As soon as they told me where they were from, I had to ask. It all stacked up, didn’t it; Cornwall, couple, pubs, beer. I didn’t know what Boak and Bailey looked like did I? I’d never met them and I’d never seen a photograph of them. ‘Katie and Simon’ just laughed and said they’d never heard of them, apparently Falmouth is quite a long way from Penzance. Mind you, they were both interested and impressed with what I told them about the UK’s leading beer bloggers. So much so, Katie made a note in her little book, an event that became more frequent as the evening wore on.
So, why had Katie Etheridge and Simon Persighetti made the eight hour train journey from Kernow to Leeds? Well, the two performance artists are submitting a funding bid for a project to Compass Festival, a biennial festival of live arts which returns to Leeds in autumn 2018. Some of you may remember the last one back in 2016, when Katie and Simon took over a stall in Leeds famous Kirkgate market as part of their ‘Personal Shopper’ participatory art project, interacting with shoppers and market people, producing many artefacts, including individually designed shopping bags and a book; Personal Shopper.
Their work also included daily misguided tours of the markets area, something Simon, a Doctor of Ambulant Investigations, is well known for as part of an artists collaboration called Wrights and Sites. I loved the sound of the ‘Personal Shopper’ misguided tours, one of which was WorkersLunchTime by ‘WorkersLunchTime’, a real life Leeds office worker who uses his lunch hour to go on adventures and explorations. There were plenty of others, beyond the scope of my little post to describe, but well worth having a look on their website.
Building on their previous project and expertise on Leeds City Market, they’ve decided to zone in on Kirkgate for their new project which is focussed around pubs. I liked the sound of that, visiting pubs, talking to people, drinking beer, I could do that, it could catch on, I could be a participatory artist. I could develop all kinds of interesting images and sounds and objects out of what I discovered?
On a serious note, their interest is the relationship between people, place, beer and pub. Katie showed me a diagram in her book. I liked the concept, it immediately started to ‘live’ in my mind, and I saw how it fitted with how we see and understand pubs, or perhaps don’t, or at least not in any quantitive way?
Maybe we all need to explore the complex relationship we have with pubs and bars a little further. Maybe an additional dimension needs to be thrown in? I hesitated, but they were looking at me, keenly anticipating my next move. I don’t like drawing in other peoples little books, I don’t like people writing in mine, but I did it all the same and I changed the triangle into a three dimensional pyramid with ‘time’ as the third dimension, which started to pass us by as the discussion veered into how pubs change with time.
For example, the Duck and Drake was fairly quiet at 6.30pm on a Tuesday, yet when there’s a band on it’s ‘can’t get through the door heaving’. There’s a totally different clientele in during the day, to those who go after tea time. Over the years the Duck and Drake doesn’t appear to have changed that much, yet it will have, it might seem the same but some punters will have moved away, moved on, or even passed on. Katie and Simon had already been doing some groundwork, visiting local pubs and talking to local players and they’d already noticed subtle nuances between the various hostelries in the Kirkgate area.
I’ve used the term chameleon bar previously, and it sums up what, I think, a modern bar has to do; to change with time, to literally sweat the asset, if I can borrow the cliche from whoever makes up all these impossible clauses. Wapentake on Kirkgate is a good example; breakfast and coffee, bread, brunch, lunch time drinkers, food, tea and cake, tea time drinkers, food, evening drinkers, sport on TV, music? What I’m trying to say is that it’s different things to different people at different times of the day. So, we wandered across the road to see for ourselves, and to witness the presentation of LeedsCAMRA Pub Of The Month for June award to Wapentake, and get a pint of cask ale in Leeds city centre for £2 a pint (Tuesdays only).
There’s lots of other ways of seeing the pub, people, place, beer relationship, and I could see endless possibilities with Katie and Simon’s work. Although things are still at the recconaisance stage, to take it further they’re keen to speak to as many people as possible about the Leeds Pub scene, and not any self-proclaimed experts neither, more like ordinary pub goers and key individuals, finding out what’s important to them, looking at networks and communities. They already had appointments fixed up with the lovely Emily Youell, one half of the Wapentake duo, and Katie Marriot of Nomadic Beers. I introduced them to some CAMRA stalwarts too, and for the second time in as many weeks Ken’s picture appears in a post. The conversation apparently proved useful, as significant quantities of notes were added into Katie’s little book.
You can read Boak and Bailey’s work on their website and you can also see from their photograph, for which I thank them for their kind permission to use, that they look nothing like Katie and Simon, or maybe they do, maybe they’ve had a kooky makeover, and it really was them …
Or maybe Katie and Simon are the New Boak and Bailey? Whatever, I really hope they get the funding to proceed with this project and I look forward with interest to what comes out of it, which will be both interesting, amusing and thought provoking. I reckon the outcomes will provide us with a new lens to look at pubs through, and an entirely different way of seeing the relationships between pubs and people.