Wednesday, 12 November 2008

III : The Colpitts

Ric Caddel, librarian, poet and publisher, who had been for some time helping to run ‘The Tower’, set up a poetry-reading circle in the back room of the Colpitts Hotel in Durham City. The small back room was lit by one or two bulbs hung form the ceiling and heated by a gas fire; its trademarks are the wallpaper (Contemporary design, c 1951) and the dart board. It was frequently noisy from bar-chatter in the corridor outside, but had a good rectangular pattern of seats, and was seldom either over-crowded or embarrassingly empty. I would arrive early and take a seat at the far end, to command a view of both reader and audience; there-after it was pot-luck whether I retained an open view, but I seldom moved, taking obstructions, along with the available light, as conditions of the occasion.

Colpitts Hotel, Durham City, July 1982


Colpitts Hotel, Durham City, July 1982


Carol dusting, Colpitts Hotel, Durham City, July 1982


Carol drawing, Colpitts Hotel, Durham City, April 1986



The readings at the Colpitts came to an end in 1979, and the back room now has a pool table. But even without poetry the pub is well worth a visit : the beer, notably Sam Smith’s ‘Old Brewery Bitter’, the arrangement and fittings, including an active open fire of coal in the public bar, remain obstinately traditional.

The following pictures illustrate the room during readings. Tony Jackson’s hot water bottle was of more than merely symbolic value at the start of a reading in March.

The last reading in the pub itself was in June 1979. There-after the title “Colpitts Poetry” was kept, but the readings were moved, in the first place to the castle Chare Arts Centre nearby. This was a converted school, and at the start had all the cosy charm of a Sunday School, and what’s more no booze on tap, though that was put right later.

Tony Jackson (L) with Adrian Neatrour, Colpitts Hotel, Durham, 12/03/1976




Ulli McCarthy reading with Matthew Doyle, Colpitts Hotel, Durham, 11/03/1977


Ian Sinclair (L) and Chris Torrance, Colpitts Hotel, Durham, 20/05/1977

(Note that the focus is more appropriate to the previous chapter)


Tony Lopez and Lee Harwood, , Colpitts Hotel, Durham, 03/03/1978



John Riley, Colpitts Hotel, Durham, 02/12/1977




Audience at reading by Andrew Crozier, Colpitts Hotel, Durham. 06/05/1977

(Jeremy : interestingly, when doing web research on Andrew Crozier, a photograph at the Colpitts which I’m sure was taken by my father !)




Jeremy's comments : During my last year at Durham University I lived up the road from the Colpitts, in May Street. I used to cycle down there, fill a flagon with four pints of Sam Smiths, and wobble back up the hill with the flagon hung precariously from my handle-bars. A friend at University, Steve, had actually found the Castle Chare site unoccupied in 1974, and initiated the work to turn it into an Arts Centre. So when my Dad first went there, and compared it unfavourably with the Colpitts, I knew both locations - but not as poetry venues.

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