It is with teary, beery sadness that we must relay that the recently-saved Gladstone Arms could be about to close after all.
We reported the threat from offshore property developers and how that threat was thwarted by Southwark Council creating a conservation area around the pub. However, money types rarely take defeat lying down. Unable to demolish a community pub to make the millions from flats, owners Sartorio are raising the rent by 30% on a pub that is barely able to wash its own face. It’s the Revenge of the Money. Unless a there is a saviour among us, The Glad’s last stand will be on October 29th – with a party to remember.
All is not lost just yet, though. There are whispers about a third party considering a bid for the freehold. After all, Sartorio don’t actively enjoy shutting down pubs, or reducing outlets for musicians. They just want money. They just want more money than you.
After stepping in to save it once, Southwark Council deserve credit for looking into ways of rehousing ‘the biggest small venue in the world’, somewhere in the area, should moves to save the pub fail. No one can say they haven’t tried.
The Glad recently enjoyed its 10th birthday party – it’s been a decade since Dan Orcese and the guys took over the pub – and it might be their last. Dan is pretty philosophical about it, after all he’s due a change, and he would prefer to reflect on the good times than get cross. And the birthday bash was a good time – a fitting reminder of what would be missed should the Glad’s 150-year history come to an end. It’s housed a recording studio, a record label and even Amy Winehouse, for a photo shoot.
But mostly it’s been an intimate, free, venue for performers from Ellie Goulding and Noah and the Whale to the country legend Larry Jon Wilson. Below is a playlist of some of the acts that have graced the tiny pub in recent years.
There was no face painting or bouncy castle at the party. You could probably fit The Glad into a bouncy castle. But it had live music from 2pm onwards, which afforded me the chance to sit in a pub with my little boy all afternoon, drinking Tribute and eating pies (me, not him, obvs – he’s more a lager and crisps child).
Dan came on first and sang some kids songs for his little girl before raising the bar with a heartbreaking ballad of lost love, I Get Along Without You Very Well, composed by Hoagy Carmicheal. He told the story of how the lyrics were based on a poem whose author remained anonymous despite a nationwide search for her. She was eventually identified as Jane Brown Thompson, who died the night before it was first played on the radio and years before it was covered by Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker and many more. It has been described as the saddest song ever written.
‘Anyway, happy birthday!’
Dan then had to hold a baby to allow two fine Irish musicians to entertain us. Glenn & Catherine normally play in the three-piece Mariah Wade. Catherine sang a song about Irish priests paid to convert from Catholicism by the British invaders. The song was in Gaelic so I couldn’t understand a word in order to feel defensive. It did sound very plaintive though, as a tale of a sordid transaction should.
Simon Lord came on next and sang some simple, effecting acoustic songs in his idiosyncratic style, with a dry humour. He doesn’t need my praise though. The South Londoner is a successful producer, composer and sought-after vocalist. He was in Simian, who had a huge hit with Justice’s remix of their track We Are Your Friends and is now in The Black Ghosts, another successful electronic band.
The video for We Are Your Friends won MTV Europe’s Best Video Award in 2006 but is often remembered for Kanye West storming the stage to complain that his video for Touch The Sky hadn’t won. As he pointed out, his promo, ‘Cost a million dollars. Pamela Anderson was in it. I was jumping across canyons and shit.’ All solid reasons for it to be passed over and a reminder of why we need The Glad more than The 02.
As the afternoon turned to night, the music got meatier and beatier. The little boozer generates a great atmosphere for the kind of shanty mind-trips bands like The Billy Bones can take you on. The bands will play on, somewhere, if The Glad goes under. But these songs, these stories, need a better reason to leave Borough than a return on someone’s investment. At least the emotional investment of nights at The Glad have paid dividends beyond a balance sheet. But wouldn’t it be sweet if the next generation could inherit what we all have on Lant Street?
UPDATE: August 2018
Next the Gladstone Arms was saved thanks to the Save The Glad campaign and the wisdom of Southwark Council. Then it was doomed again by investors’ rent demands, only to be saved again by three heroes, possibly on horseback.
After a brief period of closure and refurbishment, The Glad re-opened. The music is less kooky, as many of the acts have moved on to the Spit and Sawdust, but the food, booze and vibes are just fine.
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