The Shacklewell Arms/ Music Image : Penelope Eyre
Gig venue, come pub, come club. Claire Creighton tells us all about The Shacklewell Arms, and how it’s more than just a shoddy looking old-man pub…
The first time you end up at the Shacklewell in Hackneys backstreets it’s usually on the recommendation of someone else… It’s not somewhere you’d stumble upon and is in the hinterland between Dalston’s lively bars and clubs and Stoke Newington’s lovely gastro pubs.
The shoddy old-man-pub exterior looks like the inside would be stuffy, probably showing the darts and have a good few fruit machines…you’ll want to make a mental note not to take any further recommendations from this certain acquaintance…
But upon entering, as you pass the cheerful bouncers – you’re not in Piccadilly Circus anymore! – you are greeted by a warm, busy, noisy pub. A surprisingly young crowd jostle to get rounds of drinks in for friends crowded around a mish-mash of tables. Every now and then the door to the back room swings open and you are treated to a preview of whats on that night.
The back room (or Dance Hall as the neon sign suggests) acts as a gig venue and night club, often both in one night, and if you’re lucky, it’s completely free! Gigs and club nights cover a range of genres. They had a huge Bowie tribute night when he sadly passed away earlier this year, it sold out in a day and was a serious night to remember. For New Years Eve they had a wild NYC NYE theme where Blondie fancy dress was encouraged and the party spilled out in to the garden.
The venue is often a popular spot for overseas bands gigging in London for the first time, with some of them making it big a few years later and bands such as The Horrors sometimes coming back for album launches to relive their early days.
Most nights, once the headliner has finished, a DJ will carry on the party. With DJs often keeping with the theme of the night it could be a punk rock night after a punk band, a 60’s night after a psychedelic group, an electro night after a band with synths. It’s worth checking the listings on their website before visiting if you have a preference or just turn up and try your luck!
Even though I’ve painted a picture of a pretty wild venue, I’ve spent many a Sunday enjoying a catch up with friends in the cosy front section playing a game of pool or having something to eat from their hangover-curing menu of pies and burgers (they are currently working their way through 50 weeks of different burgers, based on the 50 states of the US). In the summer, the surprisingly big garden can be a nice place to hang out in until the evening too when they turn on the pretty fairy lights…and be sure to notice the kooky water feature!