RICHARD HAWLEY

Last night I went to the Cambridge Corn Exchange with Mrs RM to see Richard Hawley, a rare favourite of both of ours.  Like latest LP, Hollow Meadows, the gig wasn’t quite perfect, with gentler stuff (What Love Means) brushing up against the robust rockouts (Heart of Oak) that were a little too close to late-period Big Country.

A mesmeric voice, and wonderful guitarist.  For the first time in many years, there were more people older than younger than us, which partly reflects the venue.

This was my first visit to the Corn Exchange since The Fall premiered “Bill is Dead” 25 years ago, around the time the local Beer Festival moved out. Since that highpoint it’s focused largely on musicals, panto and soap stars, with the Junction taking on the student gig role and the Portland Arms emerging as the place to see new music for a few quid.  It’s the same functional venue, decent sound but lacking character, even for standing gigs like last nights.

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Having dragged my 1994 local CAMRA Guide out of the loft for the previous post, I was surprised to see back then the Corn Exchange served real ale, albeit occasionally.  Flowers was a regular find back then.  Nowadays it’s the usual Greene King roster on keg, including one of their uninviting Belhaven craft fonts.  Particularly uninviting in plastic glasses.

If you look closely you’ll see the now-closed Cow and Calf, probably my favourite Cambridge pub and scene of riotous celebrations when Cambridge embarrassed Di Canio’s Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup in 1998.  The Guide description is spot on, including the pub cat; this was a basic pub closer to, say, the Tiviot or Pineapple in Stockport, than the middle-class Mill Road free houses.  Obituary below ; www.cambridge-camra.org.uk/ale/300/cowcalf.html 

The 1994 Guide was edited by veteran CAMRA campaigner Paul Ainsworth, still doing a sterling job for pub preservation in Barnsley branch and nationally.  One pub from that Guide that has been marvellously preserved is Adnams’s Castle near the Council offices, as attractive a pub as I’ve seen anywhere.  I always think the Castle has too many beers on (8 cask and several Adnams and German on keg), but always end up rating the Bitter or Broadside as high as ever (NBSS 3.5 says Mrs RM).  The best burger and chips in the city as well.

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By the by, due to a late spring-clean, I do have a collection of about 60 1990-2000’s local CAMRA guides if anyone wants them free; can drop them off on my travels unless you’re on the Scilly Isles.

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