They are the concrete equivalent of Facebook. If they were to be named nowadays, they would probably be given the soubriquet of ‘public utility building’, instead of the more homely ‘pub’, a term that’s becoming more antiquated and not necessarily tainted with good impressions.

At one time there was seemingly a pub on every corner, but now they’ve served their time as the main social interaction point for a community. If someone was looking for a job, the way to link in was to go to the pub. It was also an original way of taking the ‘liking’ of someone to the next level so that someone’s personal status could change overnight.

Areas of Manchester such as Ardwick, Clayton or Gorton have now been bulldozed to a flat surface, demolishing with them the communities on which these watering holes depended. There it was, the incongruous sight of the Ace Of Diamonds standing forlornly on Oldham Road, waiting for the customers that will never arrive. In its place now is a piece of wasteland.

Many of the extinct pubs were like dinosaurs in that they were unable to adapt and survive to the changing markets and demographics. In some cases they were large multi-roomed affairs, too spacious to accommodate any remaining customers without being swamped with business rates designed for a thriving business. Too often the clientele were the middle-aged or elderly, the type of people with the attitude of, ‘We were brought up here and we will die here’, which inevitably they did, along with the pub. For those remaining, the commentary from the Live At the Races TV channel makes up for the lack of conversation within the soulless places.

Having stood vacant and derelict for many years, generating a visual mess, the architectural legacy sometimes still exists. But now it could be in the form of a church (formerly the Ark Royal in Cheetham Hill), a retail unit (the White Lion in Withington, now a supermarket), a nursery (Birch Arms in Gorton) or just a desolate waste ground (Church Inn, Levenshulme) waiting for planning permission.

Other pubs, such as the Copenhagen on Oldham Road, still have their lamp yards outside, giving the impression that they are just waiting for another entrepreneur, as the brewing companies use the billboards outside to advertise “the opportunity to run your own business”.

The new breed of specialised outlets, focusing on niche markets like high-quality food or imported bottled beers from around the world, seem to have tapped into a thirst for taste that deviates significantly from the ‘lager, crisps and nuts’ stereotype. The new outlets are smaller, more intimate and, inevitably, more expensive, but people are prepared to pay for this service.

The resurgence of cask ales prepared by people skilled in the knowledge of their craft seems to be contributing towards keeping pubs going, and the microbreweries supplying them appear to be flourishing. So it’s not all grim news and I’ll raise a glass to that.

Ged Camera