The Wickham Arms does some soul searching

Alan: Oh I read your article in the paper. I loved that phrase you used 'Revolution, not Evolution'.
Tony Hayers: No it was the opposite 'Evolution, not Revolution'.
Alan: Well you know whatever. Because that is me. I evolve, but I don't...revolve. Or vice versa.
- I'm Alan Partridge

The Wickham Arms is rebooting. On its new website (still under construction) and Facebook group, it's emphasising its reputation for a warm welcome and promoting its excellent range of live events, including new regular soul nights on Fridays.

Brockley Central has always maintained that the Wickham is a good pub, with the potential to be great, if it could find a way to transfer the atmosphere it gets on music and quiz nights to the rest of the week. The changes they'll be making in the coming weeks include free wi-fi, teas & coffees and a more varied wine list, suggesting that they are aiming to attract a wider clientele, beyond just their hard core regulars.

The Wickham team have also successfully applied for a late license and they'll be launching a new regular music night called Brockley Soul. It starts on April 30th, with DJ Ollie Lailey & friends playing the finest in Northern And Rare Soul, Funk, Crossover And Modern /70's Soul until 2am.

45 comments:

Mark J said...

Live music every Thursday and Saturday! Paul Astles & bobby Valentino this Thurs and We Ghosts, all the way from Sweden, on Saturday! Sorry for the entirely gratuitous promotion!

Matt-Z said...

Good stuff, more live music is always a bonus.

I hope the late licence works out. I understand the Wickham has suffered from the modern phenomenon of someone moving in to a house near/next to a pub, discovering that pubs can be quite noisy, then complaining constantly to environmental health. This has killed of a number of pubs in the area, including the Greenwich Inn.

paulthesinger said...

The neighbour/noise thing was a problem but it doesn't seem to be at the moment. I do feel though that like most pubs, the Wickham is strugging largely because of hard times/cheap beer in off-licences and supermarkets and the huge kick in the nuts supplied by the smoking ban

Anonymous said...

They are competing with the Barge which has very cheap beer/lager etc (although no music or character).

It is great that the Wickham has live music.

The Wickham has the character of a country pub which is great too.

Anonymous said...

The Wickham's a great little pub. Hope they don't go down the Olive and Hummous route.

And the 'kick in the nuts' delivered by the smoking ban was nothing compared to the kick in the teeth that we had every day when smoking was somehow deemed socially tolerable. Such a filthy, antisocial habit.

Anonymous said...

A wider and better selection of wine would go some way to making the Wickham a more attractive desintation. Also the option to buy wine in 75cl bottles.
Half the reason I don't go in there more is because they don't have any decent lagers or cider on tap, and sell wine in those small bottles.

Anonymous said...

What decent Cider do you mean.

Anonymous said...

Strongbow!

Anonymous said...

surely the barge has more character than the Wickham? i am not sure where the country pub vibe comes from. it is more of an innercity union jacked builder's den. could be a great pub though which is a shame

Anonymous said...

Something like Aspalls or Addlestones would be good.

Anonymous said...
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Brockley Nick said...

Wickham's not really in direct competition with the Barge, IMO.

An independent can't undercut a wetherspoons on price and the Wickham's not geared up for food or slap bang in the middle of an area of high foot fall.

Therefore, it has to sell itself as a destination pub, where you pay a bit more for an experience the Barge (and others) can't offer. Food isn't going to be the differentiator, but atmosphere can be. That means having great bar staff (I like the people behind the bar there), smartening up its environment a bit (I'd ditch the juke box, personally) and getting a few new punters in to create a more lively and diverse crowd, that you'd want to join for a pint or a glass of wine.

Sounds like the team are on the right track. Good luck to them.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Nick
There are some great tunes on that Juke box. Has every hit since the 50's and earlier.

Anonymous said...

For music its competitors are all over the place - places in Forest Hill, Sydenham, Greenwich, New Cross...in fact anywhere that does good live music is a potential competitor.
The trouble is more people need to know about the music at the Wickham.

Also it could attract more students. Goldsmiths has 2 halls of residence not that far from the pub (one in Wickham Rd and one on Shardeloes). If the pub offered student discounts that would encourage them.

Anonymous said...

I reckon they should do sunday lunches. Loads of similar pubs do.
If The Montague Arms can The Wickham Arms can.

Anonymous said...

Dont the Montegue charge to get it for bands ?

Anonymous said...

Its a thing of Health and Safety,you have to have a proper kitchen approved.

Anonymous said...

yeah the Montague occassionally does door charges on some band nights so that's slightly different I suppose. Wouldn't work at the Wickham.

Headhunter said...

I've always had pretty good nights at The Wickham, however I do agree that it is in competition with The Barge to some extent, with which it must be hard to compete. It didn't go far enough with its upgrades a couple of years ago to become a new Talbot-like, gastro/gentrified pub for the new Brockley-ite and remove itself from the Barge bracket, as far as I'm concerned.

For example they failed to make the windows see through and I think there were plans at 1 point to expose the floorboards which never came to anything. Not that I feel this is necessarily the way forward for The Wickham, but it has left them slightly in no mans land, somewhere between the new and old Brockleys.

It seems to be still trying to appeal to traditional sahf east London, Barge type drinker but at the same time take steps to appeal to the young professional types coming to the area. Not sure it's walking this tightrope that well.

That being said, I love the music nights and used to love the quiz before it became too popular. Sounds like they're taking a few more faltering steps towards the "new Brockley" market but is still trying very hard not to alienate its traditional customers.

Brockley Nick said...

@James - email me if you want to discuss the moderation policy.

James said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

As for those of us who are both young and professional, but not looking for something pretentious or which carries a 12.5% service charge, the Wickham suits just fine.

James said...

Is there a moderation (or should I say censorship)policy in place simply for when you do not agree with comments made by someone? This is what you seem to be suggesting and I would have thought my post would be interesting to others. There was nothing about it that warranted it to be removed?

Anonymous said...

when all is said and done, running a pub is a business and from what I read not an easy one. If the owners feel a tweak is necessary, well it's no business but their own. They've been in the game a while now have they not?

Anonymous said...

I reckon they shouldn't go down the Talbot route. The Wickham is a better pub. More down to earth. More interesting with live music.
This is a different James to the other one.
James

Mark J said...

I think the changes are mainly going to be for the better if you like music. Thursday and Saturday and the occasional Sunday have been the busiest nights over the last 2 years or so with the (bloody) karaoke on Friday gradually expiring. Changes are afoot to get something new on Friday starting with this Northern Soul thing and generally up the profile of the place. Whilst competition from other places with music does have a marginal effect I think its not critical and there does seem to be a renewed interest in seeing live bands which The Wickham needs to exploit with a little more vigour.

Anonymous said...

Do we think the Talbot is a pub anymore,Its more like drinking in your Aunties living room eg No atmosphere.Where's my slice of cake auntie Maud.

Anonymous said...

They do Strongbow Cider,not that I think its a good Cider anyway

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

The Talbot works as a pub for me.

I go in there most nights, drink beer, have a chat and go outside for a crafty smoke. I rarely eat anything in there but am happy to share the space with the dinners.

I think that's what pubs do.

There used to be an "atmosphere" in the old Talbot but for a lot of people that's why it was virtually empty.

Hope the changes at the Wickham are successful. The Quiz and Music nights are the best in there IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that it is a pub full of crusty old guys who don't like change.

It looks as if it needs a lot of money spending on it and some new ideas to prevent its decline.

This sounds like a step in the right direction.

A BBQ in the garden during the summer would be a good idea.

Anonymous said...

They have Barbeques in the Summer.If there is one.

Anonymous said...

I see The Rising Sun has gone upmarket with 3D sky Football Matches.

Henry's Cat said...

I don't get Headhunter's desire to make the windows 'see through'. I don't want everyone gawping at me while I am drinking and wooden floors just wreck the acoustics. Perfect for braying posh people I suspose who love the sound of their own voices. The Wickham is a pub, not an All Bar One and that's why I like it. The Juke box is also excellent - again perfect for drowning out braying posh types who would like every perfectly decent pub to be turned into some sort of over priced gastro pub - i.e. not a pub but a restaurant with beer on the side. Agree that they could improve the booze mind. Pubs in the area are few and far between, stop griping and wishing they were something else and use them or risk losing them.

Brockley Jon said...

I think they did take the carpets up in the end. The garden looks pretty sweet these days, I look forward to an outdoor pint in the summer. At least you can see into it now that the conservation area wall has the railings in it *cough* ;)

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why they made the garden nice and child friendly but don't offer food - to me that completely puts me off going there as I don't generally go out just to drink anymore but for lunch/dinner etc - if they are trying to attract families in the daytime then food is the obvious answer

Anonymous said...

Too right Henry's Cat we dont want every Pub round here Gastro,this is Brockley not Kensington.
And no Brockley Jon the carpets are still there.

Brockley Nick said...

@Henry's Cat - class warfare aside, market forces will dictate the future of the pub. Businesses have to give the customers what they want. The Wickham appears to be attempting to respond to customer demand. That's good news for the long-term viability of a venerable pub.

As for the juke box, my dislike of it is based on the fact that I have been there several times when the pub's been pretty empty, perfect for a quiet drink and a chat, then some geezer comes along, puts a quid in there and suddenly a practically empty pub is filled with very loud music and the few people there can't hear the person opposite them, which isn't a problem for the bloke who put the money in, because he's on his own. The music selection may be good, but the volume is wrong.

Mark J said...
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Mark J said...

The jukebox can be over loud like that at times but not usually- ask them to turn it down! Re: all the competition for live music. Most of the other pubs in the near vicinity seem to put on younger indie type bands and a few experimental type things. On Thursdays, Saturdays and the occasional Sunday we put on bands who are, on average, somewhat older. Its also definitely live- no pre-recorded stuff. Nothing particularly cutting edge but if you want to hear very high quality musicians who love what they do in a muso friendly atmosphere then try the Wickham.

Mondo said...

I love the Wickham and hope that it has along life. I also use the Barge - oops, but for different reasons like getting off a late train. It might have good cheap beer but it will never compete for atmosphere and general company that use the pub.
I do agree with folks that the volume of the juke box could be a bit quieter - mind you, it's a cracker of a juke box, but on the quieter nights it would be nice to hear conversation rather than tunes being blasted out. Whatever the formula needed, I hope they find it as it's one of the only proper pubs left in the area.

Anonymous said...

It is a place for old codgers who don't like change. They like things old fashioned and just so.

If they can make a living out selling beer to such particular customers then good luck.

Personally I think nostalgia is so last seanson.

Headhunter said...

I don't particularly care about bare floorboards but they surely must be easier to keep clean however I would prefer clear windows rather than frosted with some kind of plastic laminate as they are now, like some kind of cheap public toilet. I think clear windows would just open the place up a bit and let more light in. It feels fairly dingy in the Wickham sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Am happy to hear that the pub is getting a bit of a kick, as the last time I went in there I found it reet dodgy. Am all for good live music, just hope it isn't too loud, as we're hoping to move into #63!

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