Love Your Local: Little Johnny Russells, Southsea

GOING STRONG Little Johnny Russell's in Albert Road, Southsea. Picture: Malcolm Wells (14147-8117)
GOING STRONG Little Johnny Russell's in Albert Road, Southsea. Picture: Malcolm Wells (14147-8117)

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Many pubs are feeling the pinch and struggling to make ends meet.

But Little Johnny Russell’s, in Albert Road, Southsea, is enjoying success thanks to loyal regulars and students living nearby.

Manager Sian Kelleher

Manager Sian Kelleher

Its popularity means cheap beer, dinners being offered throughout the week and entertainment in the form of DJs and live music.

And there’s a traditional open fire that’s lit daily, making it the perfect place to go and have a beer with friends when the weather is cold.

Manager Sian Kelleher runs the venue for friends James Ralls, Andy Marsh and Ben Miles, who hold the lease for Enterprise Inns.

Sian took charge around three years ago and was one of the first members of staff employed when the venue opened in 2007.

Before that it was being run as a nightclub.

Talking about what life has been like at the pub, Sian said: ‘It’s been quite steady. It’s a nice, friendly place to come and have a drink. We have a great range of locals who come here.

‘Albert Road is a great place to be, it feels safe and the students seem to like it down here.’

The pub, which serves up three real ales, is a proud supporter of Southsea Skatepark.

Sian said: ‘It’s a great local cause and it’s something that really gives back to the community.’

One of the things the pub hopes to get involved with this year is the revamped Victorious Festival, which is due to be held on Southsea Common.

As reported, Portsmouth City Council approved plans last week for the event to move from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to the seafront, boosting visitor numbers by tens of thousands each year.

The trio involved in the running of the pub are the festival’s organisers.

‘Last year we helped to run the second stage which The Cribs played on,’ Sian said.

Silent discos are held three to four times a year, which prove extremely popular.

Acoustic sessions run by music promoter Nick Courtney are held on the first and third Tuesday of the month.

Sian said the success was down to many of the pubs in Albert Road being run by people who are passionate about their business.

‘People are working really hard at something they want to make a success of,’ she said.

‘Everyone is part of a pub watch and we are all friends.’

Talking about her love for the job, Sian said: ‘I love meeting all the different characters.’

The pub’s name comes from former Prime Minister Lord John Russell, who was brought down by his defence secretary Lord Palmerston – another familiar name in the area. A pub called the Lord John Russell opened on the site in the late 19th century..


HARD-WORKING Sian Kelleher was a student and did shifts at a music store before working behind the bar of Little Johnny Russell’s.

Since then, she has worked her way up the ladder and become the manager.

She’s also graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a history degree.

Sian, who is originally from Reading, said she decided to stick around at the pub and not go elsewhere because she’s been looked after extremely well and made some great friends.

‘Ben Miles asked me if I wanted a job and the rest is history,’ she said.

‘It’s always been a nice place to work and the staff here look after me really well.

‘I have got a big sense of loyalty to the guys (the leaseholders).’

Merlin Power-Jones, 27, the assistant manager, has had a range of experience in the pub trade.

He’s worked in pubs since he was 18 and ran a bar in Nottingham and helped out at One Eyed Dog, in Elm Grove, Southsea, before moving to Little Johnny Russell’s.

Merlin, who comes from Wales, said: ‘I love the customers, they are fantastic.

‘I just like the atmosphere here and I like providing a good atmosphere for people to have a good time.

‘I’m excited to see what Victorious Festival brings this year. Southsea Common is so big.’

‘I like working for the boys.’

Merlin said he’s also excited to see how the pub will get involved in this year’s Southsea Fest, an event usually held in September which sees pubs across the area holding a range of live music.