Bring Back The Boozer– a rallying cry for revivals
As Brits, we have a particular love for the pub that eclipses everything else. A place so culturally and historically significant to us, it’s hard to imagine our lives without it. A place of first dates, weddings, and wakes, of tall tales, great grub, and “usuals”. It goes deeper than just loving a pint, but that doesn’t hurt. After all, booze runs thicker than water.
Pubs have united our kingdom’s communities for centuries, the first truly egalitarian space where men and women could mix, and people from all walks of life could rub shoulders. Pubs are the great leveller. Where else would a knight, a miller, and a priest find themselves sharing a Canterbury Tale or two, if not such a neutral and democratic space?
It was also the first industry where women could generate their own income as business owners, setting the bar for Barbara Windsor and #girlbosses everywhere, no pun intended. In Medieval times, beer brewing was women’s work, and everyone and their mother was at it. Housewives began selling their extra bit of bitters, opening their homes to the public who would flock, tankards in tow. The best brewers (and probably the comeliest barmaids) attracted a larger crowd of loyal patrons. And lo, the local was born.
Like the endless rings of beer absorbed into tabletops, pubs have seeped into every corner of culture. Without pubs, there’d be no going “to the Winchester, to wait for all this to blow over”. No morbid tourists Ripper Tours. And what of Star War’s Iconic Cantina scene, if not to hold up a mirror to the old timey tavern?
They’ve changed the way we eat, too, from early days of welks and pig trotters, to the 20th century skyrocket of scotch eggs and the humble pork scratching. Even the toastie is a snack supposedly spearheaded by pub patrons – impaling layers of cheese and bread on spikes and thrusting them into the fireplace. In short – pubs are British culture. Let’s hope we are never without them.
But in recent times, we’ve come incredibly close. Already in steady decline – according to the study by real estate analysts Altus Group, boozers are shutting their doors at alarming speeds across the country. With a total of 383 pubs closed across the UK during the first six months of the year. As a result, communities are a little less merry and a lot less connected.
Standing proudly on Mount Street since 1888, The Audley is just such an integral icon. West end watering hole of both Mayfair’s service workers and its ruling classes; The Audley has been a lone island of equality in a sea of exclusivity since its arrival over 130 years ago. Even the Obamas headed to this Good Old Pub to enjoy a proper plate of fish and chips back in 2009. When it closed in 2019, Hauser and Wirth saw the opportunity to return this Mayfair Institution to its original splendour.
A meaty project like this is any agency’s dream, one entrusted to us in early 2022. Hauser and Wirth are no stranger to identifying significant establishments at the heart of their communities and returning them to their former glory. Marking their first partnership with us, in 2018 they turned their attentions to The Fife Arms, an ancient Victorian coaching inn nestled in the heart of the Highlands.
Both The Audley and The Fife Arms offer that rare and beautiful opportunity to have a tangible effect on culture – to break through the design world into the real world. Because preserving these unique old pubs and inns doesn’t just give back to the immediate communities and locals around them. It also has a knock-on effect, bringing fame and fortune to beautiful areas of the world, the vibrant hubs of Braemar, and beyond – and we’ll raise a glass to that. But most importantly, it acts as a clarion call, a hope of rallying others into similar revivals, reversing the decline of this great British institution, one that we simply can’t afford to lose.
Because on this small island of growing divisions, there’s one thing that truly unites us. Not the politics that we align ourselves with, or what name we give to a bread roll. No, it’s our love for and affinity with the pub. They’ve filled our bellies, our boots, and our souls, survived lock ins, lockdowns, and the rest. Next time you pop down to your lovely old local, pause a moment to take in the chorus of community, scan the faces of each punter, raise your eyes to the ancient eves, and you’ll find it - the beating heart of Britain.