Tuesday 16 October 2018
So, here we go. This is first of ten blogs I will be writing from the pub. Yes, after twenty years of writing, performing, teaching, and curating poetry I have finally managed to contrive a way of being paid to go down the pub. God bless The Inn Crowd scheme. It’s all coming up Luke. But before you start writing letters to the Daily Mail bemoaning the prolificacy of the Arts Council (yours disgusted, Diss), I should probably make clear that I shall be doing these residences during the day: I shall be sober. And I will be working.
The Inn Crowd puts the performing arts back into the pub environment and these residencies are about extending that relationship. The plan is for me to sit in the pub for a few hours and get on with my business of writing poems. My paymasters at Creative Arts East hope I might also be a curiosity to the regulars, prepared to show them what I am working on, to chat to them about what I do. We hope it will normalise the often rarified job of making art.
Today and on Thursday I shall be at The Crown in Southwold. I’ve chosen a seat in the large muntin window in the second section of a spacious bright dining room. The front of the pub is designed to appeal to the upmarket gastro crowd that frequent Southwold. The mains are about £20 each, with a good selection of seafood alongside some interesting meats (braised ox cheek etc). The walls boast art of the traditional fare (a mix of oil portraits and 19th C cartoons) but they are well spaced out on the olive walls. The tables in my little section are unvarnished pine which add to the general light, airy feel of the place. This is not dingy drinking room, a historic pub well adapted to modern realities.
But on my way in from the carpark another room caught my eye. There is a back bar: red leather on the stools and benches, small round tables in oak, panelled walls – all seemingly unchanged in my lifetime (nearly 37 years). I shall retire to this room when I’ve had a spot of lunch. I suspect that is the real power behind the Crown, a reminder of what this place was once.
The crowd up front is assembling. There are five tables of diners now, plus me with my laptop. Mainly the retired, but a young family has just arrived. I am ruing my decision not to bring my noise-cancelling headphones. I felt I should be approachable, but now I’m wondering just what work I’ll get done as the conversations get louder.
I am no stranger to working in public spaces. As a touring poet I have to grab what chances I can to get work done: cafes, trains, public libraries, pubs, the sofas of friends. Very few of my poems are written in my house. I have a nice desk and an office space that I seem to use only for slogging through admin. There is something about being out in the world, being surrounded by people, and the sense of adventure it brings, that fuels my work.
More on the Inn Crowd here.