The Independent Salford Beer Festival 2016 : The Other Side of The Coin

“I wish that I could push a button and talk in the past and not the present tense.
And watch this hurting feeling disappear like it was common sense . . . . . ”

(“Brilliant Mistake” – Elvis Costello : clip courtesy “Carlos Augusto” on You Tube)


This may be the hardest piece that I’ve ever had to write. But I did have to write it.

The Independent Salford Beer Festival was a huge success. We owe tens, maybe hundreds of people our (and my) enormous gratitude. Read that post here (if you haven’t already)

I have always organised this festival to support my dear friend (and “Extended Family” matriarch) Gerry, the lovely lady that runs this centre and keeps it ticking over with her determination and sheer hard graft. This job isn’t easy. And can be thankless. But in these straitened times, it’s essential. I do love this woman.

But this year, the festival was for me. To help me through some shit and to give me something to keep me moving.

You see, 4 weeks today, on Tuesday 27th September, our youngest son took his own life. And our lives changed forever.

The really strange thing is the way people interact with you when they know. Especially with Christine. So far, nobody has judged me for doing what I have done with this festival. But I needed it. To keep me moving. To force me to place one foot in front of the other on a daily basis. To keep some semblance of sanity.

I don’t want sympathy. We have an enormous reservoir of that with the most amazing group of friends and family that anyone could wish for. That is most emphatically NOT why I am writing this.

But again, this isn’t about me and it isn’t about my family. We will cope. That is what most people do.

You see, at my son’s funeral, I wanted to speak to his friends in attendance from the pulpit. To try and get a message across. That message is about communication. Talking – to put it simply. So – against the advice of the priest, I did. And I hope it did some good.

The limited readership that I have is (mostly) of an age where they will have children. And what I have come to understand, by force of events, is that being a teenager is far from the simple thing it was when I grew up. That there are pressures that we – as adults – may never truly comprehend.

I don’t seek to lecture or preach. But – to me – what has become stark, is the need for kids to have someone they can trust to talk to. When life feels dark and a bit shit. They need to have someone. Someone to reach out to. Be that Mum or Dad, a brother or sister, a friend, a teacher, even people like the Samaritans or CALM. Just someone.

There were no clues with our son. None. Those who saw him last can make no sense of what has happened. Like many who (as he obviously was) suffer from Depression, he failed to reach out – or chose not to. And that is desperately sad. Kids and adults for pity’s sake, need to know that there is always someone there.

If you are suffering, find someone you can talk to.

Like I said, I needed to write this. To hopefully help others and to try to find something positive that can come from our tragedy.

I will be out and about in Manchester and elsewhere. Life has to go on. Please don’t judge me. Nor – if you know me – stand off, with either myself or Christine. We’re no different. Just a bit sadder. The joy has gone from a lot of stuff really.

I’m going to take some time off from writing. Rebuild a bit. I might be back, I might not.

Take care of yourself and yours.


*If it wasn’t for the execrable actions of the Bolton Evening News, when they published the full details of our tragedy, I may never have written this. It may have been “public record material”, but my anger at their actions will never abate.

The Independent Salford Beer Festival 2016 – The End of an Error 


“He thought he was the King of America, where they pour Coca Cola just like vintage wine.
Now I try hard not to become hysterical, but I’m not sure if I am laughing or crying…..”

(“Brilliant Mistake” – Elvis Costello : clip courtesy “Carlos Augusto” on You Tube)

Which is what it was. A Brilliant Mistake. At the start anyway.

I’ve told the story before of the genesis of this beer celebration before, I won’t go there again. I’m boring enough to read, without the repetition.

For three years, our little band of brothers and sisters – and dare I say it, friends – have managed to put on a small beer festival in a little Community Centre in the heart of Salford. At times, it was “seat of the pants” kind of stuff, but we got there. Just. On each occasion.


When I was first asked to do this, my initial thoughts were to put on a celebration of the best that Northern Beer (the world within which I crawl in the undergrowth) has to offer. That swiftly evolved. It doesn’t take going to too many beer festivals to form an understanding of the things that people (myself included) don’t like. So I sought to address those things. Things like…..

  • Seating – There can never be too much. Drinking beer should never be a solitary pursuit. It is about the social. The coming together of friends, like minded people. Beer should always be the thing that fuels conversation, not the subject of it.


  • Friendly – I wanted the best, most social of volunteers. To set the tone of the events. Flexibility. Treating people like adults, including the volunteers. You simply cannot (and I’m speaking as a beer blogger now) form a judgement about the flavour of a beer based on a shot glass! I trusted the volunteers to self regulate. Only once in three years did anyone get tipsy. Trust is a wonderful thing.
  • Relaxed – This comes back to the first two things. But more than that. It’s an attitude thing. I can’t put whatever it was into words, but judging by the feedback I’ve received, we had it.


  • The Beer – To me, beer festivals are a place to try something different. So – this year – I tried to give the drinker no option. Everything was new – to the Manchester area at least. And to the drinker (and Untappd fiend) who stated that 95 people had had the Jim Beam BA version of Weird Beard’s Double Perle before? Not in Manchester they hadn’t. And that was the point.
  • The Brewers – I didn’t count those who came along, this isn’t a willy waving contest. I made a conscious decision to NOT have a “trade session”. To let the brewers come to whichever session they chose and fitted their busy schedules. And they seemed to enjoy that – as did the customers. And there were a number of chance meetings that led to collaboration talk during this last weekend. I want IN on some of THAT!

Like I said on the Beernomicon podcast, there is no rocket science about what I did here, just gathering good, friendly and generous people be they volunteers, technicians, breweries and just getting clever people to do the stuff that I can’t.

On that note, some Thanks Yous.

Andy Heggs and Darren Turpin without the graphic and web designs of these two friends, I’d have been a ship adrift on a sea of unsold beer. I owe them more than I can ever tell them.

To this years Sponsors :

Rob Hamilton and all of Team Black Jack. Without whom your beer would have been undrinkable. Without whom my logistical issues would have driven me over the edge. All the storage, the fetching, the carrying. Over 3 WHOLE YEARS. Some of the nicest people in beer (ask BeerFinderGeneral and his wife Jenny!) Cheers guys. I’ll never be able to repay you as I should. Thanks hugely to Joe for the tunes!

Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns and the lovely Bev. Again, for 3 WHOLE YEARS of consolidating the bulk of my Yorkshire beer order and bringing it to Black Jack. For the memorable brew days (all 3 of them) in that garden shed. For burning out Bev’s blender on 5 kg of cognac soaked raisins……For bodily lifting Atilla in the kitchen at the Centre (yes, I heard….) For winning “Beer of the Festival” TWICE……..

Gareth Williams, his wife Elena and the team from The Brink. For the glassware sponsorship, the support both moral and emotional. Can’t wait to try the Grapes of Rat on keg in those lovely glasses!

James & Jen Smith aka Brewsmith. For their loving support and their amazing (and much needed beermat sponsorship! Good beer people.

For this years Beer Sponsors :

Hobs Repro of ManchesterCommando Joes; Hill and RobertsJust H ArchitectsMonsun Ltd; Drumbeat (Mr Heggs again!); The Bright PartnershipDiane Axford and Axfords JoineryCresta CarsRob Godwin; Sarah & Simon Gare; Sixth Element Carbon MTB WheelsEddie McGrath Cycles, UrmstonManchester Beer WeekJames Darcey; Keepmoat Homes

Thank you for the generosity and support – both myself and Gerry appreciate that hugely.

Lee & Sam at All Flow Dispense – Bars installed, beer handled and presented and all cleared away leaving the faint aroma of a beer festival. Consummate professionals – and, for Amateurs like me, highly recommended.

Bailey & Jules (aka GRUB) – For 3 whole years of unstinting support. For the sound system. For the love. You know it.

Alex Reed, Duke and the Darlings (who’ve  also been there each of the three years – with an ad hoc jam session in year one!) and the Sweet Sweet Records artists from this weekend. Superb.

For the best volunteers that any beer festival could possibly have? Tears of gratitude. You know who you are. And whilst I hate to elevate, to Jaz, Jeff, Deeekos, David, Chris, Linda, Pete, I simply “haven’t got any words”. Have I Chris?

The festival itself will remain long in the memory. I don’t lie and I simply hate to hype, but this year’s beer selection will take some beating for a small beer festival. The fact that I felt that I had to resort to hyperbole kind of profoundly burned my soul. I hate hypocrisy. And by having to hype this to generate ticket sales I have been a hypocrite and – as a result – my psyche is damaged and will take some time to heal. Hence – possibly the main reason why – this is the final ISBF at St Sebastian’s.

Myself, Gerry and the rest of Team ISBF hope that all who attended (in whatever capacity) enjoyed yourselves. That is what we aimed for with this. I think that we succeeded.

We certainly succeeded in raising money for the Centre. Whilst we await certain invoices, It looks like we raised almost double last year. For which, we thank you all.

This blog post has a companion piece which may explain why a further sequel here may be step too far – I urge you to read it – it may be (in the main) non-beer related, but I needed to write it. Possibly the last blog post I may ever write.