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Liverpool's last chance saloons

The city's lost pubs are the subject of a new show

Published on January 13th 2011.


Liverpool's last chance saloons

WHEN you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, you have seen the last of England.”

That's what the poet Hilaire Belloc thought back in the day.

What was good wisdom then remains the same today. And while it's allowed to drop the occasional Belloc, the game is up for British pubs.

Since cigarette smoke was banned - and fruit flies and bad biological odours were given free rein in the snugs and bars that remain - it's been hard in the hostelries of the kingdom.

In Liverpool we have lost 20 per cent of our drinking bolt-holes. Nationally, they are closing at the rate of 1,800 a year.

Now publicans are bracing themselves to ride the increase in VAT which came into force last week, which will see the average price of a pint of lager break through the £3 barrier for the first time.

The grim tidings continue as economists predict that about 8,800 jobs will be lost in the beer business.

Meanwhile, Closing Time might not add many cheers to the situation, but it's right up your granddad or history lover's derelict street.

It is a book of 80 colour photographs by Kevin Casey documenting the closed and abandoned pubs throughout Liverpool’s working-class communities.

Taken between 2007 and 2010, the images are a stark representation of the decline of ‘the local’ as patterns of life and work have changed.

It came out just before Christmas and while Liverpool Confidential was dying to see a copy at the time, in order to review the ultimate senior gift, none was forthcoming.

The Lambeth

Now however, Closing Time is the subject of a new exhibition at Milk and Sugar, which is naturally in The Tea Factory, and is the shop window of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Although focusing on Liverpool, Closing Time highlights the national phenomenon. The recession, the sofa and three-for-a-tenner bottles of Blossom Hill and the X Factor have all taken their toll on the traditional night out.

Casey’s photographs also highlight the wider issue of Britain’s urban decay that, far from being turned around by the regeneration schemes of the 1990s and 2000s, has continued apace in most parts of the UK. The book is an arresting collection of 80 images that captures these buildings at the point just before most of them will be gone forever.

Since 2005, over 6,000 of Britain’s pubs have closed, representing, what the authors call, “a great loss socially, architecturally and economically”.

Here that translates as whole stretches of Park Road in the Dingle, Smithdown and north Liverpool.

So let's raise a glass of Bargain Booze Becks - to these mass Tetley and Bass wastelands, once lands where the masses got wasted.

*‘Closing Time: The Lost Pubs of Liverpool’ runs from Wednesday 12 January – Thursday 10 February at milkandsugar, The Tea Factory, 82 Wood Street, Liverpool L1 4DQ. The exhibition is free to visit and milkandsugar is open Monday – Friday from 9am – 5pm.
The book ‘Closing Time: The Lost Pubs of Liverpool’ by Kevin Casey is published by The Bluecoat Press and is priced at £8.99.

The Dominion

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JBJanuary 11th 2011.

I love this book - I think the way to look as it is as a book of portraits - I do think buildings take on character and these old pubs definitely have some kind of personality - it's a very strange effect when you look at them like this - one after the other. It will be great to see the prints in an exhibition setting.
I'm not sure it's just for seniors though - any fan of gentle melancholy will be well in there!

Booze busterJanuary 11th 2011.

I agree. It does say "up any history lovers...street" though...

Pleasant StreetJanuary 11th 2011.

'Seniors'? What about the juniors and infants?

Pub CrawlerFebruary 3rd 2011.

Kevin Casey will be in conversation about his book with your very own Larry Nield at Open Eye Gallery next Tuesday night (Feb 8).
The meeting will start at 6.30pm with drinks and networking, followed by the talk from 7-8pm.
No need to book, just turn up. For enquiries contact karen@openeye.org.uk, or telephone 0151 7099460.

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