David Lister: Let's raise a toast to the role of the drinking hole in artists' lives

The Week in Arts

Share
Related Topics

How do we commemorate our artists? Usually it is by a blue plaque outside their home. And each time I pass one I try to imagine that inside the relevant house a writer toiled, or an artist made preliminary sketches, or a pop singer wrote some early lyrics.

It takes quite a bit of imagining, as often entry to the home is forbidden, and in many cases it may not have been their home for very long. But at least it gives a sense of place. A much better sense of place, and of person, was given last Monday when a life-size bronze statue of L S Lowry was unveiled at the bar of his local, Sam's Chop House, off Manchester's Cross Street. The artist used to stop in there for a regular half of bitter and a bowl of soup in the old sherry bar.

The current owner of the city-centre pub, Roger Ward, says he was inspired to commission the piece after seeing a statue of Ernest Hemingway at bar El Floridita in Havana. And inspired is the right word. For I really hope that Mr Ward has started something. His commemoration of Lowry reminds me of Henrik Ibsen's table at the Grand Café in Oslo, where the playwright spent time every day of the week, and his table and armchair remain. Impossible to have a coffee there without imagining Ibsen either deep in thought about his next work or eavesdropping on conversations that might inform it. And now it will be impossible to have a drink at Sam's Chop House in Manchester without thinking of Salford's great artist, L S Lowry.

Let's commemorate our artists not just in their homes but in the places where they were regular fixtures. For better or worse, pubs are a major part of British cultural life, and for better or worse, artists of every description tend to like a drink. Celebrating them in their watering holes could make a visit to a pub a much more cultural experience, could inspire a very different sort of pub conversation.

Sir Peter Hall has told me that when he mounted the English-language premiere of Waiting for Godot in 1955, he and Samuel Beckett used to retire to the pub for a Guinness after rehearsals. Couldn't we have a little sculpture or painting of the two of them chewing over the day's notes and wondering about the meaning of life, or – more tricky – the meaning of the play?

Elton John grew up playing piano at his local pub. That has to be worth a sculpture. Various Young British Artists drank at pubs near Goldsmiths College when they were students, and do so in Shoreditch now. Examples are endless. So congratulations to Mr Ward and Sam's Chop House. This, I hope, is the week where the sober, commemorative blue plaque gives way to a drunken nightly toast to the local artistic celebrity. Britain has a pub culture, but from now on the phrase can have a new meaning.

A case of art not imitating life

The critics didn't like it much, nor did a lot of viewers, but I rather warmed to the TV comedy Episodes with Matt LeBlanc, Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan. The series – about two British comedy writers who take their show to Los Angeles – had its last episode this week. It ended with the American TV producer commissioning a series after viewers at a test screening had loved the pilot (a difficulty for the two married writers who were undergoing a personal crisis).

In real life, though, it is questionable whether there will be a second series, as viewers and critics have not been overwhelmed. So on the screen the series is commissioned with positive viewer feedback, while off the screen the series is not recommissioned because of a lack of positive viewer feedback. There has to be a Kafkaesque sitcom in that somewhere.

An MP really can be a voice of the people

Viewers watching BBC TV's East Midlands Today programme would have seen a story about a lost pair of trainers size 21. Cue a vox pop in Derby city centre on who could possibly have owned such outsize shoes. One person strolling down the high street responded: "I've never met anyone who would wear such big shoes, but he or she should be easy to find." And on he walked.

The vox popee, unrecognised by BBC East Midlands, was in fact the Culture minister Ed Vaizey, visiting Derby for a conference of the Association of British Orchestras.

I rather like the fact that a government minister can become a member of the public. Mr Vaizey may feel a little disconcerted that the citizens (and TV reporters) of Derby didn't recognise him, but he shouldn't worry. A culture minister needs to blend in with an audience, be an invisible member of the Big Society, and know that he can move to Derby when the pressures of fame become too much.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

DT Design and Technology Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on