Thirst for art and ale is just the tonic for pubs

Pub Scrawl, Sheffield, Jan 20 2012''Fauna Graphic  at  The Frog and Parrott
Pub Scrawl, Sheffield, Jan 20 2012''Fauna Graphic at The Frog and Parrott

IT’S not often publicans have to turn away hordes of thirsty punters in January.

But Sheffielders were out in force on Friday night for Pub Scrawl, curated by Sheffield artist Pete McKee.

Following last year’s cultural successes with the Food Festival, Off the Shelf, Tramlines and more, the premise was simple: ten local artists, ten venues, one night only – plus a special Thornbridge pale ale, Scrawl, to wash it down.

The art/ale fusion proved effective. Tickets for the guided Scrawl tour sold out quickly as contagious enthusiasm for the event spread among the city’s art lovers.

The result was crushes of people jostling six deep at the bar, vying for a beer and a glimpse of the exhibits.

Mark Gell, of Hillsborough, said: “I wouldn’t normally go to an exhibition but it’s a great excuse to have a few post-work pints and experience a bit of culture at the same time.”

Russell Wragg of Bramall Lane, agreed: “For me it more about the social aspect than the art itself. It’s been nice to see another side to what’s going on in Sheffield. I had no idea there were so many artists working here before tonight – I’ve even seen a couple of pieces I’d like to buy.”

Siana Glenn, of Ecclesall Road, crawled the circuit with friends: “We loved seeing Fauna Graphic painting live in the Frog & Parrot,” she said, “but our favourite part was playing with Fine & Dandy’s printed boxes in Bungalows & Bears.

“It really appealed to us because it was half installation and half live; everyone got involved and had their own ideas about what they wanted to do with the boxes to rebuild them and create something new. It was completely open to interpretation.”

Sian’s housemate, Chloe Gough, added: “The atmosphere was brilliant. We spoke to far more people than we would on a regular night out. It’s fun to be part of something like this.”

The artists exhibiting were equally enthusiastic. Geo Law, displaying his quirky illustrations and 3D animal sculptures in The Great Gatsby, said: “The social aspect of the festival appealed and gave me the chance to work with an old friend to build something I’d never attempted before.

“I wanted to transform the space to create a temple vibe with lots of colour, smells of incense and ornate statues to make it as interactive as possible.”

Lettering expert and illustrator Lord Bunn, exhibiting in the Bath Hotel, said he wanted his work to reflect the fleeting nature of the event.

His medium – scribing calligraphy onto an array of fruit and vegetables inspired by the pub’s history as a greengrocers – existed only for the festival. “Just like the event, my work will fade away after tonight and only remain in the memories of people who came along.”

Other artists chosen by Pete McKee to exhibit included Ian Anderson, Tom J Newell, Tado, Warp Films, Sarah Abbott and Nick Deakin.

Pete said he was “utterly overwhelmed” by the public support. “People were coming up to me and saying that the pubs were full of people just smiling and enjoying the event and the art.

“There’s no doubt that Pub Scrawl was a success. People had to queue to get into some of the venues and we deliberately picked the worst Friday night in the brewing trade’s calendar.

“We had no idea how we were going to control the night and get 150 people safely around the 10 pubs, but through a lot of cooperation, good nature and organisation it all went off without a hitch. I was completely cream crackered by the end of the night but completely elated.”