How many times have you read that British pubs are in crisis? That people would rather get some tins from Tesco and sit at home drinking in front of the X-Factor on TV, rather than getting out to their local and enjoying some socialising over a pint by a warm roaring fire. It’s in the news all the time.
But often the pubs are to blame too. The idyllic image of a welcoming landlord/manager, the fire, the well-kept ales, it’s often a myth for some flea-bitten bars that deserve to go under.
But the Rose & Crown in Ealing is different. The American manager, Tom Tucker, has been taking an innovative approach to getting people in the pub and making them enjoy it for more than just the beer and wine. Tom and his team are endlessly setting up gigs and events that make a night out at the pub an experience in small-scale theatre. Tom’s deputy Kathy Hill recently left to become manager of the nearby Castle. I asked him if he felt some competition from the other local pubs and he said that the real competition is the living room, the 6-pack of beer and TV.
Tom’s pub is a bit different. There is a regular cinema club on Mondays. There is no TV blaring anywhere, no sport, and just a hint of background music. And the background music isn’t the X-Factor soundtrack. Once the staff decide it’s Elvis Costello day then you might hear Elvis on for hours before someone decides it’s time for some BB King.
This weekend Tom is staging a play in the pub. It’s called ‘Two Halves of Guinness’ and explores the life of Alec Guinness, the actor famous for his Ealing movies, but also for Star Wars. He hated being famous just for Star Wars, and this play explores his crisis over fans ignoring most of his classic work in favour of a sci-fi yarn that was itself a rip-off of Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’. My brother named two of his kids after Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi, but I bet he has never watched a Kurosawa movie.
So get out. Forget Cheryl Cole. Get down to the Rose & Crown for 4pm tomorrow, Saturday November 20th 2010. And even if you don’t like the play, there is always the Fuller’s ESB to enjoy. Just don’t enjoy too much of it, it has quite a kick…