When Christmas is closely followed by your birthday it poses problems for those buying presents for the Bar Man who has everything he wants.
Despite being appreciative of jumpers and socks, I am encouraged to drop hints leading up to the big events.
Most years this consists of extolling the virtues of The Fall (“but you’ve got 64 of their albums and they all sound the same…”).
This year it was different. I was first alerted to Roll Out the Barrel, a few months ago by Bill, one of my readers, and decided that it was high time I had a look at the DVDs which have been issued by the British Film Institute.
After a few heavy hints, it turned up in my Christmas stocking. Subtitled The British Pub on Film, the double DVD set contains a wide range of pub-related items dating back to 1944.
The earliest films are a couple of propaganda pieces extolling the British way of life and the central role the pub plays in it. My favourite is Down at the Local, which was produced by the War Office and takes us on a tour of pubs in different parts of the country in the company of our unseen guides.
In Preston we see a local packed with working men all wearing flat caps and smoking, whilst playing darts on what looks like an old Manchester log end board whilst demonstrating their unintelligible accent.
Down in Battersea our attention is drawn to a board on which are pinned pictures of local lads in their uniforms who have joined up, alongside a wad of letters received from the front line. Other films are made by companies such as the Crown and Anchor Brewery in Sheffield, detailing how they constructed an exact replica of a village local at a trade fair in Toronto – no mean feat in 1953.
Ten years later, the Mining Review showed coal miners in a Durham pit village enjoying some leisure time in their local. It also features Norman Cornish, one of the Pitmen Painters. There is a two-minute short set in a pub near Barnsley where a parrot joins in a game of billiards, and another of similar length showing the landlord of The Old Pheasant in Warwickshire showing films in his pub to encourage his regulars to come out and turn off the TV.
Other offerings include films made by breweries as training aides for new staff, but featuring surreal humour from the likes of Michael Palin and Terry Jones of Monty Python fame and extended documentaries showing pub and club life in the 60s. See also why the writer of Guinness for You, would like every copy of the film destroyed. With a running time of around five hours there is much to interest any student of pub culture or social change in the country.
If that is too long for you, Lynn Community Cinema are showing some extracts (about an hour long) at its Sunday afternoon show at the Arts Centre at 3.30 on.
It’s members only but they can bring guests, so ask around.
You may also be interested in the Pub History Society. Check them out at pubhistorysociety.co.uk.