Hamish Champ: "TV in sympathetic portrayal of pubs shock

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Red lion Beer Public house

In these times of heightened media interest in binge drinking and alcohol-related crime it's rare to see a portrayal of pub culture on TV that could...

In these times of heightened media interest in binge drinking and alcohol-related crime it's rare to see a portrayal of pub culture on TV that could come under the heading 'sympathetic'.

But in 'The Red Lion', shown on Channel 4 last Thursday, we got an insight into what makes pubs in this country - and more importantly the people who frequent them - tick.

Watch Cutting Edge: The Red Lion again here

You may have seen Sue Bourne's rather touching film. If you didn't you should check it out on the channel's website. It'd be worth the effort.

The film-maker visited a number of the 600 or so pubs bearing the name Red Lion to get under the skin of what makes pubs so important to the people who visit them. It was heartening to watch a programme which didn't set out to demonise such establishments and their customers.

It wasn't rose-tinted; rather it showed what many of us already know, that pubs act as a meeting place for people from all walks of life. The pub as a social leveller, in other words.

It reminded me of what I like about a particular pub with which I'm on considerably familiar terms.

I don't have a 'local' in the strict sense of the word. No disrespect to the pubs in my immediate vicinity but I wouldn't step across the threshold of the nearest one to me, nor the closest after that, or the one after that, for that matter.

I walk past or around a number of pubs to get to the one I feel welcomed into, where one sees faces that are familiar but which don't intrude, where one feels at home but where there's no pressure to engage if one doesn't want to.

The Dacre Arms, in the London borough of Lewisham, is one damn fine pub. An old Courage house, probably built sometime between the world wars, it feels like a village pub, belying its location in a part of inner London where strangers think they need a stab jacket to venture through it.

The Dacre, an Enterprise Inns-owned establishment run by licensee Terry Freak, is a traditional one-bar boozer on a street corner. It is often busy, despite the s****** **n. It does decent cask ale, the usual lager and 'black stuff', and wine out of small bottles you hardly ever see these days. And as if to thumb its nose at the trend for offering food in pubs the only solids on offer consist of packets of potato-based nibbles.

But then who needs food in a place like this? It'd only get in the way of drinking.

What makes the Dacre special for me is not only the sum of its parts but the way they combine​. It's a friendly place and very much a part of the set-up of the surrounding area. And while it has its hardcore local clientele no-one is made to feel like they've invaded someone else's front room.

Its customers run the gamut from geezers in overalls to 'suits' on their way home from work, to professional types in their 20s and early 30s.

I see the Dacre as an oasis, a buffer keeping at bay - if only for a couple of hours - the crap that one has occasionally to deal with in the Real World. Long may it continue.

If Sue Bourne ever considers making another film on the subject of pubs she could do a lot worse than bowling down to the Dacre. It's on Kingswood Place, SE13, in case you get lost…

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