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Published on March 10, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour


Art’s sake

Pubs and breweries have picked up the culture theme



It’s fortunate for the artistic community that Tyne Bank Brewery’s general manager is himself a painter. Rich Higgins studied fine art at Newcastle University so went back to his former tutor for advice on artworks to hang in the brewery tap and events space.

This scheme would not only add a different visual dimension to the room, but is the ideal way for artists to show their work in a relaxed atmosphere, aided and abetted by all things beer.

“I was put in touch with Tommy Keenan, a post-graduate, as he thought it would fit in really well with this place,” says Rich. “The intention is to change it regularly with every Craftwork event we put on.

“But being a painter myself, I’m a bit careful about what we put up on the walls; it’s really got to fit. It’s all going really well, though.

Rich has managed pubs in the past, but admits to nothing on the scale of Tyne Bank with its brewhouse, highly-popular taproom and events area where live music and DJs set the tone for great beer and terrific street food vendors on a monthly basis.

Lucie Clarke, who runs a Newcastle textile business called Lucy In The Sky With Sequins has also shown her print work at Tyne Bank, drawing inspiration from nature and travel, although her main business is in wallpapers and fabrics.

Rich Higgins says: “The idea is we can pick up anybody’s work in our van, hang them in the brewery for customers to see, and sell them if they want. We get a lot of people through the door, so it’s a great experience for everybody concerned.

“As long as the work is good enough and of a good standard we’ll work with the artist. It’s not as if we’re a traditional pub where more traditional watercolour landscapes would fit better. We’re looking out for figurative and abstract work. We’d happily show photographs as long as they’re skillfully done and if I get desperate I might put some of my own up.”

Under Rich’s guidance, Tyne Bank has restyled some of its imagery to reflect the target audience of a particular beer and also to give the brands a bit of an uplift.

Brewery owner Julia Austin says: “We like to keep things interesting and it sits well with our Craftworks weekends which are really taking off. We’re bringing out a new beer every week which is a lot of work. Eventually, some of them will become regulars, like our Strawberries & Cream.

We’re very happy with the way things have gone since we moved into our new premises last September. We’ve even got sporting activities going on like darts, table tennis and table football which are hugely popular.

“We’re getting big groups bookings and people arriving on the Q3 bus from town and we’ve even got a local bakery making “bible bread” out of our beer. It goes great with the meatballs and cheese we serve.”

Julia reveals Tyne Bank has secured a listing with giant pub group Mitchells & Butler for its new lager, Helix, which will be on permanently in certain pubs in their estate.

She says: “It’s great news and it’ll also be great to get into pubs with our more experimental beers that we normally can’t get into. It’s been a good move all round.”

Planning for the future is an art in itself.



The fifth anniversary of starting up a business might be a time for reflection on how hopes and dreams have performed and how well financial columns have totted up – or not. But if a bottle of champagne wrapped in a ribbon from your bank manager and delivered on the special day is anything to go by, Morpeth-based Anarchy Brew Co could be viewed as doing rather well.

Anarchy has recently installed another ten-barrel brew system to run alongside its existing one which gives owners Simon and Dawn Miles the flexibility of producing several beer styles a week, rather than tying the brewhouse up with a single run. A new fermentation room and separate raw materials storage area have also been incorporated into the former farm buildings in recent months.

“We love it here and didn’t want to move, so we’re making maximum use of the space we’ve got,” says Dawn.

Anarchy’s storage space is easily cleared for regular events such as beer festivals and celebrations and is arranged to allow easy access for bands to set up and a bar to be wheeled in. But rather than inviting revellers to stare at bare walls, every spare surface is being decorated with mural-sized artistic interpretations of the brewery’s core products.

A call went out on social media for creative minds to help out – and answered by tattoo artist Gavin Golightly from Hetton-le-Hole. All Simon Miles had to do was show Gavin the space to be covered, give him the beer labels and allow him freedom of expression to get on with it. That same freedom is at the heart of Anarchy’s success, brewing what they feel is right and experimenting with raw materials.

“It’s a reminder of where we are from and where we want to go,” he says.

On the walls, an eerie figure in a gas mask represents Quiet Riot South Pacific IPA; a gorgeously pouting Marilyn Monroe boop-oopie-dos the best-selling Blonde Star, while a pair of hands breaking free from Houdini-like wrist chains reaches for hops inspired by Strait Jacket Session Pale. Urban Assault Pale Ale is depicted by a massive flame-thrower.

Simon says: “It was great watching Gavin work with only a sheet of A4 paper in his hand to refer to, using spray cans with all sorts of different nozzles. He just kept on adding bits – and now the lads in the brewery want us to keep on going with it.”


Cheers68HollandFreeTradeBEN HOLLAND, ARTIST

Some people maintain their favourite view is looking out from inside a pub. It could be anything from back lanes with overflowing bins to sweeping countryside dotted with sheep – no matter, the crux is that they’re on the inside doing all the things folks inside a pub do.

Ben Holland spends a lot of time on the outside looking in. He’s an artist and if you see him loitering outside your local, chances are he’s about to draw it.

Ben makes meticulous black-and-white, pen-and-ink drawings of pubs simply because he loves them and all they stand for. Pubs aren’t just a subject matter, they represent entertainment, history, architecture and social structure, and every brick and detail on the finished artwork is as sound as the buildings themselves. The first pub Ben drew was the Crown Posada in Newcastle and since has depicted the Free Trade Inn, The Strawberry, The Forth, the Tyne Bar and George Scott Gentlemen’s Hairdressers in a series called Low Moon Over High Town.

“I’ve got a liking for pubs in Newcastle which mean something to people rather than the Tyne bridges and the Angel, of the North” he says.

The latest pub to show his work is the newly-opened Town Mouse on St Mary’s Place at the Haymarket, Newcastle. Ben also sells limited-edition prints of his originals from his website www.lowmoonoverhightown.com and at Tynemouth Market, but is also happy to take commissions and to personalise prints.



The Central in Gateshead has quite a tradition of showing works of art – the bar features several steam train-inspired originals by Arthur Gills, but getting artists to collaborate has become a bit of a problem of late.

Central manager Gavin Sinclair says: “I prefer work with a local interest, but I’m pretty open to what we show. It’s actually quite difficult to get artists to exhibit their work, even though we don’t charge them for doing it or take a commission.

“We’ve had Ben Holland’s work here and Keith Opie which were popular shows. At the moment we’ve got part-time barman Martin Simm who’s taken the opportunity of some free space.”

The Central has also displayed photographer Adam Lang’s brilliant prints of local scenes, particularly Newcastle Quayside and the Tyne bridges.

“I’m looking to do another one as soon as possible,” says Martin. “I’ve got so many pictures that need some wall space. I think a pub is an ideal place to showcase art; people can be in a pub for hours and spend time looking at an image that they otherwise wouldn’t go out of their way to see. They’ll go to a gallery to view work, but how many more are going to the pub anyway? The amount of exposure your work will get in a bar is huge.”

Martin Simm’s photographs have a poignancy to them. They can range from expressions of love and togetherness to loneliness and separation. Martin – besides working at The Central – is studying television and film production at Gateshead College; he’s an Army reservist and official photographer for 101 Unit RA, “The Geordie and West Riding Gunners”. He also takes time out to “shoot” family gatherings.

He says: “The photos on display showing the two hands with the wedding rings and the group going across the High Level Bridge are of my cousin’s same-sex marriage.”

*The Central (0191) 478 2543.


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Alastair Gilmour

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