In another example of truth following what I’ve written as fiction, I’ve discovered via our excellent local Campaign for Real Ale magazine, Swan Supping, that an art gallery has opened in a pub in the local area.
It’s not a twee country pub either but the Belle Vue, which is right next to the London bound platform exit at High Wycombe train station and overlooks the railway lines. Â It’s a friendly place with good real ale.
The art gallery was set up by Alan Hedgecock, who has run the pub himself, but is also a photographic artist. The first exhibition is of Alan’s photographs and is called ‘Smoking Ban’ as the photos were taken at the time the ban was introduced in 2007. Â The gallery will be made available to other local artists for exhibitions of up to 8 weeks.
To underline the importance of pubs in a community, the Belle Vue also runs a monthly book club, a knitting circle (!) and will soon start a film club.
So my premise of having a pub run by an artist and using some of its space to show her work is not only plausible, it’s happening in High Wycombe — although I must add for posterity that I’ve been writing my fictional version of this for the past nine months. (I have been to the pub at least a couple of times in the intervening time, though.)Â The art gallery idea actually came from a piece of feedback from a City coursemate who assumed that was what Kim would do.
On a more worrying note, I found that a remote pub in an idyllic location in the Chilterns (in fact very close to my fictional village where The Angel will be) closed over the summer and is now up for rent as a 4-bed private house at Â£3,000 a month. It was the Rising Sun (now set forever) in Little Hampden,
quite close to the spot where I fell over running in the woods last weekend and limped down to wait for help outside Chequers with my hands and knees covered in blood. This is the fate that may befall the Angel if James and Kim fail.
At the pub quiz in my local last night I was shocked to find out that the traditional firework display that the pub has laid on for going on for the last 20 years will not happen this year — here are a couple of pictures from the 2006 display.
It’s always been a superb firework display for a pub and has been funded by in part by a quiz, a small donation from the parish council and a few quid chucked in a bucket on the day. However, with over Â£1,000 of fireworks the pub made by far the lion’s share of the contribution. With the current economic situation and the prospect of the VAT rise putting up the price of beer by another 10p a pint then I can’t really blame the landlord. The pub has always been busy on bonfire night but one hour of the bar being packed out won’t make the profit required and many people stand outside to watch without even buying a drink. To be generous to them perhaps they think it’s all laid on by the council or something.
The event used to last longer with a big bonfire on the village green but that had to be discontinued due to ‘health and safety’ — more specifically some parents were letting their children play unsupervised too close to the fire and the organisers thought they were on a hiding to nothing — either be sued after an accident or face the minefield of supervising other people’s children. They could no doubt have put a big fence round the fire but that’s all extra expense for the pub — and, frankly, why they should they.
One of my fondest childhood memories is of standing round a huge bonfire in November but this seems to be another dying tradition — but I will try and revive it at The Angel.