures there needs to be powerful market intervention, and Permitted Development Rights must be removed from their planning class.

All over the country at beer festivals and other shindigs evidence of CAMRA's compromise at HQ level is printed on brochures and flyers emblazoned with recruitment ads for tenants to occupy Pubco tied pubs... I'm not making any of this up, this is not the blinkered opinion of someone with a skewed view of what is happening to Pubs and an unrealistic view of the potential viability of thousands of pubs that are closing forever, it's not rocket science, it's observation. CAMRA HQ are up to their neck in the sticky dirty doodoo of the #GreatBritishPubcoScam

CAMRA HQ get away with it by publishing and speaking soundbite platitudes (always alongside a 'right to reply appearance by the British Beer and Pub Association) about how important pubs are to community and society while letting concerned, hard working, diligent volunteer foot soldiers to run on hamster wheels trying to save pubs all over the country, saying:

'ACV and Article 4 directives, used as tools in conjunction between local communities and CAMRA branches work well to protect pubs from inappropriate development, and government has made support and grants available through the coop and Plunkett Foundation, Power to Change, More Than a Pub' initiatives relating to the Localism Act 2012' etc. All sounds very reasonable, thougthful and sensible.

Whereas, frankly, it's ALL piss in the wind. It's an imperious arrogant view that ignores the well informed membership on the ground's knowledge and clear understanding of what really is happening to THEIR local pubs translates into almost ZERO impact on the reality; The published ambitions of the programmes they bang on about the impressive £3.6 million grant stream 'aim' to 'help up to 80 communities save their pubs in the next three years' during which time 'officially' another 3,270 pubs will be divested by the pubcos to close forever and be rendered into alternative use. It is utterly pathetic. The measures CAMRA HQ officially support are not even statistically measurable against the tsunami of pub closures.

To add insult to injury here ask ANYONE in Britain:

'For every pub saved by a community how many communities mobilised to save their local pub and failed, outwitted by well funded developer, intransigent estate agents and a pubco / freehold owner reluctant to even communicate with the community group?' and, I guarantee, no one knows, that is NO ONE is monitoring the success rate of grass roots community save the pub campaigns against the failure rate. If it's not measured there are no grounds for saying the community pubs' movement that has sprung up around ACV nominations has any significant impact whatsoever.

The community groups who succeed in saving their pubs rightly get loads of column inches and even get into the Mainstream Media and broadcast all over the country. This on a balance against no news being good news where the failures ONLY get a mention when the pubs are being marketed as a new coop shop or for sale as luxury spacious residential homes like this travesty of journalism bizarrely doing the work of the developer and estate agents FOR them, for free (?).

Overall this gives an impression that there is a point to the community cooperative pubs' movement; ie: That it IS saving pubs and IS adequate to the challenges before us when palpably it is not capable of dealing with anything like the scale of the crisis. And, it IS a crisis. While palpably there IS a very valuable point to encouraging communities to mobilise the fact is they do not have the tools, and cannot hope to have them, to be able to act effectively, they are being set up for failure and the amount of news coverage the successful groups/pubs get belies the pissing into the wind reality. AND then people who are prepared to point this all out politely are completely sidelined and ignored (as in the hundreds, at least, of genuinely well informed and determined CAMRA members as mentioned above) and people like me who only try to be honest and unblinkered... And when we get vociferous we experience being deliberately isolated from the Top End discussion and being characterised as 'militant' 'noisy' 'ill informed' 'unrealistic' and 'dreamers'.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

We MUST mobilise. We MUST act.

We need to lobby government hard about what's happening to pubs. By rights this should be the Campaign for Real Ale's job but as many, many pro pubs' campaigners know CAMRA HQ is clearly in touch with the Other Side and instead of acting to REALLY save pubs has developed a range of navel gazing techniques designed to create torpor in the membership and avoid getting off the HQ fence.

Revitalisation Schmevitalisation. Unfortunately I've not been able to get to the two Revitalisation sessions that have been near me for sake of other commitments saving pubs, 'ironically', as it happens. But members I've spoken to have come right out and said without hesitation they consider the sessions to be steering in a direction HQ wants it to be driven 'No room for individual comment, just multiple choices to tick' is what one concerned Campaign For Real Ale footsoldier told me.

It's NOT exactly complicated, is it?

Without pubs there's nowhere to commune, nowhere to share ale and have a national conversation. Without pubs there is nowhere a community can readily drop in and share views, ideas and information about anything with anyone from all manner of background and occupation. What's happening is a cultural disaster the impact of which has not been acknowledged by anyone officially.

WITHOUT #PUBS there is nowhere for people to drink ALE in convivial, controlled, civilised surroundings other than er, living rooms. What is happening to pubs is an unprecedented cultural crime wave sweeping Britain.

The Campaign For Real Ale: Ale bought from cut price supermarkets to be drunk in living rooms.  

Oh. Except UKIP. BRILLIANT. UKIP support pubs. GREAT. 

Every local Pub Preservation group around the country, every CAMRA branch Pubs' Protection Officer, every ordinary concerned community needs to take the initiative and write in absolutely clear terms to government and demand immediate action in national planning policy to remove permitted development rights from all pubs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Little Britain. Public Private sector service. Infrastructure. Society. Virgin Trains.

There has been such a ridiculous furore about Corbyn #TrainGate and speculation - as with everything else the man does - he's being fingered for ineptitude, hints at lies and much more... It is PATHETIC. Mainstream news Britain manages to behave like a badly brought up spoiled brat child all the time. Truth is that British infrastructure is a shambles and a total rip off and bits and pieces of 'scandal' like this one are used to distract we the people from the reality we live with every moment of our lives: WE ARE DECADES BEHIND where we should be as a post industrial 'civilised society' in just about every measure one can think of ... Very recent Olympian successes are some of the extremely rare exceptions to the rule. And we know why that is, don't we? The proceeds of gambling (after gigantic profits taken by administrators of the gambling) have been used to fund sports.

Well. I wasn't on THAT train with Corbyn but I use the East Coast line a LOT and the scenes described are absolutely common during busy periods. THIS is a post I made on Facebook on 11 July about Virgin Trains.


Little Britain. Public Private sector service. Infrastructure. Society. Virgin Trains.

Under resourced. I'm on the east coast train from Aberdeen to London. Picked it up at Berwick-upon-Tweed. My reserved seat is in coach E where the air conditioning is broken and the carriage is unbearably hot. So I've moved voluntarily to the buffet, sorry FOODBAR, car, where there are free seats and the air is cool, in fact uncomfortably cold, and the carriage stinks of sewage, overlaid with high notes of stale male sweat BO and hints of fresh strawberries, from the lollipop the young woman in seat 55 (aisle) is sucking behind me.

This joy all after Andrea Leadsom stood down because of the abuse she received for gallantly standing for Little Britain on a ticket she said two years ago would plunge the UK into a ten year recession which she switched into being an opportunity for her children and grandchildren that Theresa May would never understand because she's a sad, barren woman without commitment to the future. And now 'we' have an unelected 'leader' to 'take back our country' from the faceless bureaucracy of Brussels which imposes laws its member states have no power to opt out of, except for when it comes to pubs and the beer tie etc... which is another story. . . And we have no one who set us up for the charade of Brexit in place to actually begin to manage the colossal workload of 'our' extraction from decades of administration and habit that embedded half the population with the belief they are, actually at heart and soul, European... And only people who wanted to stay in Europe are left 'in charge' to LEAVE

YOU could not have made it up. Sitting in this stinking privatised Virgin train where it's either too hot or too cold is just a wonderful pause for reflection of this utterly nonsensical situation that we the British (English largely) like to consider a 'Great Nation'. Let's use an analogue everyone can compare our situation to: Britain is like our pubs: reduced, broken, run down, smelly expensive and failing everywhere, failing everyone. It's unavoidable yet we just put up with it and persist in believing 'our' fetid gutter press that anything that doesn't work is the failure and fault of foreign forces abroad in Britain.

It's all so ironic it's impossible to fully grasp how we find ourselves, everyone in the UK, let down by our politics, our fellow sufferers and our corrupt, asset stripping, ordinary salt of the earth people hating cultural stupidity. We're like a parody of Vulgaria, the fictional country in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where the child snatcher is as important as the ridiculous Emperor who's a buffoon incapable of running a pissup in a brewery.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Iconic Chelsea gay pub set to close after lease dispute

We ain't seen nothing yet

The avalanche of cultural crime quickening all the time. It will only stop when the remaining pubs are high footfall, branded blanded homogenised and owned by the big players who are mostly responsible for the closing and flogging off of all the others... ‪#‎GreatBritishPubcoScam‬ running amok, unhindered

Iconic Chelsea gay pub set to close after lease dispute

There isn't a pub in Britain that isn't under threat. Together we can stop this and put pubs back at the heart of their communities. All it takes is a vision, professional knowledge, capital and working together. It's NOT rocket science.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

FAO ALL PUB TENANTS: DON'T WASTE THE POWERS WE'VE WORKED SO LONG FOR

MUST say, because it should be acknowledged: The York Press do the most joined up and comprehensive coverage of what is happening to pubs, anywhere in the country. Down in a large part to Gavin Aitchison I reckon but excellent that a regional/local press should be so on top of a subject that affects everyone in the UK while the rest of the press is basically is ignorant at the level of 'you should have used it if you didn't want to lose it' on pub closures.

This article linked to here in York Press is by a very good friend who's also a publican, Paul Crossman. YOU should read it. Everyone should. AND if you know a publican, anywhere, tell them about The Pubs Code, and about Market Rent Only option for Tied Pub Tenants and about Paul's article. It could save their business and YOUR Local Pub:

FAO ALL PUB TENANTS: DON'T WASTE THESE POWERS WE'VE WAITED SO LONG FOR

Paul Crossman in his Punch tied pub the Swan, York



Absolutely crackingly well informed article by Paul Swan York (Crossman). It's very unusual to read commentary on the pub sector that has such accuracy and authority and this is because coverage is usually done by journalists paid by the article and much research is needed to get a grip of what is, as Paul has described so well here: essentially a simple situation where thousands of publicans (and the national communities they serve) have been systemically robbed blind by their 'pubco' freeholders... People whose business model is driven by private equity greed to extract so much profit from every last one of their pubs that they are fall into chronic dilapidation which leads to business failure and the property being unfit for purpose, suitable for alternative use. This is all done so the pubco CEO and boards of directors can pay interest on the debts they raised to buy 'their' pubs in the first place and, of course, to justify the enormous salaries and performance related bonuses they earn for reducing the size of their estates and having a business plan which is to asset strip the rest of Britain's pubs while they can.

The reason Paul writes do fluently a about the situation is that it's his subject. Tied lease pub owners HAVE to be lawyers, accountants, book keepers, model employers, cellar trained weight lifters, silver tongued raconteurs, psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers, counsellors, purchasing and budget setting experts, brand ambassadors, sales and retail experts as well as journalists to get their message across... After all it's THEY who make ALL the money that oils the wheels of the WHOLE of the rest of the pub sector from every brewery to the school fees the pubco CEOs pay, all of the money is generated across the bar in fine pubs like the three great examples of Community Locals that Paul Crossman operates and, usually these marvellous people we call publicans are the last people who are asked anything about what's going on in the pub sector...

What Paul has described is the Great British Pubco SCAM (the #GreatBritishPubcoScam in social media parlance). It's everywhere it's working its poison on several pubs near you wherever you are in the UK and we ain't seen nothing yet. If YOU know a publican ask them if they're 'tied' and tell them about The Pubs Code and about #MRO Market Rent Only and tell them about this article...

Paul's so good on the subject because he's an absolutely exceptional licensee and publican - he's turned previously definitely failed suitable for alternative use ex tied Pubco asset stripped pubs into thriving Local Social Hubs again. He also has a fantastic tied pub... That's fantastic because he is the operator, not the pubco. He knows what he's talking about.