BFI Player collection celebrates the British pub on film

Fancy a swift half? This round of Britain’s drinking establishments is on us.

Join us for a Virtual Pub Crawl of pubs and bars from across the UK, as seen on film. With the easing of lockdown restrictions and plans to reopen venues from this weekend, now is the time to reflect on the British public house and the people it serves wiith a new free collection of archive films available to view on BFI Player from 3 July.

From city boozer (Victorian Pub, 1974, Media Achive for Central England, University of Lincoln) to country inn (The Pub With No Name, 1964, The Box, Plymouth) the public house has always been about more than beer and crisps. A place of friendship and festivity, the local pub is at the centre of many communities and the community has been on hand to raise a glass and offer their support when they have been under threat (Pub Closing, 1961, Media Achive for Central England, University of Lincoln).

Whilst a trip to your local hasn’t be an option recently, and imminent trips may feel anything but typical, our virtual pub crawl will help recapture that uniquely clammy embrace of noise, crowds and smells that welcome the visitor on entry, all from the comfort of your own home. Join your neighbourhood landlord/landlady and eavesdrop on the colourful nonsense of the characters propping up the bar, spectate on the local grudge matches at skittles (Pub Skittles, 1961, Media Achive for Central England, University of Lincoln) or darts, and witness the resident entertainer prove that when it comes to performance, passion is a great substitute for polish.

In anticipation of pubs and bars reopening, these archive films, drawn from the BFI National Archive and regional and national archive partners from across the UK and digitised with thanks to National Lottery funding, remind us that the qualities of a good night out are timeless, wet your whistle by all means, but please do remember to watch responsibly.

In addition you can check if your favourite liquid refreshment is on tap and peruse the food options to accompany your beverage of choice, by exploring Commercial Break British Advertising on Screen drawn from the BFI’s drawn from the BFI National Archive’s extensive screen advertising collection.

A cheeky half (dozen) to see:

Tour of the Inns (1938)

Join this charming virtual pub crawl captured on film by an amateur filmmaker and public house aficionado, treading in the ghostly footsteps of innkeepers, smugglers, authors and bargemen of old.

Pub Crawl (1983) Yorkshire Film Archive

Join TV Presenter and naturalist Michael Clegg for a spirited historic tour of Yorkshire’s most famous drinking establishments, from the Pennine Way to the Yorkshire coast, sampling local specialities alog the way whilst also offering detailed comment on historical facts and myths that are associated with the respective pubs and swapping stories and ghost sightings with landlords.

Life and Music of Black Anna (1973) UEA’S East Anglian Film Archive

Well and truly steering the helm at The Jolly Butchers pub in Norwich is landlady Antoinette Hannent, better known as ‘Black Anna’, a vivacious character and consummate jazz singer  adored by her regulars who gather at the pub in their droves to witness her enthusiastic and crowd-rousing  performances .

The Pub With No Beer (1980) Northern Ireland Screen, Digital Film Archive

How can opening a pub help you resist the temptation of a drink? Meet the Armagh Pioneers to find your answer. In 1829 Rev. John Edgar declared his opinions on temperance in the Belfast Telegraph, his Ulster Temperance Movement inspired similar societies across England. The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart was set up in Ireland by Fr. Cullen in 1898. Their mission, “to address the problems in society caused by excess alcohol consumption”. This bar with a difference gives people everything they love about the pub without the temptation.

Asian Pub Landlord (1968) Media Archive for Central England

Hans Raj Dhanjal from Wolverhampton is the first Asian pub landlord in the Midlands and, like all landlords, he’s not just there to pull pints but to be a friendly ear and solve his customers’ problems. As reporter John Meredith finds out in this 1968 news item it’s not race relations that are foremost in his mind but the complexities of the Black Country dialect as practiced by the regulars of the Heart of Oak.

Talent Contest (Fun Palace outtakes) (1963)

Silent outtakes originally shot for use in a film by acclaimed theatre director Joan Littlewood, as part of her unrealised Fun Palace project looking at London’s leisuretime. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the social life of the early 60s, filmed inside an unnamed East End pub where a talent show takes place featuring singers and strippers. Rather than gaze at the woman as she undresses, the cameraman, Walter Lassally (We Are The Lambeth Boys, A Taste of Honey), focuses solely on the intently watching men, who dominate the space, as they down their pints and watch the show.