There is no getting away from the fact that the Great British Pub is in serious trouble, with a seemingly unending stream of closures hitting the headlines daily.
Luckily one man thinks they are still of some value. Matt Waldram has the idea of a new TV talk show set within this great British establishment. After all they have the space, comfy seats, and plenty to drink.
Pub lunches have been improving in recent years. With the advent of the smoking ban pubs have had to revamp themselves more as a place to eat than a place to drink. The menu has had to stretch further than the traditional Ploughman’s lunch and frozen Lasagne. The gastro-pub is very much on the rise.
Matt has already signed his first guest, Leigh Dovey, the writer and director of the Fallow Field. This recent UK independent production has won over reviewers with it’s stunning cinematography of the Surrey countryside.
So I grabbed Matt for a quick pint and a chat:
Do you think this show will do something to attract people back into the pubs?
Well there is definitely a chance that it could remind people of just how many nice pubs there are in this country. Although the pubs aren’t necessarily the stars of the show, they’re certainly an integral part; you can’t have a pub lunch with no pub. Well you could, but it would just be lunch. And I bet it would be crap.
Will this show be a big boost for the proprietors of the venues?
I hope it will. That’s certainly the tale we’re telling them anyway. What’s great about this show is that we will absolutely not be discriminating in terms of the venues we choose. There’s just as good a chance that we’ll be filming in a large ‘chain’ pub as there is of us rocking up in some gloomy old tavern in the middle of a forest. As long as the food and drink is good we’ll be there. Of course there will be a little bit of info about the pub at some point in the episode, and we plan to push some of the geosocial networking stuff that’s so prevalent right now, so people who decide to follow the show will know where we’re filming. Who knows, if they’re nearby they might come down and heckle us.
They’d better not do though.
What is your favourite pub meal?
Easy. Sausage and Mash. It’s my comfort blanket; I always go in with good intentions – ‘this time I’ll try something new’ – but it’s always there in the centre of the menu. If there’s nothing else worth having on a pub menu, you can almost guarantee that bangers and mash are knocking about somewhere.
It’s a bit of a double-edged blade though; there’s nothing as painful as when somebody gets it wrong. I feel violated and dirty if somebody serves up rubbish sausage and mash. One day you’ll see me on Sky News behind a caption of ‘Breaking News: Man goes mental and stabs waiter with a fork’.
How will you raise the money for all of this?
Well we’re coming at this from a couple of angles. Primarily we’re talking to established television production companies, selling them on the merits of the format and seeing if we can persuade them to commission a series. We have a good idea of the sort of show this will be, and so we’re talking to the people who we think will want to make such a show.
At the same time we’re talking to some breweries to see if they’d be interested in a sponsorship arrangement of some kind. We don’t necessarily want to enter into any sort of exclusivity situation, as that would negate from our ‘don’t discriminate against the dirty little pubs’ motto, but we’re always happy to negotiate.
Finally, we’re trying to raise some money ourselves. I say ‘by ourselves’ but that’s a bit of a misnomer. We’re having a dabble in the art of crowd-funding. Which, in essence, means we’re asking complete strangers – beautiful, lovely, generous strangers – to donate money to our cause in exchange for non-monetary perks. Different sums of money are rewarded with different perks, so somebody who donates $200 would expect something grander than a person who donates $15. It’s all run through a company called IndieGoGo so it’s all very well managed and above board.
I’m not a huge fan of this whoring myself around lark, waving my arms and shouting ‘look at me’ and then asking people for money – it doesn’t sit right with me and I worry that people with whom I’ve built up a nice little network (on Twitter for example) will suddenly feel used and dirty. I don’t like that. But people have been so great, and the fact that anybody at all has contributed to our cause is just amazing. People are amazing.
Have you any other confirmed guests?
As well as Leigh Dovey we have a more, let’s say, ‘seasoned’ film and television producer, Steve Abbott, confirmed for our pilot episode. Leigh has just been working hard on a gruelling festival season promoting his debut feature THE FALLOW FIELD. Whilst people will know Steve as the BAFTA Nominated producer of beloved British movies such as AMERICAN FRIENDS, BRASSED OFF and the Oscar Winning A FISH CALLED WANDA, as well as his many beautiful television shows.
What’s great about Steve and Leigh is they both sit at opposite ends of a filmmaker’s spectrum, with Leigh being much more new to this world and Steve being very well-travelled. Both have a lot to say, and both are really lovely, charming and funny guys.
We’re talking with two more people for the pilot episode, one is a well-loved British actor who has starred in some of the biggest movie franchises in modern history, and the other is a Director whose debut feature received critical acclaim throughout 2010 and who I can guarantee has some interesting stories.
I’ll let you know as soon as I confirm then.
What channel and what time are you aiming at? Daytime?
The shows would all be shot at daytime – lunchtime, obviously – but we’re not pitching this as a daytime television show. We’re pushing for a late-evening slot. The beauty of this format is that we really are letting the guests drive the conversation in each episode; we absolutely don’t want to censor them, and we won’t be able to achieve that on daytime television.
In terms of channels, we’re not especially fussy, as long as the show is treated right. We have an idea of where we’d prefer to see it, of course, and there are channels that it almost certainly wouldn’t fit in with. For example, I can’t see Playboy TV picking it up. Sad as it makes me to admit that.
Who is your target audience?
Anybody who has a hero. Surely by now we’ve all played the ‘here are my five ultimate dinner guests’ game. Well this might actually get somebody close to that. Okay it’s a long shot that we’re actually going to book your five people all on the same show, but we might get a couple of them, and we might hit the other three on subsequent shows. You’ll get to see them in something close to a ‘normal’ setting and you’ll get this fairly unique fly-on-the-wall experience of what it would be like to be sat around a dinner table with, potentially, some of your heroes.