Belle Viewing

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.  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.  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.) 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 £3,000 a month. It was the Rising Sun (now set forever) in Little Hampden,

The Sun Has Set on the Rising Sun, Little Hampden
The Sun Has Set on the Rising Sun, 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.

November Fireworks at the Village Pub
November Fireworks at the Village Pub That May Be Seen No More

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 £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.

More Village Pub Fireworks
More Village Pub Fireworks

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.

4 Replies to “Belle Viewing”

  1. Sad news indeed about your remote pub in the Chilterns …sign of these times in which we find our selves…

    The winner of the Circalit competition has just been announced – and – it wasnt me – the winner wrote a fiction short story , a good one .not sure how you can pitch fiction and creative non fiction in the same competiton really but anyhow its on the site and out there I suppose. Shall I add it to my bio do you think Mike? I am missing writing short stories but have decided that I have to cut any distraction whilst I atempt to finish my novel. Incidently it looks like Tales of the Decongested has packed up – I checked the site and the last update is from February ths year and I emailed them but got no reply. Its a real shame ‘cos it was a great concept/event.


  2. Shame about Tales from the Decongested. The big problem with a lot of the literary end of things is that there’s not much money in it so people do it out of the goodness of their hearts.

    I alluded in one of my recent posts to the web/social networking effect that means that everyone now has outlets for their creative writing — and it’s not that expensive to publish a book yourself now. The big problem is attracting attention among all that noise.

    I suspect this is the root of the problem you identify with the Circalit competition — two genres going for the same prize.

    From what I gather, any success in competitions or public readings you’ve done (as well as courses) will all look good on a cv sent to a publisher or agent. Your piece as very gripping so why not do a bit of research into other competitions and re-enter it in those?

  3. The gallery at the Belle Vue is now following Macnovel on Twitter. It can be found on (

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