‘Gerraoutmypub,’ cries Peggy Mitchell, ur-landlady of London’s best-known – albeit fictional – hostelry, The Queen Vic, to rowdy troublemakers. If artist Stanley Schtinter has anything to do with it, East End pubs will be ushering visitors into the pub and not out.
While others amongst us wasted time making excuses not to do Joe Wicks workouts, Schtinter spent lockdown time actually doing something great, using video editing software to remove every scene in the first decade of ‘EastEnders’ of screening that wasn’t in The Queen Vic.
The 100-hour video artwork, called ‘The Lock-in’, will be screened by 11 of the East End’s last ‘real’ pubs, launching at The Queen Adelaide pub in Bethnal Green on the day of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Friday June 3 – depicting The Queen Vic: that’s a whopping three queens in one day.
The project is a celebration of the British pub as it emerges from the challenges of the pandemic, plus 100 hours is a tidy nod to a century of the BBC. The selected pubs will show 100 hours of scenes from The Queen Vic pub throughout June, with each average screening lasting ten hours. If pubs are not your thing but immersive art about long-running BBC soaps are, the entire sequence will play continuously during opening hours at the Barbican Centre throughout July.
It’s been described by Anita Dobson (the QV’s legendary first landlady, Angie Watts) as an ‘interesting project’. For, us it’s more than that: it taps into themes that – love them or loathe them – are keys to understanding London culture. So much of city life and legend is tied into pop culture and TV soaps. Our city’s identity is constructed around London’s boozers, whether we’ve stepped into one lately.
There’s also an existential element to the artwork, in the endless looping of those pub hours that resonates for those of us that experienced the London lockdowns. A little like Simon Pegg’s character in ‘Shaun of the Dead’, we all probably wish we could head to the refuge of our local, but for us, The Winchester or The Queen Vic wasn’t open.
Years ago, there was an episode of ‘EastEnders’ set entirely in the pub. I remember thinking: The writer’s actually riffing on ‘Waiting for Godot’ here – essentially it was two minor characters having a long empty aimless chat over a pint on primetime TV – a rare and delightful interval in the famously turbulent soap. Now I’m motivated to have my own Samuel Beckett ‘Godot’ moment, endlessly waiting for that clip to come round in Schtinter’s artwork. It’s a beautiful – if meta – possibility.
If all this talk of pubs and Jubilees has whetted your appetite, you can now wet your whistle sky-high in the London Eye’s Jubilee Pod
Plus, London pubs can stay open later during the Jubilee bank holiday weekend. Hooray!