MOOP volunteer Poppy Falk felt compelled to tell the story of a legendary Bristol landlord. She describes the process – and the strange serendipity – that led to her creating an audio piece in memory of Louis Hayles (aka Dutty Ken)
The strange timings in this project began as soon as it started. It was early February in 2017, I was a student doing a radio module and time was running out to come up with an idea. As my mind cast to home, I thought of the pub at the end of my road, run by local legend “Dutty Ken” (Louis Hayles). I got on the train home to Bristol with the intention of going to the Star and Garter pub to ask Ken if I could interview him.
Shortly after getting into Bristol, news had broke that the landlord, DJ and general vibe bringer had passed away, and tributes began to pour in. The area was devastated at the loss of such a prominent member of the community. I was too late. I was also very aware of the fact that this wasn’t about me, and I worried carrying on with the project would be insensitive, however I talked to my tutor, Al Riddell, and he suggested that it could become a remembrance piece.
As someone who had grown up in the area, and often lost my mum to late-night locks-ins at the pub, I had heard many stories about Ken. Thus, the piece is an exploration of Ken’s style, personality and his impact on local musicians, DJs and artists. It follows two members of the community, first, ‘Hatty’, my mum and a Montpelier resident for 15 years, who regularly frequented the pub, and who had endless tales of nights spent there and her sadness at Ken’s passing. Secondly, ‘Mark’, who knew Ken for 27 years, 22 of those he spent working as a DJ for the Star and Garter, Mark’s stories show Ken’s duality; a kind, well-spirited man, who’s temper flared at times. Although I wasn’t able to interview Ken personally, I was lucky that his vimeo had a lot of videos, so the audio of Ken’s voice and music throughout is from this archive.
The next temporal consequence was that my hand-in day was the same day as Ken’s funeral. I waited a little bit to share it, as again, I felt weird about the timing, but ultimately, I made the piece with the intention of it being shared with my local community, as a way of reminiscing about a man who had a huge impact on the area we co-exist in. I shared the project on Facebook and much to my relief, it was really well received.
Two years on, as I write this, the fog of mystery and concern over the future of the pub lifts. With many cultural venues being made into luxury flats, locals worried the same fate would attack the Star and Garter. However, the estate agent’s sign outside which originally read “site acquired for development” has now been crossed out to read “site acquired to stay a pub.” The new owner, Malcolm Haynes, who was instrumental in the return of St Paul’s Carnival, and has worked on Glastonbury festival since 1990, is currently renovating but plans to keep the vibe the same. Hopefully, in Mark’s words, the pub will remain: “a link to a bygone era in the midst of all this changing area.”
Click here to listen to Poppy’s audio piece: “Dutty Ken, The Man that Created the Scene and the Atmosphere”
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