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Pub-meets-circus in leafy Catford.
Disco music is blaring, drag queens are dancing and a magician is juggling for a whooping crowd. It must be Saturday night in, er, Catford. Despite being home to some cracking pubs, the south east London area isn’t known for after-dark revelry, let alone circus-inspired parties. And following the closure of Little Nan’s Broadway Theatre Saloon last year, things looked bleak for nightlife here. But now, Brighton’s Laine Pub Company has worked its magic (and its magicians) on one of Lewisham’s oldest pubs, The Black Horse & Harrow, a drinking den since the eighteenth century left closed and neglected.
A cross between The Mighty Hoopla and an immersive gallery, the labyrinthine Ninth Life is an homage to festival culture with artistic director (yes, a pub with a head of creative) Dr Claire MacNeill drafting in talent from the likes of Boomtown and Wilderness to kit out the space. The exterior is covered in pop art-style graffiti while inside, the bar’s panelling has been swapped for giant crayons. A ‘Cabinet of Curiosity’ lets you peek at silly, mini works by local artists and there’s even an escape room on the upper floors. The zaniness continues outside to a large beer garden with roaming performers.
My friend and I opted for pints of Gipsy Hill’s Hepcat paired with jackfruit tacos, before moving on to gin doubles, by then twirling away to a funk and soul set. It was 2am when we left – laughing, sweaty and covered in glitter. Who knew Saturday nights in Catford could be such magic?
167 Rushey Green
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