Ales in spotlight as theatre hosts first beer festival

CHEERS! Richard Stride (left) artistic director of the Groundlings Theatre Company enjoys a pint with Malcolm Irving of Irving & Co Brewers and three ghosts, from left, Luisa Bazzano, Flavia Farina and Claudia De Giglio.    Picture: Steve Reid 113596-674
CHEERS! Richard Stride (left) artistic director of the Groundlings Theatre Company enjoys a pint with Malcolm Irving of Irving & Co Brewers and three ghosts, from left, Luisa Bazzano, Flavia Farina and Claudia De Giglio. Picture: Steve Reid 113596-674
James Taylor at his desk in his office at 116 High Street, Old Portsmouth.

Those halcyon days when pen and paper just worked!

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IT’S almost time for real ale lovers to raise a glass for the first ever Portsea Island Beer Festival.

An impressive array of 46 local beers will be on offer at the Groundlings Theatre when the two-day bash takes place on Friday and Saturday.

And there will be spirits too – but only of the spooky kind.

Staff at the historic theatre, in Kent Street, Portsea, will dress up as ghosts as they pour the pints for visitors.

The event, set up by Irving & Co Brewing, will see drinkers taste brews from Irving as well as Gosport’s Oakleaf Brewery and The Havant Brewery.

Brewery owner Malcolm Irving, 59, said: ‘We’ve never done a beer festival before.

‘We decided to do one because there was a gap in the market, we felt Portsmouth needed it because there’s been a real boom in cask ale drinking.

‘I thought it would be perfect to hold it at the Groundlings because of its atmosphere and history. It’s incredible.

‘I had been toying with the idea of where to hold a beer festival for the past year. I went to see A Christmas Carol at the theatre on New Year’s Day, and I knew right there and then that this would be the place. It’s dark and gives off that haunted feel and that’s why we’ve decided on the ghost theme.’

The theatre was the previous site of Portsea’s The Old Beneficial School and was built in 1784. In 1812, a pregnant Elizabeth Dickens was at a dance in the Theatre when she went into labour. She was rushed to her home in Commercial Road, where she gave birth to her son at the now called Charles Dickens Birthplace.

Artistic director at The Groundlings Theatre Richard Stride said: ‘It’s tremendous that Malcolm is holding his beer festival here. It’s a wonderful building, with fantastic history. ‘

Portsmouth folk singer Shep Woolley will take to the stage at Friday evening’s session, between 6pm and 11pm, and The Blendworth Brass Band will belt out numbers at Saturday’s afternoon’s session, which will be held between 12pm and 4pm.

Gosport rockers The Teapot Junkies will wrap things up on Saturday evening.

Tickets cost £8 for the evening sessions, £2 for Friday afternoon and £4 for Saturday afternoon.

Tickets can be bought from the theatre on 023 9273 7370.