Community pub with strong links to the stars of the stage

CHEERS Regulars and landlady Kath Birch in the garden area at the pub Picture: Sarah Standing (111742-3248)
CHEERS Regulars and landlady Kath Birch in the garden area at the pub Picture: Sarah Standing (111742-3248)

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TUCKED away just 100 yards from busy Albert Road, walking into The Phoenix is like entering another world.

The walls are adorned with black and white photos of stars who have appeared on stage at The Kings Theatre just along the road.

And pop in around Christmas time and you’re likely to find a couple of ponies in the pool room!

The 130-year-old pub, in Duncan Road, Southsea, is crammed full of memorabilia from the historic theatre.

Landlady Kath Birch has created a quirky little gem, loved by patrons who have been visiting for decades.

It is intrinsically linked with The Kings and the cast, crew and audience make it their first call after the curtain has come down.

And the ponies from the Christmas panto make their home in the pool room for seven weeks over Christmas, sleeping close to the Styx cartoons collected by Kath.

It’s cosy inside, and outside the courtyard garden is an explosion of colour, with every space filled with plants, knick-knacks, old metal cigarette signs and ornaments.

Kath, 45, has been in charge for the past nine years but has worked there, on and off, for 14 years.

She said: ‘The garden is my little oasis, it’s beautiful. The customers absolutely love it. It is an array of colours. Soon it will be covered in blue lobelia.’

The punters love Kath’s golden retriever Bollinger, who is as much part of the pub as the pictures on the wall.

Sadly the pub lost his sister Liebfraumilch recently.

Jackie Jackson-Darke has been a regular for 30 years. The 51-year-old, from Collingwood Road, said: ‘My mum worked there many moons ago and it was her local and it became my local.

‘I just love it. There are lots of lovely people and it’s so friendly.

‘Kath will always make sure that birthdays and other anniversaries are celebrated in style.

‘There’s two bars and live music every weekend and a quiz on Sunday. There are several darts and pool teams and the food for the ladies on a Thursday night is to die for.

‘Although the pub is very close to busy Albert Road, it is very much run for the local community and is thoroughly enjoyed by all the customers and staff.’

Longstanding cellarman Colin Lilley, 63, recently passed away. He will be sadly missed by Kath and the regulars. She said: ‘He was a lovely man who was very much part of The Phoenix.

‘There will be many glasses raised to him when we lay him to rest.’