Wednesday, 23 September 2020

A Beacon for Bristol

Bristol's concert venue Colston Hall has been rebranded as the Beacon after a decades-long campaign to remove the name of the eighteenth century slave trader whose statue was toppled and thrown into the harbour there in June.

Bristol has of course a longstanding Afro-Caribbean community, and an equally long history of fighting slavery and racism, including the 1963 boycott of the local bus company which refused to employ black drivers, shamefully in connivance with the Transport and General Workers Union (whose first General Secretary, and future Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, founded the union while working in the city), and in 2016 elected its first black mayor, Labour's Marvin Rees, a descendant of slaves now running a city built on the slave trade.

In the early sixties, another descendant of slaves, the former Mississippi field hand McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, stood on the stage of Colston Hall in front of hundreds of young white blues fans - thousands of miles and a world away from his Delta youth of sharecropping on plantations and playing at juke joints and Saturday night fish fries - although, in an echo of current restrictions, a local by-law banning amplified music after ten o'clock meant that the power to the microphone broadcasting his electric slide guitar to an enraptured audience was cut off after fifteen minutes!

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

I Know What I Like

Talking Pictures TV last night showed I Know What I Like, a 1973 film about beer and brewing made for the trade body the Brewers' Society.

Starring Bernard Cribbins in various parts - farmer, brewer, maltster, landlord, hop picker and white-coated scientist - it's a fairly standard promotional film that reflects drinking trends in the early seventies, with the brewing industry keen to defend itself against the charge of pushing an inferior product on consumers by, rather unconvincingly, claiming that the traditional method of brewing draught beer in regional family breweries before racking it into wooden casks and loading them onto horse-drawn drays for distribution to tied pubs had essentially been retained, admittedly on a much larger scale, in the stainless steel coppers, mash tuns and closed conical fermenting vessels of a massive keg plant lately built by some national conglomeration next to a motorway junction whose output was then transported around the country by tanker lorries. In the pub scenes, very little distinction is drawn between cask and keg or draught and bottled beer, with it being taken for granted that you could buy bitter, mild, stout, brown ale and lager in at least one of those forms of dispense wherever you happened to call in for a drink.

Thankfully the argument that the consumer must be happy with the choice of beer in their local because they kept going to them was resisted by at least a significant minority of drinkers, with 1973 also seeing the publication of Frank Baillie's seminal book The Beer Drinker's Companion, and the Campaign for Real Ale - which had been formed in 1971 on a casual basis by four journalists on holiday in the West of Ireland - starting to find its feet as a national organisation of members organised into branches and about to produce the first printed Good Beer Guide.