The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, January 29

Visitor Guide Images for 2011''Arts Centre ENGANL00120130509165215
Visitor Guide Images for 2011''Arts Centre ENGANL00120130509165215
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Unlike some, I was sorry to see the demise of the Arts Centre in Lynn. I attended most of the exhibitions over the years and even acted as steward on a display of post war Italian pottery; although I guess I did not make much of an impression, as I was never invited back. According to one of the letter writers to the Lynn News this makes me a ‘luvvie/yuppie wasting my time looking at bits hanging on a wall’’. It’s quite flattering to be thought of as still being young and upwardly mobile at my time of life and that delivering a couple of lectures each year (the next at Trues Yard on 3rd March), qualifies me to be a luvvie.

Early in January we went north, dodging the floods, to see a game at Highbury, the home of Fleetwood Town (remember that for the pub quiz), but being a luvvie/yuppie we made a detour to visit the Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery in Rossendale. This is set an old house in beautiful grounds that was donated to the council by a Victorian mill owner. The last time we visited, we met a distraught woman in the park who was trying to round up her escaped dog, pleading for help. Benji was the size of a small pony and clearly enjoying his brief moment of freedom, though it was obvious that it was not his first escapade. The woman suggested that if we got close enough we could use her normal technique, which was to grab Benji by the tail. I think we departed rather hurriedly and never did go inside the gallery.

This time, we were determined to take our chance, but on a cold and very wet Thursday lunchtime in December, what were we to expect? The answer was a typical Victorian collection. Lots of stuffed animals, the pick of which was a tableau of a lion being strangled by a huge snake, obtained from Norwich Castle museum back in the 30’s. Items of local interest, such as group pictures of brass bands and workers from way back when which all seemed to contain at least one person with my surname, unsurprisingly as I was born about a mile away. So far, so normal and I guess just the type of place your correspondent would hate, but our visit was not complete. Before we headed out again into the cold, wet winter, with the prospect of shopping at Oswaldtwistle Mills on the near horizon we decided to try the café. Lynn arts centre could run to a cup of coffee and maybe on a good day a panino, and in truth we expected much the same. What greeted us was a revelation. A warm and cosy bar, well decorated for Christmas with friendly and knowledgeable staff and a bar with four hand pumps and a cask ready to dispense a whole range of interesting local beers. Next door was a dining room which was also full to overflowing with people in search of good value food. Some had visited the gallery; some were with the children who had been in participating in the holiday education activities, some were dog walkers taking a break, though fortunately Benji was not amongst them, whilst many seemed to have come up especially for the meal. It’s a bit of a cliché – nice café with a gallery attached, but in these straitened times relying on council grants isn’t a great game plan and these places need to generate their own income. What better way than great beer and food?