'Laughter and tears: there was nothing sedate or predictable about the Tudor'
The closure of the famous Tudor House hotel in Wigan, home to Write Out Loud’s open mic night for years, has come a great shock to its regulars, and beyond. One of those regulars, Isobel Malinowksi, pictured during one of her compering stints there, looks back on the laughter, the tears – and how the Tudor changed her life.
“On Thursday morning the Tudor House hotel, home to Write Out Loud’s Wigan venue, closed its doors for the last time, calling time on three decades of delivering good, cheap beer and wholesome northern grub , to its very eclectic clientele.
Shock, dismay, grief continues to spill out on to Facebook as well as Write Out Loud, with musicians and poets alike sharing memories and reminiscing about what the Tudor meant to them.
A statement released by owners Russ and Frances thanks customers and explains the reasons for the closure. One sentence encapsulates, for me, just what made the Tudor special to anyone of an artistic, creative inclination: "The point of the Tudor was that it was an alternative place for alternative people to go and be themselves."
I came to the Tudor in 2008, a little battle-worn and traumatised by life events. Finding the performance scene and all those wonderfully supportive friends was a turning point - finally I was among people who spoke my language, understood what I had to say. A facet of performance poetry seems to be that you really do put your heart and soul into it - and by listening to people's poems, you very soon find yourself living their history, riding their ups and downs, bonding far easier than you would if you were doing origami, or flower arranging.
One of my warmest memories is that of compering for the first time, wearing my old wedding dress and new Doc Martens. It was an outrageous outfit and quite in keeping with my new, rebellious personality. Ever since drying up on stage at high school, I'd been terrified at the thought of compering again. Somehow Wigan host John Togher managed to persuade me to have a go - and after several glasses of gin and tonic, off I went, to have the time of my life! So many poets have felt that terror, been gently persuaded, and then gone on to do great things at the Tudor and beyond.
Joy France has echoed much of my own thinking on how pivotal the Tudor was for her: "If I hadn't gone to the Write Out Loud open mic night at the Tudor in Wigan run by John Togher, almost four years ago, then poetry would have been a 'one-off thing' that I tried once to scare myself. I didn't realise it, but I'd fallen into the home of the most wonderful people around and that my life would be enriched forever!"
Write Out Loud stalwart Dave Bradley's thoughts on the poetry scene: “As well as all the raucous and bawdy fun there was stuff that was heartbreaking/passionate/sincere. The Tudor was far more than just rude.”
Meanwhile, Gus Jonsson reflected saucily on the visual and gastronomical experience of dining in Wigan. "Sad day ... The Tudor ... the only venue that served me spag bog .. without spag ... oven chips Wigan style ... loved Izzy’s legs ... wow ... but the Tudor's closed now......loved the Tudor loved the bear pit to bits...xxx"
I've always thought that the bear pit analogy was a little over-hyped. Yes, you had to sometimes compete to be heard over the noise from the bar and the Ladies hand drier, but the audience could be every bit as attentive as your Sale art gallery - it was just quirkier and with a balanced, hearty appreciation of the comic as well as the serious. Poetry nights can sometimes become incredibly heavy, sedate gatherings, but there was nothing sedate or predictable about the Tudor - you could go from being moved to tears to crying with laughter, all in one night. It helped that the Tudor never took itself too seriously - all were welcome, and newcomers given the warmest of welcomes.
Yes, occasionally you might have the odd drunk lumber in front of the stage - or even onto the stage. But thereby hangs the beauty of the Tudor - it inspired people from all walks of life to have a go! So many people, like our very own Laura Taylor, walked in off the streets for a drink, heard the words and were then hooked for life - and how many venues can do that?
So now I suppose it's time to look to the future. Russ and Frances state: "Down the years, many tried to imitate us – but there was only ever one Tudor. We really did put our heart and soul into this."
The question on everyone's lips has to be, can we ever find a spiritual home like the Tudor again? One steeped in history with a culture for free thinking and a love of music and spoken word that seemed to seep from its walls? Or was the Tudor really about a wonderful combination of characters coming together and making it happen?
Hats off to John Togher for relocating to The Old Law Courts at very short notice and putting together a wonderful Armistice Remembrance night that was particularly well attended. Though I'm hoping that the future venue stays central to Wigan and walking distance from rail and bus routes, you can be assured that I'll be following it, wherever goes."
Background: End of an era as the Tudor closes its doors
Background: Warm, irreverent, rude, and with the odd hiccup, too
Fri 21st Nov 2014 14:14
Oh and I'm glad you came too Harry - it's been too long - you'll have to come over again some time and tell us what you think of the new venue ;) x
Thu 20th Nov 2014 22:00
Glad that -in my old age - I got to read there (even if it was only once)
Wed 19th Nov 2014 08:40
A lovely comment John. You certainly shaped this most idiosyncratic of poetry venues into what it was.
Amazing to see a photo of the Tudor on the Guardian website home page today.
Here is what landlord and landlady Russ and Frances have put on their website:
Message from Russell and Frances Miller, owners of Tudor House Hotel, to our loyal customers, casual clientele and Tudor alumni from around the world.
We are writing to tell you that the time has come for us to end the three decade long experiment in original thinking, good beer, great music and sarcastic service that was the Tudor House Hotel.
We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved and want to thank you all for the great memories you have given us. We’d repeat some of the best stories here, but as many of you have gone on to live as responsible adults – we think it is best that what happens at the Tudor stays at the Tudor.
Please don’t worry about us. We are planning a long and happy retirement, finally getting the rest we deserve. We will miss all of the hard rock on the jukebox, but Russ has already started reading books again.
The point of the Tudor was that it was an alternative place for alternative people to go and be themselves. You were only ever in trouble here if you were a wanker. Some were, but most of you were great kids who we want more than anything to go on and lead brilliant, happy lives – telling stories about your misadventures in the Tudor long into your old age.
Down the years, many tried to imitate us – but there was only ever one Tudor. We really did put our heart and soul into this, but we’re excited about the future and hope that you will wish us and our family all the very best for the great times still to come.
The Tudor House Hotel is now closed.
Good Luck, Goodbye & Keep on Rocking.
Russell, Frances and family.
P.S. In the coming weeks we will be creating a space on the Tudor House Website where you can leave us your memories and best stories of the Tudor. We’d love to hear from you all
Tue 18th Nov 2014 18:38
I wonder if there might be one or two poems about the Tudor at the Christmas special? Some superb comments on a superb article.
There was a rather poor article about the Tudor on the Guardian website: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2014/nov/18/farewell-tudor-wigan-favourite-pubs?commentpage=1
I commented, to plug Wigan Write Out Loud. Name of JoZemla (my Polish grandfather's name), and my late sister's, oddly.
Tue 18th Nov 2014 13:59
I'm fuckin pissed off! Oh shit, I've just realised my picture is still me and Rolf. Sod it. Draw your own conclusions.
Tue 18th Nov 2014 12:27
The new venue, The Old Courts, is across the road from the bus station and just round the corner from the train station, closer, even, than The Tudor.
We will be moving the night there with the next event the Christmas Special on Thursday 11th December. We hope many will come again and support each other.
The Tudor will always hold a special place in many people's memories. It is where many first got up on stage and shared their words, where many started and flourished, going on to other nights, bookings, festivals and guest slots, even radio and solo shows!
It was the irreverent feel to the night that made its name, where anything goes. But could also be a very supportive event, a respectful event of more sensitive poetry. Many came from around the country based on its infamous reputation as a 'bear pit' and left with a slightly different view having experienced it, as we have read from others on here and on Facebook.
I wish the Millers well in their retirement and hope they get the rest, recuperation and health they deserve.
Long live The Tudor.
Tue 18th Nov 2014 11:29
What a writer you! Lived many word-striped moments there and was pulled up on to art's survival raft by Wigan voiced enchanters.The song is still the same Isabel.
Mon 17th Nov 2014 18:42
Thanks for commenting everyone, I'm glad my piece struck a chord. You are absolutely right that the Tudor encapsulated what we are all about in the performance poetry movement, Julian - it did the same for musicians trying to get a foot on the entertainment ladder. And the Tudor for me is synonymous with performance poetry in Wigan - I just can't get out of the hang of referring to it as that... it's going to be really hard to lose that label.
I'm not sure it this link will work but here goes - it's all over facebook so let's go out laughing...
Mon 17th Nov 2014 13:50
Lovely tribute Is - really lovely.
And I reckon Dave is right - I'm still calling it a Tudor night in my mind, wherever it is!
Had to laugh about the drunk lumbering in front of the stage/on the stage :D Having filled both of those positions, I can confirm that you could get away with much more in there than you could in any other pub! You fell over? People gave you a hand back up :D
And it was actually a band I'd gone to see, the night I walked into the Tudor. Then saw this wonderful woman I'd met at a previous gig and got on really well with. 'Come to see the band?' I asked her? 'No', she says, 'I'm doing a bit of poetry'. I had no idea she 'did' poetry. I'd never really read any, wasn't into it, and certainly hadn't written any.
Well, that wonderful woman was Rachel Bond, and my god, I sat there in the darkness while she tore me in two with her words (one line of which went into a poem about that experience!).
Driving home, still choked with her poems, I thought to myself 'Hmmm...I've got things to say too...'. And that was that! Start of a whole new life - filled with the astonishing beauty of words in a way I'd never considered before. People like me, and as Is says, people who finally GOT me, who 'overthought' EVERYTHING - ahhh sheer joy haha :D And every last one of them completely bananas in their own way :D :D
Mon 17th Nov 2014 12:15
This fine tribute to a place and its people
brought to mind an analogy with some famous
words from The Rhubaiyat of O.K - something
about the moving finger having writ moveth on.
The place may have ceased to be but the rest
"moveth on"...that much seems a "given" to this
reader who never even knew the place.
Sun 16th Nov 2014 19:17
It can never really be true of anywhere that "all life is there" but it didn't half feel like it sometimes. Thanks for this Izz - spot on. I suspect we'll be calling the new night the Tudor for years, wherever it settles.
Sun 16th Nov 2014 19:00
It's been rough these past few days, but I wanted to take time to comment on this since you took the time to put into words what so many feel. I only had the pleasure of visiting The Tudor once, but I can tell you that I felt every bit of it.
Sun 16th Nov 2014 18:14
Dearest Isobel, what a superbly-written, heartfelt tribute to perhaps the most iconic of Write Out Loud open mic poetry nights. As you say, so many memories, but you compering in that wedding dress is one of my favourites.
John Togher has been the power behind the throng who made The Tudor so special to us all, and deserves our praise for doing so.
I have to say, Isobel, that your article deserves wider reading, as it is not just about the Tudor, but reflects what the whole open poetry movement is about: people getting together to share what they want to say with like minded (sometimes not) people, in a wonderful atmosphere.
It certainly was a great place where, as you say, you could be yourself, but you could also be someone else and still be accepted.
Many, many thanks to Russ and Frances and Russ Jr, for all their support of this phenomenon that was Write Out Loud at The Tudor. The Tudor king is dead, long live the court.
Sun 16th Nov 2014 12:58
This is a lovely heartfelt tribute (as are all the other personal remembrances) to a place that I didn't know, but many held dear.
The only comment that I would make however is that (as an outsider) the place itself isn't the issue. The Tudor was merely a conduit to bringing all you like-minded people together.
You will find another Tudor in due course.
The analogy that I would compare this to is that of the Ebook taking over from the paper page.
I think that it is the content not the medium that counts. Paper or electronics, it's just the same.
You good people are the content. you will find another medium.
Don't bemoan the loss of the maguffin that brought you all together, celebrate it and find another.
Sun 16th Nov 2014 10:43
Thanks for this great tribute, Isobel. I'm really glad that I managed to get to the Tudor earlier this year - it was a special pilgrimage up north, you could call it that. What struck me particularly was the warmth of the occasion. Isobel was compering as well - thought not in her bridal gear that night - and called out to me from the stage: "This is a bit different from your trips to the Festival Hall, eh, Greg?" And, of course, it was. Vive la difference! The Tudor was a place that embodies the values of Write Out Loud - come on up and have a go! You never know what might happen next ...
If you wish to post a comment you must login.