On 20 March 2020, the UK Government made a decision that appeared to be not just extremely important but also historically unprecedented. Boris Johnson’s cabinet ordered all pubs, clubs and restaurants across the country to close the doors. Announcing the decision in the fight against the new coronavirus, British Prime Minister said that he realizes it went against “the inalienable free-born right of people born in England to go to the pub”.
As British newspapers say, there were surreal scenes in many pubs that night as the big-screen televisions beamed Johnson’s press conference and directly underneath them, people continued drinking ales and playing pool undisturbed. Shortly after the announcement, one customer headed out to call a friend “Listen, you’d better hurry up and get another three pints, because Boris is shutting the pubs at 7pm”.
British pubs are something much more influential than ordinary taverns where people eat and drink. Pubs are indeed sacred places for many Kingdom citizens and even their foreign guests. Pubs were legally recognized in the 14th century by King Richard II but had existed many years before that. They remained the doors open even during the wars including WWII. One of my London mates described to me the importance of pub life by saying that a small British village may not have a police station, notary or even a doctor, but will definitely have a pub.
This is exactly why the situation that happened a year ago was extraordinary if not shocking. When I saw the news, I decided to collect a series of my photos taken in various British pubs and dedicate it to these wonderful and collectively adored symbols of the UK. I love pubs for their spirit, exclusive class-free freedom of communication, unique atmosphere that sublimates history of a place, connection between generations and also promotes the current social agenda which one can easily absorb just standing near to talking pubbers. In and near the pubs I heard various conversations mentioning football, rugby, politics and fashion, sometimes quite impressing by the level of expertise. Of course, my excitement might have been directed by a couple of pints, but who cares!
This May 2021 UK pubs have re-opened their doors for the visitors. And that means the return of full-scale life to Albion. It has been made complete, as people in Britain are again guaranteed with their inalienable free-born right to go to the pub and drink a pint or ten saying “Cheers” to the great British pubs, God save them!
All images and text © Anton Panchenkov
By Anton Panchenkov
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