Words and Pictures: Ryan Child
The Wheatsheaves pub in Frome will open again this Friday with a 3am license, employing eight staff and a zero tolerance policy on heavy drinking.
Toby Prin and Lark Porter, who have an initial 4 month lease to run this historic pub, will be offering Somerset a new venue for live music and Dj’s, themed nights and, on Sundays, Mexican food. And, while burritos with a pint of Tiger may well become a favourite in Frome Town, it’s the new place to dance that will undoubtedly attract the crowds.
Since Divas Nightclub closed earlier this year girls across the town have been forced to dance in their front rooms after a night out. Considering more than 3.3 million 20 to 34 year olds still live at home in an austerity hit country, parents across Somerset will be happy to hear a new venue is opening late night.
“We have a license that means we can open until 3am when we choose, so people will have a place to come and dance till late,” Toby says.
In the main room the old wooden dividers, like cattle gates, have been removed and suddenly a dance floor has appeared opposite the stage. The walls are lighter and the smell is gone. There is no punching machine and a completely different security team will be used. The only bald headed Orcs near the shire this weekend will be at Westway Cinema during ‘The Unexpected Marathon’ from 10pm to 5am this Friday.
Below the pub Medieval archways still link the Wheatsheaves with the rest of Frome’s ancient past, but on the surface, where the air is cleaner, the dark ages seem to be over. Though undoubtedly evolving, this particular Bath Street establishment is not necessarily following the lineage of the latest species of pub. There are no televisions or £1 Sambucas, and the only Beesting cider left is soaked into the carpets in the skip outside.
Instead, here, the emphasis is on entertainment and participation.
On Wednesdays people are invited to bring along their own music to play on the PA, while Thursdays will showcase any bands who want a stage, with established names like Charlie Miller & the Soul Acents marked onto setlists alongside ‘The Wild Stallions’ scrawled in red ink.
“The whole plan is to have a platform where local bands, promoters and DJs can show people what they can do,” Toby says, walking around a pub that seems bigger than it was before.
This idea of community participation is in the roots of the whole project. The walls are still wet with paint bought by friends and slicked on by family, and the whole feeling of the place is friendly. There is also a sense of nervous excitement as we walk around. A few days before the big match.
On the way upstairs we pass through a domino-shaped storage room which Toby suggests might work as a venue for punk bands. It’s striking to see how much space in this old building went unused by the former owner, and how much potential there is for expansion.
When we finally reach the old Divas Nightclub, up those familiar stairs. The smell is encompassing and not unlike it was before.
“We had a pretty bad leak up here so the cleaning process is taking a bit longer than we first thought,” Toby says, smiling. “We did expect it to take a while though.”
Once finished, the revamped room will be a cocktail bar. The old DJ booth, a wooden box, is being removed and the outside area will eventually be redone as well. At the end of the four month lease Toby and Lark are hoping to extend their agreement with the brewery to five years and really make the place their own.
For now locals can expect good music, including Toby’s annual Wheel of Four Tunes night, Power Ranger costumes included, as well as a pub atmosphere geared towards enjoyment rather than a twisted descent into the depths of Middle Earth.