Simone Richardson visits the Hootananny as it gears up for a busy holiday period
Brixton’s Hootananny venue began life in the nineteenth century as the George Canning. It was briefly the Hobgoblin from 2003 before becoming the Hootananny in 2007.
It had been known as a music venue before Sophia Yates and her brother Kit Fraser – who runs the Hootannny in Inverness – took it over about 12 years ago and rebranded it as Hootananny Brixton. “It’s been quite a journey,” she says. “It’s always throwing up surprises, but that’s why we love doing it!”
Today, punters can still play pool or dance as they listen to live music with a drink from the wall-to-wall bar.
Ben Bascombe, originally from South West England and now living in Streatham, has enjoyed managing the Hootananny for the past five years.
His role involves “a bit of everything – I communicate with bands and promoters – do all the stock and ordering, liaise with the suppliers, lots of office admin, hire staff and do the rota, and, of course, I’m there most weekends managing the nights.”
Ben’s favourite role as a manager is “working with all sorts of people whether it be bar staff, security, bands or promoters.”
One of the many bar staff is Shamanie – proud to call herself a Brixtonian, and enjoying working behind the bar – “I love the energy at the Hootananny and no two days that I’m there over the weekends are the same. There are many great moments with my colleagues and everyone who sets foot in the Hootananny – that I will always cherish.”
Colleague Adderly Gonzalez is from the other side of the world – the Dominican Republic – but similarly happy in his works.
“What I enjoy the most is the variety of high quality bands and working in a place that is a community and also a place to meet new people,” he says.
His ambition is to perform at the Hootananny with his band – Adder and Los Hojos – “with a full house that enjoyed us!”
Regular Calvin Lindsay has that experience. He played drums with his brother Jimmy who sang a number one hit reggae version of The Commodores’ Easy Like Sunday Morning written by Lionel Ritchie.
Calvin is still playing drums in a band – The Realmers – and looks forward to playing the Hootananny again.
Hancle Graham, one of the many regular players on the Hootananny’s three pool tables arrived in Brixton 20 years ago from Jamaica. “Pool is the best therapy to me as I have learnt pool here over the past three years,” he says. “It helps me relax with a great mix of people and a really good atmosphere.’
Taking care of tickets on the door is Alaia Rodriguez – originally from the Basque Country – who has been at the Hootananny for five years. “Before I worked there I enjoyed loads of nights out Now I enjoy the atmosphere, the friendly welcoming staff and the live music,” she says.
“Work can be hectic and a little bit difficult at the box office, but it’s nice and fun most of the time.
“I enjoy the Hootananny as it enables me to meet and interact with people of different ages. I also enjoy welcoming customers and ensuring they are having a good time and experience. Working with my team makes me smile.”
If you have family or friends who want to visit you in Brixton – upstairs at the Hootananny is the hostel run by Steve Light, the building and hostel manager, who has worked there for eight years.
“Making sure the old building keeps ticking along with such a lively purpose going on inside it, I’ve never had such a varied work day as I do here.
“I very seldom finish a day of work without wishing there were a few extra hours to squeeze out a few more odd jobs. I love having such a busy role in a place that’s so important to so many people,” he says.
You can book family or friends into the Hootananny via hostel-world.com – £16 weekdays and £22 at weekends.