Published on July 11, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour


Railway no longer stationary

A Gateshead social club has been given a new lease of life

The world of pubs and clubs is changing fast. There has always been fluidity; that’s what keeps the leisure sector interesting and dynamic – and also alive. Social clubs, however, appear to be lagging behind pubs in their approach to reaching out to new custom.

Many have gone to the wall and we can all name a club that has boarded up its windows and flogged off its furniture. The reasons are many and varied; ageing memberships, out-of-touch committees, a failure to embrace change, competition from other leisure activities – we don’t really have to look far. There are many exceptions, of course – Haltwhistle Comrades Club in Northumberland promotes a choice of ales and a welcoming atmosphere the envy of many a pub, as does East Boldon Club, Tanfield Lea Club, and sports clubs such as Newcastle Cricket Club, Chester-le-Street Cricket Club and Darlington Snooker Club.

It’s with those in mind that Phil Hughes has taken over Gateshead Railway Club & Institute in an unusual deal that has every reason to be a success. The club, housed in a listed brick building at the Gateshead side of the High Level Bridge and worth more than a cursory glance, has been separated into two distinct businesses with a public house-style bar now operating alongside the members-only business where railway staff and their families have enjoyed a social life for decades.

Phil’s plans are of the “how long have you got” variety with music events already in action, a revolving beer selection and a plea to local artist and photographers to come and hang their works.

“We want to fill the walls and make it into a great pub,” says Phil. “It’s a little bit at a time at the moment, baby steps.”

Phil is a music promoter and a musician himself so it’s little wonder that this is where the focus will lie, while his enthusiasm and knowledge of great beer is obvious from the introduction of contemporary styles in offerings such as Flash House Apricot IPA and Shy Bairns Get Stout, Almasty Session IPA, and Tickety Brew Fuggles.

Regular blues sessions and busker nights will be supplemented by musicians of the calibre of George Shovelin and Steve Daggett, sometime of Lindisfarne. This part of Gateshead is being marketed The Bridges Quarter, an area which includes Arch 16 Café-Bar, Block & Bottle butchery and beer shop, The Central, Station East and Prohibition pubs as well as Box Social Barcutery and the Split Chimp micropub across the river in Newcastle. Plans for combined festivals, ale trails and events are under way.

It’s this sort of faith blended with hard graft and a few connections that can make a business sing – and music man Phil Hughes is in the right place at the right time.

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Alastair Gilmour

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