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Adrian Johnson

(Electrical and Electronic Engineering, 1987)
Adrian “Jelly” Johnson shares his memories of Southside.

It was a little over 22 years ago that I first set foot in Southside Bar, as part of a group of A-level students being shown round the campus by a student. I wasn't overly impressed, but I was even less impressed that our guide seemed keener to hurry along with our trip rather than to tarry a few minutes over a medicinal half.

Southside barAh, but how deceiving first impressions can sometimes be!

Southside Bar for me was always a place where I could find a friendly face (either side of the bar), a fine range of beer (as demonstrated by its subsequent recognition by CAMRA) and good service. It was always a fine place to come back to after I’d left, to meet up with friends from across the years, swap news and stories, catch up on the gossip and have a beer or two. And now it's gone. I still feel a bit strange about that.

Having both worked and drunk in Southside Bar over a number of years, I saw a number of people come and go. But the common threads to me were the fun times and fun people. Sure, not every night was a barnstormer, but we had more fun there than you'd think was likely, or even possible. It also provided a social service as it were, somewhere where students wouldn't have to break the bank to have a few drinks, could blow off a bit of steam without annoying the general populous at large and were more likely to receive some sage advice about responsible drinking, that they might not get at other watering holes.

Southside Halls of residenceThere are certain times that I remember being in Southside, some because they were earth stopping moments, those "where were you when you heard...?" times (step forward the first space shuttle blowing up and the Hillsborough disaster; I could place my whereabouts to within a few inches of those times). There are other times I remember just because of the atmosphere or the fun we were having. The Bar Birthdays were always great times for meeting old friends, as was any night ICRFC won the Gutteridge Cup. I also remember the TV lounge during the England v Australia Rugby World Cup Quarter Final in 1995; a packed, packed house, all the seats taken and no standing room either, a partisan crowd, but one with frayed nerves, the scored tied, the odd nervous shout from the masses in the room, and the England pack slowly rumbling down the pitch, before Rob Andrew kicked what is now only the second most famous drop goal in English Rugby Union history. The place absolutely erupted (I swear that at least ten of us physically hit the roof) and the noise didn't stop until the final whistle. And then one of the old staff rang the bar up just to tell us all that he was now collecting $20 each from 10 different Aussies on the mine he was working at down under - another excuse for us to raise a glass!

The trouble is, for every big memory like that I have a hundred small memories. Here's one for the old staff: Until the late 80s, the Guinness barrel sat behind the bar, rather than in the cellar. Every time the barrel needed changing, you had to go down the length of both bars to the end cellar to get another barrel; the game used to be to run down the length of the bar, pushing the upright barrel, and then figure when to stop running. We would just hold onto the barrel and slide, like a bizarre game of curling. Woe betides those who left it too late to start sliding (especially on a busy night when the floor was wet!).

Southside Halls of residenceLet us not overlook the shortcomings nor elevate it in our memories to some sort of Elysian utopia. It did have its downsides. Not everyone who entered its portals was a saint, it could be seriously overcrowded on a Friday night and the air conditioning was more mythological than legendary. And yes, in the last few years a degree of shabbiness crept in to the environs. But, Southside Bar was Bagpuss to our Emily; it may have been old and saggy and a bit loose at the seams, but we loved it anyway.

  © 2007 Imperial College London

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