Published on February 4th, 2020 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Art and beer mix and match
Pub walls were just made for hanging pictures that have a relevance to time and place. They set a tone.
But sometimes, familiar images can become just… wallpaper. The conundrum is that people want something different but nobody likes change.
One solution is to encourage artists to display their talents on your walls and rotate them every few weeks – or replace any that have been sold with a fresh piece. And if they’re local, so much the better.
One pub engaged with its creative community is Beer Street, situated in the railway arches on Forth Street in Newcastle (Beer Street itself is named after an 18th Century William Hogarth print).
Manager Ryan Simpson hit on an idea after the pub’s grey corrugated steel walls began to stare back at him. The pub is already blessed with a huge artwork on the stairs by Gateshead artist Toby Heaps (aka Sune), so something to reflect that outpouring of talent could be the answer.
Ryan says: “The walls were empty, apart from Sune’s mural and I thought that involving the local art community could be a symbiotic relationship. We wanted to support local people which we already do with our beers. We started it at the end of December with just one work of art and it grew from there. Now the place looks full.
“We promote and sell for local artists, it’s about working together. We’re not taking any commission, it’s all for fun – and we get the pub looking like it is. We’ve got six or seven artists as backup, so I wish we had more room.”
Ryan graduated in film production, so has a sensitive eye for what the artistic community can offer and what the public might fancy (“but I’d like it better if we had flat walls”). Current works on show vary from traditional watercolours through social and political comment, surrealism, illustrations, drawings and photography. Something more experimental and challenging wouldn’t go amiss but that will no doubt develop as word gets about.
He has also put out a call for an artist to come up with an idea for the blank cellar and toilet doors – a free hand for a real creative solution. The brief appears to be “you’re an artist, there’s a space, fill it”.
Beer Street and The Box Social pub next door enjoy a particularly good working and social relationship with both offering intimate spaces and complementary beer ranges. Music – big in The Box Social – is next on Ryan’s list with perhaps a regular acoustic night on the cards.
Beer Street has seven local beers on tap and on handpull from the likes of Two By Two, Almasty, Firebrick, S43, Out There and Allendale, while the needs of lager aficionados are well covered with the sublime Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic.
“Newcastle is a great city for art and music and everything like that,” says Ryan. “But sometimes it’s difficult to know what customers want at a given time – for instance, a 9.5% abv stout is flying out.”
Here’s hoping dozens of artworks do the same.