Matt Ward & George the dog have been the landlords of new-age community pub The White Horse for the past 7 and a half years. Arts Contributor Hayley Dean interviewed them for the Brixton Blog and Bugle Pub Special.
What do you think makes the White Horse stand apart from the other pubs in Brixton?
Our friendly staff, good service, great food and on Friday and Saturday nights we are well known for our music. It’s a pub where you can come in on a week night for a few drinks and food with friends and then come back at the weekend and enjoy yourself dancing and drinking.
Also it’s a pub that has a landlord and a dog. And these days there aren’t as many independent landlord-run pubs, so that might give us a little bit of an edge I suppose.
Tell us a bit about your co-landlord, George (Matt’s beautiful black Labrador):
I pretty much got George as soon as I got the pub 7 years ago as it was the first time I had a job where I was able to bring a dog to work.
George is definitely a big asset to the pub. He helps set the tone and meets and greets customers. Since a lot of people in London can’t have dogs or seem to miss dogs from childhood, he is very well received and everyone puts up with him begging.
He is known all over London now, not just Brixton. Anywhere I take him people will ask “Is that George from the White Horse?” – and they don’t recognise me, they only recognise him!
The White Horse is very well known for its DJs and its eclectic mix of funk, soul & jazz music…
I guess that’s one of the reasons why the White Horse stands out. A lot of places do ‘club nights’ where they play club music, but we figure we’re a pub, we’re not a club – so we don’t play club music. I would describe it as more of a house party vibe and we try not to take it too seriously. Most of the DJs have been with me since the beginning and a lot of them are ex members of staff, ex customers or friends.
People usually come back here at the weekend specifically for the DJs. You do hear about people who have taken buses and tubes from town just to come here for the music, yet we’ve never advertised – it’s just all word of mouth. If you see the crowd on a Saturday night, people will be dancing around taking the piss, letting their hair down, nothing too serious.
Brixton has changed a lot over the past few years; have you noticed a difference in your clientele as a result?
Yeah, I’ve seen it gradually happening over the past couple of years. It’s been quite a slow transition really but I think there is more to come. With the price of property and people’s rent continuing to rise in Brixton there seem to be waves of people moving out further afield to areas like Crystal Palace, Beckenham and West Norwood.
I have a feeling that it hasn’t quite reached where it’s going to go. So that’s a little bit scary in that respect, because you’re not really sure what’s around the corner, because you don’t know who’s going to come in and fill the places of our regulars.
We still have our regulars; it’s just more like when one group moves on, another group comes in. I suppose the regulars from 7 years ago are 7 years older now, so our crowd these days is a bit younger. During the week not so much, but on the weekends we definitely seem to be getting a younger crowd. I suppose it’s now a bit how Clapham used to be, with new graduates with slightly more disposable income.