Warming publicans’ hearts
Q & A with Alexandra Ewing, writer and performer of
‘A National Poem of Thanks to Our Nation’s Publicans’ called ‘The Public House’.
I grew up in pubs as my parents were publicans. My childhood was filled to the brim with noise – rumbling voices, clinking glass, roaring fires, swinging doors, the dull thud of darts hitting the board and the constant swish and wallow of the glass washer. I still sleep better when the next-door neighbours have a party.
When we finally moved into a ‘normal’ house, I queried why my father bought home bottles of Coca-Cola from Tesco – “it comes from the basement!”
My first words, walks, families, friends, jobs and passions belong to the environment, tradition and brilliance of pubs. As publicans, my parents believed in generosity, entertainment and companionship – my work as an actor came from this (and there is nothing like the first order from the bar after bows.)
Being part of the ‘Winter Warmers’ campaign honours my childhood memories and my family – neither of which would be half so large, or half so wonderful if it wasn’t for pubs.
I started writing poetry last year. Lockdown was a big influence on my poetry as I had time to join a writing salon on Zoom, which was really lovely.
I graduated from drama school in 2018 and most of my work as an actress is in the theatre. Until last year I also worked part-time as front of house in the hospitality industry for ten years.
Being part of the ‘Winter Warmers’ campaign honours my childhood memories and my family - neither of which would be half so large, or half so wonderful if it wasn’t for pubs.
Why is being involved in the Winter Warmers campaign so important to you?
It stems from my lovely memories of growing up in a pub. It has been a heartbreaking year for both the arts and pubs and I wanted to show that both worlds are interconnected, and are so important to the UK and to individuals. Also, to help remind people in these industries that they aren’t forgotten, they aren’t gone and they aren’t going to be gone.
It is really important that publicans are thanked for all they have done and continue to do during this pandemic. Publicans have rallied to the cause for their local communities, as they are people of great spirit and resilience. Going with the flow and being able to weather all courses is something that publicans know how to do.
What do you love about pubs?
No matter where they are, pubs are the heart of the community. Whatever your mood is, pubs are there for you. They have a ‘whatever the weather’ feel to them and that has been pubs for thousands of years. That has never changed and will never change.
What do you love about publicans?
Their ingenuity – people don’t think of pubs as creative places, but they are super creative.
Pictured left: Poet Alexandra reads her thank you poem to Victoria MacDonald, publican of The Cellar House, Norfolk.
How do you hope your poem makes publicans feel?
I hope it makes them really smile and that they will feel incredibly proud of how much talent they have and how much their presence is felt, even when it doesn’t feel like it is.
What do you love about Suffolk pubs?
They have a real identity, feel like home and are really welcoming and vibrant.
Would you be tempted to become a publican yourself?
It is definitely something I would love to do at some point. It was a lovely life for my parents and for me as a child. It is such a special thing and I would love to be part of that world again.
Which is your favourite pub?
From my memories, The Rose & Crown, Wivenhoe, Essex (my first pub). Now, The Crown, Hartest, Suffolk. A half hour dog walk from home, my family and I cut across fields and track under Suffolk skies to reach a roaring open hearth and a large bowl of homemade pork scratchings. It is also where I had my first job when I was 16.
What’s your favourite tipple?
Strawberry and cucumber gin by Suffolk Distillery. I love whisky too including Haig Club and Talisker.