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“Gerrit doon yi, it’ll de yi gudd!”

I am a History Undergraduate with a specialised interest in the history of alcohol and drinking. My Undergraduate dissertation is looking at Newcastle’s social history, through the lens of Newcastle Brown Ale consumption. My study will chart the history of Newcastle Brown Ale, as well as a socio-spatial study of where, by whom and when it was drank. My overall aim, apart from research into the history of the drink, it to show another side to the history of Newcastle, and show off Geordie pride, humour, wit and local interest of our city.

I visited VOICE in January 2018, and despite difficulties of snow I managed to interview four wonderful members of VOICE. I estimated that the interviews would take around half an hour at most, however in typical Geordie fashion, the interviews went on for over an hour in every case! Geordies like to chat. However, this was not a negative in any way, and I was able to unearth more information that I could have imagined purely down to the sociability and willingness to share of my interviewees.

The interviews with VOICE members allowed me to gain greater insights into my research questions such as: When did you begin to drink Brown Ale? Who would you drink it with? Do you still drink it now? Why did you drink it? I also put forward the statement of ‘Do you have any particularly strong memories about a time you drank Brown Ale?’, which prompted some surprising results and stories!

Nonetheless, the memories unearthed and answers to my questions have given me some incredibly valuable insights for my Dissertation, and I can’t thank the interviewees enough. As my study is a social history, and Geordies are very sociable people, it made sense for me to conduct my research through the form of interviews. This has helped me to learn Newcastle Brown Ale rituals, rites of passages and nuggets of information that do not appear in textual sources.

VOICE were amazing at putting me into contact with varied volunteers. Although weather issues meant some cancellations had to occur, I was presented with a large group of perspective volunteers. The volunteers were more than happy to talk to me about my research and answer any questions I have.

I am currently still in my research phase, as well as transcribing the interviews onto paper. I am looking at other sources as well such as Brown Ale advertisements and Scottish & Newcastle publications. I am also reading more around the history of Newcastle from secondary sources.

I would once again like to thank VOICE and their volunteers for their role in my research. 

Kate Nissen
Bristol University

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  • John Davies
    9th May 2018

    Leave a comment... Kate - did anyone raise the point that one of the reasons why so much Brown Ale was drunk in Newcastle was because of the poor state of the cellars in many north east pubs . Many landlords were either unable or could not be bothered to keep a clean and hygienic cellar , with the result that draught ale was frequently 'off' and made people ill . One way to guarantee yourself a pint that was not going to make you ill was to buy a bottle . This is in contrast to Manchester , Leeds , Bristol and most other cities , where landlords did keep hygienic cellars and safe-to-drink beer. John Davies Newcastle upon Tyne

  • Ian Armstrong
    9th May 2018

    I have worked all over the country & would not live any where else. Once the Cockneys knew you came from the North, "U" had the job.

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