Closing Time

The Lost Pubs of Liverpool
Photographed by Kevin Casey

Book review by Tom Bottle 16/12/2010

Back in the days when a tenner still got you six pints and loose change, we nipped into the Queen Anne off County Road for a couple before heading to a 'do' round the corner. A crackin' little boozer; packed, friendly, nice wallpaper (I know, but some people are very hot on this sort of thing), and decent ale served with a smile and a hint of cleavage. I can't remember the 'do' but the pub - off the beaten track - stuck. A couple years later I'm passing on the bus and sees the place all boarded up and half the lead gone off the roof. What the hell happened? If ever a place was there forever this was it. But, just like that…it was gone!

The shock comes back flicking the pages of Kevin Casey's Closing Time, eighty-odd photograph's of Liverpool pubs standing lifeless on street corners with everything else around demolished or dying. The Salisbury, The Shipperies, The Woodcroft, The Bow & Arrow, the list goes on. The full house at the book launch in FACT - on cosy couches and free real ale from the micro brewery - fingered the cheap beer of supermarkets, expensive pubs, the social decline of poor communities, and the rise of the anti-pub, Wetherspoons. As the fallen pubs flash one after another onto the big screen the whole thing opens up into a passionate debate, excellently chaired by a couple who could easily move into the pub game if things really go belly up in the arts. The skills of the classic landlord/lady are all there as they keep the informal informative, get everyone involved, and make sure the ale and the laughs keep comin'.

The crowd have a 'Half a lager', and a 'Glass of red wine, please' look about them as one slurper tells me, but no, they played a blinder! Yeah, they were a bit light on the arl fellas (they're back on the bus out of town by five o'clock, anyway), but they show they care about losing decent locals, the collapse of communities around them, and about each other. Not bad from a book with a load of pictures of alehouses that all look the same but don't.

Closing Time is a great little book because it brings people together. I run into a mate, Frazer, a no frills lager man. He opens the book and every emotion, and story comes out; and every now and then: "No! The Royals Arms!.......The Lutine Bell!....The…." The lost pubs of Liverpool - and as Kenn Taylor's intro (I nearly cried me eyes out) says - a lot more lost too.

PS The upside is the CAMRA fella was there to signal the fightback (there's talk they're teaming up with the students) - check their website, and the Beer Scoring Guide for a hoot.

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