In the space of about ten minutes, I’d been introduced to half the pub…
So we’re in our normal production session and the research team mention there’s been an article recently in the Bury Times about a pub in Whitefield that’s closing because the brewery are selling the space to property developers. In a few weeks, the landlady, her partner and four kids will be out of a home, the staff will be out of their jobs and the local community will be left without a place in the area. The whole community has been campaigning to keep the pub open, calling it the heart of the community.
Basically it’s a real-life version of the Penguin.
Well there was really only one thing to do. Go down and visit it and lend our support, whatever that looked like. Jo Leese and Chris Baxendale set up the event and we were off.
We got there on the Wednesday (we couldn’t do an event on the weekend because even though the pub is closing, they’re still holding charity events and community nights right up until they close) ready to do a set of three songs for the pub’s press event. Now, I’m as ready to belt out Bat Out of Hell as the next karaoke-obsessed only-in-the-car oh-god-are-those-people-looking person, but I will admit to having a teeny touch of nerves as I pulled up outside the pub, my little Ford Fiesta about to collapse on the road under the weight of having five people inside it for the first time ever (I was pretty impressed they’d all fit in to be honest.)
We piled out onto the carpark and walked in via the beer garden out front. We hadn’t even gotten into the pub before the regulars were waving, chatting, welcoming us in, telling us all about the Lord Clive and how much it meant to them, how they’d been trying to save it. In the space of about ten minutes, I’d been introduced to half the pub, met a couple who’d held their wedding there only a few weeks ago, “The first gay wedding in the pub and now it’ll be the last,” she said, and chatted to Leanne, the landlady about the barbecue they were holding for Help for Heroes on Sunday.
The group were so welcoming and so friendly we couldn’t have asked for more, but what was clear from every conversation, every person we chatted to was the affection they felt for the pub. This was really the heart of a community – from the in jokes to the way almost every person was greeted by name by the staff. This isn’t the kind of place where you come in, sit down, ask for the wifi password and then just stare at your phone for hours, it’s the kind of place where you have actual conversations where (pardon the pun) everybody knows your name. We found out that two other pubs on this estate had also closed, the Clive was the only place left for a lot of the regulars.
By the time the band were there around twenty minutes later, it felt like home from home.
A quick rehearsal outside, a very small dram of dutch courage (had to be small I was driving) and we were in with our songs. Paul did an introduction, telling the pub about The Claimants, the film and the bus crash – “That was here!” piped up someone behind the bar
(true story – he told us later that there was a real crash for cash scheme involving a bus that happened not far from the pub a few years ago, where someone came in the pub saying a bus had crashed round the corner and other people had just piled on the bus holding their necks. You couldn’t write it. Oh wait…) – and we were into the songs. I’ll always be nervous when I sing (a weird hang up for an actor) but I’m not a bad singer and the whole group together went down really well if I do say so myself! We were joined by our director, Paul, who turned out to be a bit of a dark horse on the pop idol front, (from now on I will refer to him as McCartney Murphy in my head) and the brilliant Blue Penny Mountain Band, who took over from us and played a few songs of their own when we’d finished.
Afterwards we stayed for a few hours, talking with the pub regulars. There are four generations under that roof, how often does that happen?
It’s funny, I’d always thought the Claimants story was a great one and one that needed to be told, but meeting all those people for whom it wasn’t just a story, it was the reality – it really did hit it home for me. Places like this matter. They keep communities together, they give people who don’t have much in the way of family a place to go and more than that, they give them a home. I hope this film gets made. I want to tell that story. I hope we get to do it justice.
Also, I hope next time we sing I’m not the one driving. I need a bigger drink.
You can sign the Lord Clive’s petition here