A free festival of music, comedy, poetry and cabaret is set to be held at the Kings Arms in Salford next weekend, the first of its kind since being taken over by legendary Beautiful South member Paul Heaton.
The community multi-arts venue and back street boozer on Bloom Street will host a one day inclusive arts extravaganza on Saturday 27th to showcase "the best of what they do" and encourage attendees to become regulars.
The pub, like many others in the UK, is struggling to make ends meet due to the tough economic climate. Heaton, along with his partner and co-owner, Zena Barrie and Michelle Flower came up with the idea after talking to their main beer supplier about how to get more customers through the doors to keep the Kings Arms open.
Tickets have been going quickly for the all-day festival, which is sponsored the Robinsons Brewery, and boasts a line-up bursting with local talent and well-known crowd pullers. Zena, founder of the Camden Fringe along with Michelle, hopes to make the festival into an annual event and believes the day will be a big success.
"We've moved loads of tickets already" she said "So the day looks set to be rammed which will be great for us."
Festival-goers will be treated to a special, one-off performance as Gareth David, of Los Campesinos, joins forces with the Paul Heaton band alongside Manchester's folk strummer Lucy and the Caterpillar and Wayne Gidden - who Heaton describes as the "best soul singer in Britain."
The day will also feature sets from award-winning comic Rich Wall and the promising Colin Manford, brother of the nationally renowned Salford stand-up, Jason.
Home-grown performance poetry will also steal the day when wry, social critics Jonathan Barrington, Marvin Cheeseman and Jim Hugo take to the stage.
The Kings Arms has teamed up with Embryo, Studio Salford's eclectic cabaret, for the day to turn the downstairs bar into a whirlwind variety show. As should be expected from a pub that holds a reputation as one of the city's great, community-focused centres for pioneering underground arts projects, guests will also be introduced to more off-the-wall sets from Yvonne Shelton's gospel choir, and interactive knitting from the venue's in-house needle-clickers.
The acts will perform short sets of some of their best material to give everyone the opportunity to watch and discover a wide medley of entertainment, some of which they may not have normally paid to watch in the past.
Paul Heaton said: "the festival is a chance to see new bands, comedians and poets in a warm and cosy pub at a price that suits these times."
The importance of bringing people to the event is obvious for the team. "It's very difficult times" Zena said "Stuff always needs fixing at the pub. We need to raise money for a new boiler and to mend our leaking roof so we need to keep thinking of different ideas to get people through the doors at a time when everyone is skint. We think the day will show off the best of what we offer at the pub. We don't just serve pints; we're a comedy venue, a theatre space and multi-studio venue for musicians and artists.
"We're quite lucky in that we have the facilities to support all these different arts and community projects as well as running as a pub unlike some other pubs" she added "It's easy to see why in this climate and with the unaffordable beer tax the government is imposing twelve pubs are closing a week around the country. It would be a massive shame if the Kings Arms closed down. Pubs are a great British institution but once they are abandoned they quickly fall into disrepair so if ours closed there'd be a good chance that it wouldn't open again."
The Kings Arms is a renowned old-dog of the Salford pub scene, open in name since 1807 and in its current location building on Bloom Street since 1870. In the centuries that followed it has built a well-earned reputation as a much-loved centre of the community that is home to a diverse number of clubs, from the world's oldest angling association to a host of left-wing political groups.
In more recent years, and especially under the influence of its new owners who took over the pub almost one year ago, the pub has focused on becoming a welcoming and nurturing space for emerging local artists, actors and musicians. Along with its several studios and resident theatre collective, Studio Salford, it offers performers the opportunity to test out and improve their skills in a supportive atmosphere.
It's also become a popular meeting spot for local community action groups since other community centres in the area have started to be closed due to the cuts. Several local housing groups are amongst those who use the pub for their meetings.
"We let everyone we can come and use the pub and don't profit from this side of things; we only really charge when we need to cover the costs of staffing events" Zena said "The pub's become a bit of a community centre over the years, it's nice to see it's seen as a really welcoming space at the heart of this part of Salford."
The free tickets for the Kings Arms Festival are available via the website www.kingsarmssalford.com. A number of tickets may be available on the door early on in the day. Doors open at 1pm.
The Kings Arms has just announced it will hold a masquerade ball for its 2012 NYE celebrations. Check out the website for details of tickets and of other upcoming events.
Words by Chloe Glover