When I stepped out my front door inappropriately-wearing canvas shoes and landed in a few inches of slushy snow, I should have turned back and climbed into bed. Instead, I forged on into the dark depths of a hideous northern town called Wakefield.
Simon and I thought it would be a fun adventure to check out the bars and pubs of Wakefield. This Yorkshire city is located roughly 8km/12 miles from Leeds and is easily reached by car or public transport. Whether people should attempt to reach it is another matter. The town centre is littered with closed stores and bankrupted businesses. Unemployment is higher than the national average and there doesn’t seem to be much of anything happening. Disillusioned with the grim first impression of the town, we decided to brace ourselves and delve a little deeper. Of course when prospects look down, I always head for vegan cider. This time I wish I hadn’t.
On approaching The Albion Inn, Simon joked how the presence of a Union Jack-wearing gentleman walking a bulldog on the sign could suggest we were walking into an establishment frequented by nationalists and racists. It is true that Wakefield has a much lower percentage of ethnic diversity compared to the whole country and the name Albion is an antiquated name for Great Britain often used by nationalists as a romanticised tag for a more hegemonic England. With these thoughts rushing through our heads, we steeled ourselves and entered the pub.
In a country as diverse as the UK, it is extremely confronting to walk into any establishment and discover it is filled with white people. The Albion Inn bar was lined with burly, white men with shaved heads who were knocking back copious amounts of Samuel Smith alcohol. As we moved through the room to order drinks, we both needed to ask one patron politely to shift in order for us to get past. He ignored both our request AND the fact we were even there. The crowd was scary and loud and angry. All of the women sat in booths and seats lining the wall of the venue as the men drank and rough-housed around the centre. It was as if we had been transported back to the early 1970s. We drank our vegan Cider Reserve pints and ate a bag of ready salted Samuel Smith crisps in an out-of-the-way corner before making a hasty departure. Even more unsettling than the hunting paraphernalia and artwork displayed was a large sign I spied on our way out. It clearly stated bad language would not be tolerated and offenders would be removed. I’m so fucking glad I didn’t audibly curse while we were in that shitty dive!
We scurried around the rest of the town without much success. A gay bar called Bar Zeus was boarded up. Another named The New Union was devoid of patrons well into the evening. There was not one cafe or restaurant appearing to offer anything resembling vegan food. Doomsday-style preachers shouted in the main shopping district and bored-looking teenagers wandered aimlessly through the indoor mall.
As always, I would be delighted to hear a differing view to the one expressed within this post. In the case of Wakefield, I would also be extremely surprised. Fat, gay vegans shouldn’t hurry to get there anytime soon.
If you are willing to be confronted by nationalistic imagery and a pack of angry, white men for the sake of a vegan cider, be my guest: The Albion Inn, 94 Stanley Road, Eastmoor, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 4LR Phone: 08714 329005