Wrekin Ales pretty much used to run the licensed trade in Wellington and surrounds from the 1930s onwards and most towns had their local brewery which owned or supplied the pubs in the area. Beer didn’t travel well and it was expensive to move about.
Pubs were on every street corner, TV was a rich mans pastime and the towns menfolk would unwind down the local for a few low-strength ales until closing time at 10:30pm. The licencing hours were introduced during wartime so workers would turn up and pack bandages and make spitfires with a clear head.
Wind the clock forward to the 1990s and Wrekin Ales had been bought up by Greenhalls and lost bar a few photos and memorabilia. The corner pubs struggled to compete with five channels of colour TV and the government made it less lucrative for brewers to keep pubs going. Many closed, some were repurposed, bulldozed to make space for housing (like the Green Man on Mill Bank) and some were just boarded up as landlords threw in the beer towel.
This was the case with the Wrekin Inn. Closed for many years, stuck in time and stuck in a strange place due to the new ring road.
Wind forward again to last Tuesday night. The Wrekin was filling up as people gathered for the regular open mic night with first timers, regulars and the odd professional putting their heads over the parapet to share their skills with a friendly and forgiving audience.
After re-opening the pub has found it’s niche with real ales and live music. A selection at the time of the visit included Old Rosie traditional cider at 7%, and Inferno from Oakham Ales at 4%, was the lightest beer on offer among 4 other cask ales on offer. Food is limited to cheeseboard and traditonal pub snacks. I must tell you that the lemon in the jug of water isn’t there to eat. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
The chalk board to the left of the door as you enter lists the live bands and artists due over the next month or so. Almost every Friday and Sunday there is a gig, some Saturdays, and every Tuesday night it’s open mic, which is why I’m here. Music is a big part of this pubs offering.
The format of the evening from 8pm is that each open mic performer get the opportunity to put themselves up for scrutiny for three songs, possibly two if the place is packed (and it often is!). You can expect all ages, styles, musical genres, skill and ability to remember words and chords. What each act has in common is a warm welcome and an appreciative audience, regardless. Jo & Tony who run the night, have built up such a appreciative crowd, and a range of performers that give the open mic such a special evening.
I’ll highlight a couple of acts for you, but the very nature of this night means you never know who is going to turn up, and what you are going to hear. Performers perform on a first come first served basis. On the bill this week was Robin. Robin is probably about 18, and waits patiently and quietly for his turn. He steps up to the performance area an then unleashes the beast inside with a jaw dropping rendition of Steppenwolfs, Born to be Wild. I’m not sure even his parents were born when this was released but the wall of sound and vocals are to behold. The cover of The Way You Look Tonight by Ian Hunter was a simpler arrangement but enjoyed equally as much by the appreciative audience.
Jimmy must be about 65, and 5 foot tall in heels. He’s a confident man who, with his hat, would not look out of place in any roadside bar on Route 66. I think he uses the house guitar, and launches into Smokeys, Sylvias Mother. (edit: actually – Dr Hook) It’s the extended version with ad-libbing, laughing and some neat guitar work. I think he may have played this before. Again, the audience made up of performers and people who come to listen are appreciative and make sure the performer knows they are thankful for the shift they put in.
There are another 9 or so acts. Even if you don’t like the song choices or the performance, you don’t have to wait long before its someone elses turn, and even if the act is a car crash, you have to admire the effort and the risk people take with performing in public in front of some very accomplished musicians and performers. If you are looking to come and heckle, this is wrong place. Stay at home and tweet about Xfactor. This is real music, enjoyed by real people, drinking real ale.
26 Wrekin Road,