Written by Alison James
It’s over a beer, funnily enough, that Si King (the one with the paisley shirt) and Dave Myers (the one with glasses) chat to us about their latest TV project, The Pubs that Built Britain. It’s clear they had a great time exploring some of our most historic hostelries and interesting inns but we can’t help wondering, especially as they sampled pub grub on their travels, whether they missed slaving over a hot stove themselves. “It was actually quite good not having to cook,” laughs Si. “We didn’t have to think about it and everything that goes with cooking on TV.
“It meant we were able to concentrate on what we were doing,” Dave interrupts.
“And we also left the motorcycles at home so we didn’t have to think about them either,” Si pipes up again. ‘That had another advantage, seeing as though we were making a programme about pubs – it meant we could enjoy a few pints and not have to worry.” He pauses to laugh again. “And we did enjoy a few.”
Not that beer plays a major role in The Pubs that Built Britain, more of a supporting one. “Beer has never really worked on TV,” Dave explains. “It’s just brown liquid. The Pubs That Built Britain isn’t about beer – it’s a really accessible way to learn about our history. We visited some amazing pubs and heard some fascinating stories that genuinely altered the course of history. Communism, for example, was founded in a pub. Marx and Engels didn’t get on until they went on a 10-day bender in a pub.
Then they wrote the communist manifesto!
“Carlisle is the only town in the UK ever to have state-owned pubs. It started in the First World War when Carlisle was at the centre of the munitions industry, which made it a bit of a gold rush town. But beer and explosives didn’t mix, so the state took over the town’s pubs and that lasted until the Sixties.
“We went to the pubs in the Lake District where poets Wordsworth and Coleridge used to drink, the Edinburgh pubs where body snatchers Burke and Hare plied their victims with drink, pubs connected to what used to be our industrial heartlands... The programme demonstrates that pubs are so much more than just watering holes – they’re part of who we are and what makes Britain Britain.”
Communities caring for each other is happening less and less. People need to be brought back together if our society is going to thrive
But British pubs are closing at an alarming rate – 30 a week according to recent reports. What do the boys feel can be done about this?
“Hopefully, The Pubs That Built Britain may help to reverse this trend,” Si replies. “Pubs are so important in our lives, our collective culture and communities – there’s a pub in Salford, for instance, that has a knitting circle and still has a Friendly Society, like many pubs did in the old days.
There are a number of reasons why so many pubs are closing; people are buying drinks from the supermarket and drinking at home but there’s hardly much sense of community and camaraderie drinking a can alone in front of the TV, is there? Also it’s very hard to make a living when you’re a tenant landlord or landlady, so many give up and do something else. It’s much easier for Free Houses to be successful, plus pubs that have stayed as pubs and kept their values usually do OK, too. We need to support them and make our own stories, our own history.”
Being foodies, what do they make of Gastro Pubs?
“Pub food has moved with the times; thankfully, you can now get more than scampi in the basket,” says Dave. “There’s nothing wrong with pubs that do good food – so long as they are still pubs. Our mate, chef Tom Kerridge, has pub The Hand and Flowers in Marlow and the food is incredible, but it’s still a pub, somewhere you can go for a pint and a chat.
“What makes a good pub? A place with a welcoming atmosphere, a nice selection of beers and other drinks, good food, a fire and no TV. And a very special landlord and landlady who fill it with their personalities. To be successful, a pub needs a massive amount of dedication from the people running it. The right patrons and staff can really help create magic.”
According to the boys, rumours abound in their native North-east that they’re about to go into the pub business themselves. “I get it all the time,” laughs Dave (58). “I’m constantly asked in Cumbria if I’m taking over a certain pub. I see it on Twitter, too. I must have about 10 pubs in the North-east if the rumours are to be believed,” Si (49) smiles. “The other day a guy in Newcastle said, ‘It’s fantastic you’re taking on the Feathers’ which, by the way is a fantastic Newcastle pub with a great restaurant and is really well patronised. I told him I wasn’t but he just wouldn’t have it!”
The pair are just too busy to become pub landlords themselves. “We’re working on another food show this year, although we’re not able to say much about it – I never like talking about projects in case we jinx them,” says Dave. “But we’re also working on an ongoing project called Old School for BBC2.”
So what’s that about? “Bringing together the two loneliest groups in country – teenagers and the elderly,” Dave continues. “It’s really very simple – put the two together and it solves a lot of problems. People are benefitting enormously. We’ve already seen that over the five-month period the programme covers.
“It’s a skills exchange,” Si explains further. “It’s not about the old mentoring the young and there’s no age hierarchy. It’s about people listening and learning from each other. Communities caring for each other, social cohesion and interaction – that’s happening less and less as libraries, community centres, public swimming pools and pubs close down. People need to be brought back together if our society is going to thrive.” We couldn’t agree more.
The Pubs that Built Britain, is on week nights on BBC2 at 6.30pm
Did you know...?
- Aged 16 Si worked laying paving stones for a construction firm. He then worked in film and television production as a First Assistant Director and Locations Manager and was a member of the crew on the Harry Potter films and Byker Grove
- Si met Dave Myers in 1995 on the set of a TV drama entitled The Gambling Man, which was based on a Catherine Cookson novel
- They both have a tattoo of Che Guevara on their right arm
- In January 2014, the boys launched The Hairy Bikers Diet Club which includes recipes and tips and tricks to help people to live a healthier and trimmer life, while not starving to be “skinny minnies”
- Dave received a fine art degree at Goldsmiths, University of London and a masters degree in art history
- In 2013, Dave participated in the eleventh series of Strictly Come Dancing, partnered with professional ballroom dancer Karen Hauer
- In 2011, Dave married his Romanian girlfriend Liliana Orzac