We went on a crawl of pubs near the new London Anarchist Bookfair, taking place this Saturday at Central Saint Martin's from 10am till 7pm.
This year the London Anarchist Bookfair moves across the city, from Queen Mary university in the east, to Central St Martins, just north of Kings Cross. The shift from Mile End where the bookfair has been held for a number of years to a more central location presents a number of issues, particularly, where to drink. Ending the recent routine of spending the day in the Wetherspoons, then the evening in the Wetherspoons (or one of the other pubs in the area, such as the excellent Palm Tree). We figured we needed to check out where the best new drinking spots would be - so we channelled our inner Marx, and organised a pub crawl.
Kings Cross has long been a hub for travellers, so is heaving with pubs. Time Out’s guide to the area claims it has become a “destination in its own right” but most of the places they suggest are not the kind of places you’re likely to find anarchists drinking in, some for good reason. The days of Time Out’s offices being raided in hunts for anarchist urban guerillas are long over. With a plethora of drinking establishments in the area we realised we needed some criteria. You can’t have a drink in every pub in Kings Cross on a work night. We ruled out all the pubs with less than five out of ten on a popular pub ranking site, wine bars (see Breaking Free) and cocktail bars.
We started out our pub crawl at The Fellow which sits at the start of York Way, the long road leading from Kings Cross up to the new bookfair venue. As soon as I walked through the door my first impression was the place was unlikely to get much trade from the hordes of anarchists descending on the capital. The cheapest pint was £3.80 and the set up on the ground floor was more like a restaurant, packed with people in suits. It’s got that situated-next-to-a-Travelodge vibe, but improves significantly if you leave the ground floor, apart from the flooded toilet. There’s a covered outdoor roof terrace for smokers and a couple of other floors including an upstairs bar which was a lot quieter. It’s around 75 metres from the nearest McDonalds and if you're getting a train home and fancy a quick pint the location is good. Just before we left we ended up swapping anecdotes about a disgraced MP.
Right outside The Fellow is a bar called The Waiting Room, it looked like a budget Slug and Lettuce so we gave it a miss and headed straight up the road to Millers, the nearest pub to Housmans bookshop. It had three locally-brewed ales on handpump but an otherwise unimpressive selection of beers. We got five drinks for £18 and sat down at a table next to a huge plasma screen TV fixed to the wall, silently emitting adverts, like the pitchside hoarding of a Premiership ground. This as it turns out, is the pub where a guy with a National Front tattoo once tried to force Wayne to take some class A drugs with an implicit threat of violence, now however it was full of normal looking people. It's not a big pub though, and although it could probably fit one national organisation, joint drinks between various federations probably won’t work. Conversation turned to a goat-loving Northerner who’s managed to annoy a lot of people. The decor of the pub was quite dated, it had wooden flooring on the ceiling and resolutely non-trendy exposed brickwork. An 80s disco at the weekend is enough to make it the early leader, but we had a feeling we could still seek out a better pub, and pressed on.
Up the road sat The King Charles I (below), a small pub hidden down a side street. The warm atmosphere of the pub was apparent even from outside, and the great name (King Charles I was beheaded in 1649) seemed fitting. There were stuffed animals heads above the bar, sure to deter bunny huggers, and the kind of wood panelling which is definitely trendy. It’s the pub you’re most likely to find hipsters in nearest to the bookfair venue.
Reggae was playing when we walked in and it sold a ‘lovely beer’, to quote one comrade. A chalk sign at the bar announced ‘Sparkling Prosecco £6/glass’, which will either enrage or entice post bookfair customers, depending on their strain of political ideology. This was the best pub we visited, but it’s probably too small to drink in after the bookfair, there’s also a DJ playing on Saturday night.
Next we headed up the road to The Driver which looks like a pub from the outside, but on entering, was clearly now a restaurant. It smelt of delicious, expensive food which we couldn’t afford. Way too fancy for anarchists. We didn’t have Central Station on our list, because it had a ranking of less than five on the site we had used. We walked past at 8pm and observed the strobe lights and bass thump of a Monday night disco going on, despite being completely empty. Turns out it’s a gay bar, has a roof terrace and a free pool table. We probably unfairly overlooked this place. Doesn’t look too bad on Google Maps so might be worth visiting.
The last pub on our crawl was the Star of Kings, the nearest pub to the new bookfair venue. It sold real ale and craft beer, has Meantime beers on tap and does food. There was a large back area which was booked when we arrived so we sat in the front bar which was fairly spacious but not massive. Out the front there were a selection of picnic benches but it was way too cold. Given the size, selection of beer and the location this pub is probably going to be heaving with anarchists in the day on Saturday. We had a couple of pints here and split a bowl of soggy cheesy chips before calling it a night and heading home.
Immediately after the bookfair Calais Migrant Solidarity have called a protest in St Pancras station in solidarity with Calais migrants and the three Channel Tunnel walkers currently imprisoned. There is also going to be a noise demo outside HMP Send in Woking which is where anarchist prisoner Emma Sheppard is being held. Call 07494 783122 if you’re able to attend and want more details. After the protests there is a post-Bookfair event at Housmans from 6 until 9pm where we’ve been told there will be free booze. Plenty of groups and organisations will be holding their own drinking sessions and then after those there’s a squat party/rave. Have a look at posters on the day for more details. Enjoy yourselves!