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Ian Clayton: It's The Beer Talking

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Ian Clayton is an author hailing from Featherstone, West Yorkshire, who has written over 50 books, including the best selling Bringing It All Back Home. His latest book, It's The Beer Talking, is a memoir about his lifelong affection for pubs and includes his accounts of supping ale in local Sheffield public houses to drinking beer in pubs as far away as China.

What made you want to write It's The Beer Talking?

Twelve years ago, I was commissioned to write a book about music by Ian Daley from Route publishing. I decided to write it entirely from memory and it became Bringing It All Back Home. I enjoyed writing it so much that I thought I would like to write about pubs using that same approach. I recalled pubs I have known - some have closed, others are in danger of going. I wanted to preserve a memory of them, so it's a book about my adventures in pubs over 40-odd years.

In the book you've managed to recall the countless pubs you've visited and the drinks you've tasted despite...

Drinking destroying brain cells.


I'm blessed with a really good photographic memory, but I have lots of moleskin diaries, and I keep one with me wherever I go. Especially when I travel, so that I can tell people I meet a bit about where I'm from. This is also something a pub can be, a place for cultural exchange.

Localness can be anywhere you feel at home

As well as writing about pubs that are no longer here, you write about friends that have passed. Was that challenging?

It was, but whenever I write about loved ones who have passed I try to make them a metaphor for something as we go through life. They become a meaning.

The closing of pubs is a national scandal. Think about where people get together, pubs, community centres, libraries, these are the places we're losing. This country has no problem spending countless amounts on wars but will close libraries or not attempt to keep pubs open. It's almost as if the places and people who want to keep us together are the ones to blame for the country not having enough.

Why do you make the distinction between community and localness in the book?

Because I don't like the way the word 'community' has been hijacked. It's now used to lump us all together. My community in Featherstone is different to the community in let's say Milton Keynes, but it seems like the powers that be don't want different communities to have different ideas, to be positively independent. A community should have its own pub, library, baker and so on, not be a collective term for a group that has the same monetary or political interest. What I think we ought to be talking about when we now mention community is locality. I can go to a mining town in Poland and feel more at home than at a pub that is only a few miles away from me, which shows localness can be anywhere you feel at home, whether it's in any part of this country or beyond.

What Sheffield pub and ale do you like most?

Sheffield is blessed with great pubs, but what's been done with the Fat Cat is tremendous. They brew incredible beers, such as Pale Rider, which is superb.

If you could recommend one pub, which would it be?

Anyone's best pub will be the one closest to them, their local. My favourite pub is always my local, wherever local may be, but if I were pushed to pick one, it would be The Greyhound in Saxton. It has tiny rooms, low ceiling beams, only one beer to choose from and it's only toilet is outside and has a swallow's nest in it. Whenever I go to The Greyhound and see the swallows in their nest, I know that no matter what, all is right in the world.

Akeem Balogun

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