Monday, 16 October 2017

A little bit of peace and quiet

Sophie Atherton has recently written in the Morning Advertiser about how today’s pubs are so often offputtingly noisy. It’s an article that rather meanders around the subject without reaching a definite conclusion, and it’s perhaps unfortunate that she takes Wetherspoon’s as an example, when as a matter of policy they don’t have any piped music. It can be the case, however, that the hubbub of conversation in a large, echoing space can become deafening, and in such situations it may be desirable to play low-level background music to cancel it out a bit.

There are some worthwhile points hidden away in there, though. The first is that the widespread trend towards hard surfaces in pubs tends to magnify the general level of sound, and there is a good case for the return of carpets, soft upholstery and curtains to soak it up a bit.

It also should not be forgotten that, for many people, pubs are valued as a “third space” between work and home where they can escape from the stresses and strains of both. They don’t want to be entertained, or to “have fun”, they just want to chew the fat with their friends or just engage in a bit of quiet contemplation. All too often, people are deterred from pubs not by the absence of “attractions”, but by the presence of elements that they find offputting, amongst which loud music and TV football are two of the most obvious.

And the seemingly inexorable march away from compartmentalisation in pubs means that whatever’s going on in one part is effectively going on in all of it. It becomes impossible to accommodate differing tastes and activities, not to mention removing the sound-deadening effect of walls and partitions. Pubs could widen their appeal if they were able to cater for a variety of likes and dislikes rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. As she says in the article, “a range of different environments to suit different customers.”

Who knows, given a different legislative climate, they could even provide space to accommodate the legendary Elephant in the Room...

16 comments:

  1. "Quiet and cosy beer week". Sounds like heaven.

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    1. But, according to the law of supply and demand so championed by free marketeers like Peter, if many people wanted quite and cosy pubs then entrepreneurs would flock to provide them. Why don't they?

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    2. Down here in the West of England they do. My local for a start, the Sam Smith's pub in town and plenty more. There's even a couple of Spoons which are cosy in winter owing to the presence of living flame gas fires (not as good as the real thing but better than nothing) These places are busy most of the time. Horses for courses I suppose.

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    3. And lobbying companies to make changes to the goods or services they provide is an integral part of the operation of a free market system.

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  2. The whole point to the advantages of compartmentalisation is that some parts of the pub can be noisy or have for e.g. live music, & others more suitable for quiet conversation, or food, or sport on TV. One thing I do note from my extensive travels around many rural areas & off island areas of the British Isles, is that many of these retain those separate compartments to cater for all, though I do acknowledge that this can sometimes be by historic default, as their pubs are not often refit at the rapid rate of town centre ones. Secondly the carpet factor is a much bigger one for punters than pub refurbishers realise. I know many that actually avoid pubs that have become loud by default as carpets are removed. Many for family meals for example don't particularly want to shout over an otherwise relaxed meal in order to make themselves heard over the other punters,never mind any other distractions.Back on compartments of course, these also come into their own on the many quieter winter nights mid week, where a few people in a vast open space made for a couple of hundred, can be rather soulless.

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  3. The whole point to the advantages of compartmentalisation is that some parts of the pub can be noisy or have for e.g. live music, & others more suitable for quiet conversation, or food, or sport on TV. One thing I do note from my extensive travels around many rural areas & off island areas of the British Isles, is that many of these retain those separate compartments to cater for all, though I do acknowledge that this can sometimes be by historic default, as their pubs are not often refit at the rapid rate of town centre ones. Secondly the carpet factor is a much bigger one for punters than pub refurbishers realise. I know many that actually avoid pubs that have become loud by default as carpets are removed. Many for family meals for example don't particularly want to shout over an otherwise relaxed meal in order to make themselves heard over the other punters,never mind any other distractions.Back on compartments of course, these also come into their own on the many quieter winter nights mid week, where a few people in a vast open space made for a couple of hundred, can be rather soulless.

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    1. Whist many local pubs are compartmentalised they rarely fit doors between the compartments which rather misses the point when it comes to noise levels.

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  4. Professor Pie-Tin17 October 2017 at 09:38

    Test Match Special.
    And the Shipping Forecast.
    These are the only things I ever want to hear in a pub other than human voices however loud they may be.

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    1. I quite like the quiet glug of a large single malt being poured.

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  5. I whole-heartedly agree, especially with the lack of soft furnishings and their noise absorption properties. Being unable to join in with a conversation, because of excess background noise, is for me, one of the most frustrating things about modern day pub-going.

    This is why I choose my pubs carefully these days. There used to be a “Quiet Pub Guide” published on a regular basis. I haven’t seen it around recently.

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  6. The silence one can find in English pubs is one of the best things about being in them. It certainly encourages conversation.

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  7. I do not like silence in a pub,i like to hear decent background music and at times see a TV showing the football scores.
    I tend to find that some of the so called top real ale pubs that i have visited,have no music and are full of beer geeks talking about beer and nothing else,so boring.

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    1. Unfortunately one man's decent backgound music is another man's acoustic agony. The only music that can offend no-one is Glass's 4'33 :-)

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    2. I like a quiet pub (other than the buzz of conversation) but some low level background music is OK. Telly for the football results on a Saturday is excellent but doesn't necessarily need volume. Totally agree with Alan about beer geeks.

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    3. Indeed. I detest TVs in pubs, and football on TV is just about the worst thing- I will often walk out if it's on, especially if accompanied by shouting blokes.

      I like music in a pub, provided I can talk and hear over it and I don't hate the music. That may partially align with other customers or not, depending on if they hate modern R&B/rap and love rock/metal/goth. If I can't have that, or at least some better pop, I'd choose silence/conversation, but very recently on a bus I encountered a couple of blokes a little older than me complaining about the lack of entertainment in my local- a pub I avoid after 8pm on Friday or Saturday precisely because there's "entertainment" on that makes it too noisy for me, as it is now effectively one room...

      Point being that tastes differ. This is why the multi-room thing is right, so we can choose.

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    4. Precisely. Give me a snug with jazz/blues/1970s Joni Mitchell/Steely Dan, a comfy chair, footy results without sound and a decent pint and I'm happy. Don't care what happens in other parts of the pub.
      TVs in pubs are all very well for big sporting occasions but what hacks me off is when said big occasion is over most of the time they can't be arsed to switch the thing off and you end up with WWF wrestling, cage fighting, mixed martial arts etc (AKA made up sports which nobody gives a flying whatever about, involving blokes pretending to kick the shit out of each other) IF THERE'S NOTHING ON, SWITCH THE TELLY OFF!

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