Britain’s wonkiest pub, the Crooked House, was destroyed by fire and bulldozers last week. The property was built in 1765 and began sinking in the 1800s, which left it leaning at a 16-degree angle. Its destruction has been met by disbelief, anger, and sadness in the local community (and beyond). It changed hands earlier in the year after brewery chain Marston’s sold it to ATE Farms for “alternative use”.
I’ve felt the grief of this story gnawing at me a bit. It’s not that the Crooked House means anything to me personally. I’d not heard of it until now. I’m not entirely sure what this feeling is. Maybe it’s what this situation represents…
The entitlement of people who take what they want without any concrete accountability for their decisions (the fire is being investigated as arson – and the bulldozer was booked before the blaze). Powers that don’t appreciate, understand, or care about areas impacted by their actions. Communities of decent folk left picking up the pieces of a system that allows important and meaningful places to be tossed around by outside forces as play toys.
Creative Spirit In The Ashes
I’m not sure what the feeling is. But it’s speaking to me. Not least the presence (and absence) of “spirit” I see in this story.
We sometimes talk of “community spirit” at moments like this. How a community comes together in solidarity in the face of adversity.
Our public spaces ooze with this spirit. The mortar of the memories, stories, and moments bond our bricks together.
Our public places are where we cross paths, gather to celebrate, fall in love, and grieve. Spaces for creativity and connection. Places, where shared meaning reaches beyond any single story or perspective.
These are sacred places—more than objects one can buy, sell, or demolish. The sacred is established, cemented, and reified over time. Not by its physical materials, an individual, or an event. But by the human spirit that fills it and those who gather.
I played live music several times at the Great Western Pub in Warwick. Like The Electric Banana, in the words of Marty DiBergi, “Don’t look for it; it’s not there anymore”. It was supposed to be converted into a residential property, but a fire meant it was razed to the ground and new houses could be built.
I often drive past it, and when I do, the spirit of those memories fill the car’s air vents and whistle through my nostrils. I wonder about the other moments that smouldered in the ashes beneath those houses: celebrations, wakes, first dates, last dates.
Places of “Storical” Importance
Places matter to us. They are where life happens. Even when they don’t “belong” to us, life belongs to them in our memories, dreams, and stories.
We talk about sites of historical importance. But do we recognise the sites of storical significance in the present? And how can we honour and protect without separating ourselves from them as untouchable objects that we don’t allow to evolve and grow when we decide it’s time to invite change into the space?
It raises the question of ownership. Not in a legal or technical sense. But at a philosophical level. How do we own? Whose property is this really? What does possession and stewardship mean in a dynamic and shifting world?
I sense a lot of of disempowerment in this present moment. People are disenfranchised and losing hope. Important aspects of life feel increasingly unstable and at the mercy of outside forces. Disempowerment can result in cynicism, numbness, and disconnection. Anger that has nowhere helpful to travel.
Uncontainable Collective Spirit
During my gig at Temperance last week, I introduced Sleep it Off as a song inspired by this feeling of a frazzled nervous system. When all the lines of action feel futile because it feels like forces beyond me are pulling strings that are way out of my reach.
But I felt something as I spoke to a room full of people. A fizzing spark of solidarity. There was a collective spirit there—a sense of shared being. When we connect, we transcend and shrink the forces that want to separate, burn down, and destroy the containers where our souls meet.
The collective spirit cannot be contained, bottled, or kept at bay if the building comes down. It may grow more robust as it looks at this world we’re creating and questions who it’s for.
While accountability matters, it’s not enough to blame “bad apples” for acting under rotten systems, values, and beliefs. We also need to connect with the parts of life we collectively treasure. To tell, enjoy, and embody the storical importance of the places we want to respect, protect, and support.
Many aspects of technological innovation breeds separation, dehumanisation, and disembodiment. But I actively hope that the further we are pushed to see what’s going on at the heart of this story, the more humanness we will find around it. The more open and willing we will be for a deeper connection to ourselves, one another, and the collective spirit.
My friend Dan wrote this song as a tribute/protest about The Crooked House.
And my friend, Amie sent me this on Instagram…