An Evening At The George Canning, 8 April 1979

I enjoyed several evenings of beer and music with mates from Alleyn’s at the George Canning pub, Effra Road, Brixton.

I was reminded of it (April 2017) while writing up the party and rambling events of the following (Easter) weekend of April 1979 – click here – by spotting the following diary entry from the previous weekend, 8 April:

Went to George Canning in eve

No information in that diary entry on who my companions were that evening. I remember going to the George Canning with Jim Bateman more than once and also I’m pretty sure Mark Stevens. Perhaps also Paul Deacon and/or Graham Majin on at least one occasion; others joined us too, I think, on one visit or another. This aspect of my memory needs help.

But I do remember those evenings at the George Canning reasonably well.

In 1979, the pub looked more like the 1905 picture from this urban history site than the 2003 picture – click here – even though colour photography had just about emerged by 1979 (albeit not often in my camera).

As I recall it, the music on all my visits was British Rhythm & Blues – click here – much like the first albums by bands like the Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, The Moody Blues, the Animals etc. Whether that R&B was the style of the place always or whether that was merely what you got on the nights we could afford, I don’t know.

But we could afford these evenings on a bit of saved pocket money. The beer was just a few pence more than normal, but if you eked out two pints over the evening you could still get a whole evening of beer and music for a quid.

The George Canning type of pub wasn’t a salubrious environment back then. I’m talking about 1979 Brixton, not the hipster “south-Shoreditch-like” inner London neighbourhood of today.

Indeed I don’t suppose my mum would have approved of us going there had she realised what a dive this pub was at that time; but Effra Road was also the location of the Brixton Shule (synagogue), so (in her mind) what could possibly go wrong just a hundred yards or so up the road from there?

From our point of view, it always felt safe and welcoming enough. The nights we went to the place, it was mostly populated by people who were there for a few beers and some music. Perhaps a few old regulars bemoaning the noise, but on the whole there was a sense of shared music-following purpose.

The place is now far more venue than drinking house; Hootananny Brixton – click here to see the site.

“Over 21s only” it says at the top of the web site…that might have proved to be a bit of a problem for us 16/17 year-olds.

Not bad reviews on Yelp for the current venue – click here.

Not so sure about it as a hostel if TripAdvisor reviews are to be believed – click here.

But looking back to 1979, other old friend’s memories of those outings to the George Canning would be most welcome.

Update: when I shared this piece on the Alleyn’s 1970s Facebook Group, both Mark Stevens and Neil Voce owned up to having been part of that scene.

Mark Stevens wrote:

I used to go and see a blues band there – the Southsiders…I think they were the band that pushed me towards blues more than anything else…

Neil Voce wrote:

Definitely used to go to see them at the George Canning as it was and the two brewers in Clapham

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