It’s been quite a while since I last blogged. This is because I’ve been kind of busy. I’ve been having fun getting out on my bike, meeting friends and visiting pubs. Sadly, I am also expected to go to work if I want to keep getting paid. And on top of all of that, I have been gearing up for the Gloucester History Festival, which starts today.
The History Festival is described as a brand new event, but it builds on the Gloucester Day events and the Heritage Open Days that have successfully run for a number of years. What this year’s festival does is pull together a vast range of different events under one cohesive banner – a single celebration of Gloucester’s fascinating history.
I have been engaged to some degree in these events ever since I got bitten by the local history bug which led to me writing The Story of Gloucester in 2007. This year, however, I have been more involved than ever. For the full range of events you can download the excellent brochure, or pick one up in the Tourist Information Centre. Here I am just going to shamelessly plug my own involvement.
Perhaps my most nerve-wracking involvement is providing a talk at the Guildhall on Friday 7th September at 1pm. The talk is entitled Gloucester Then & Now and is loosely based on my latest book. However, the book doesn’t really have a narrative, which I feel is necessary for a coherent talk. There definitely is a narrative to the changes and evolution of Gloucester over the past 100-150 years covered by the book, so coming up with something wasn’t too hard, but it did require a good amount of effort to knit the talk together.
I am not a natural public speaker, so despite the fact that I provide talks on an increasingly frequent basis I always find them somewhat harrowing. This is especially the case when I give a talk for the first time, as is the case here. All in all then, although the talk is only about 30 minutes long, it is taking up quite a lot of mental effort. In situations like this I am never sure whether I want lots of people to turn up (scary) or not (disappointing). On balance, I would rather people showed up, so please get your tickets – they’re free! Tickets are available from the Tourist Information Centre or the Guildhall Box Office.
My second involvement is in providing the ‘Story of Gloucester’s Pubs Walk’ as part of the Heritage Open Days Guided Walks & Tours (see p.36 of the brochure). I am doing one on Saturday 8th and one on Sunday 9th, both at 2pm, and again tickets are available from the Tourist Information Centre.
This is a bit less nerve-wracking as I have done it for the past couple of years and, being interactive with a small group of people it is less daunting. A great bonus this year is that the undercroft under the Fleece Hotel, formerly known as the Monk’s Retreat, is open this year – the first time since 2008 – and I have permission to take people in. Quite excited about that.
Last, but not least, I am also involved in pulling together the Gloucester Heritage Pubs Beer Festival over the weekend of 7-9 September. Without question, this has taken up most of my efforts.
I have already blogged about the beer festival, so won’t go into too much detail here – suffice to say that it is intended as a celebration of some of our most historic pubs, inns and taverns. The pubs are the stars of the event and 16 have now signed up: Cafe Rene, Southgate St; Cross Keys, Cross Keys Lane (off Southgate St); Dick Whittington, Westgate St; Famous Pint Pot, Bruton Way; Fosters on the Docks, the Docks; Fountain, Westgate St; Imperial, Northgate St; Kingsholm Inn, Kingsholm Rd; New Inn, Northgate St; Old Bell, Southgate St; Old Crown, Westgate St; Pelican Inn, St Mary’s St; Robert Raikes’s House, Southgate St; Tall Ship, Southgate St; Union, Westgate St; Whitesmiths Arms, Southgate St.
Of course, publican’s are extremely busy people, so trying to coordinate them makes herding cats look simple. The event is being run in conjunction with Marketing Gloucester, who are kindly taking care of design and printing. You may have noticed that these guys have also been somewhat busy recently, so getting this sorted has also been a challenge. Nonetheless, despite these problems, things are coming together. Initial flyers and posters are being printed and I’m hoping to pick them up and distribute them around pubs tomorrow, so look out for them.
The pubs have already committed to stocking more than 50 different beers and ciders between them, with more still to be announced, so there will be plenty of choice to be had. A provisional list will be available shortly on the Gloucester History web site with the full list not available until the weekend itself – there will be a brochure with details of pubs and beers available in all participating pubs. We won’t, however, be telling you which beers are in which pubs – you are going to have to find that out for yourself either by putting in the leg work or exchanging notes with your fellow festival goers – go on, talk to people, it’s what pubs are all about! If you want some hints and tips, as well as updates on which beers are coming and going, then follow @GloucesterPubs1 on Twitter to get an unfair advantage.
If you need an excuse to visit as many pubs as possible, I have also devised a quiz for the weekend. The quiz is not hard – there is no general knowledge or esoteric facts, it is simply a case of observation – you need to be in the pubs to see the answers. I’ve almost finished putting the quiz together and it will be available on the day in all participating pubs. If you need an incentive to give it a go then how about a prize of 45 pints of beer kindly donated by the Gloucester Brewery and the Wye Valley Brewery? Go on, give it a go!
So, a great couple of weeks to be had. Hopefully you will come along to at least some of my events, but if they are not your cup of tea there should be some part of the History Festival that is, so get out there and celebrate Gloucester’s history.