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South Wales Echo Tracey Moberly They're the best bar none! Oct 21 2008
ROCK stars and Vogue models are among Tracey Moberly's pub customers while her cleaners are a troupe of Spanish trapeze artists. The combination has helped create a hit formula that has made The Foundry in London's trendy Shoreditch one of the places to be. While it may be a favourite with everyone from Pete Doherty to Kate Nash, its Bargoed-born owner thinks it made number seven in a new drinkers' guide because of its welcome-all policy and good old-fashioned Welsh hospitality. Contemporary artist Tracey, originally from Deri, took over the bar when she married London-based Jonathon, and has turned it into a home-from-home for Welsh visitors. The achingly edgy venue is described in new anthology The Rough Pub Guide: A Celebration of the Great British Boozer as 'occupying a weird no-man's land between 'art happening' and local pub' in a place 'that seems to exist to make people think while they drink'. Even the graffiti in the toilets is by world-famous urban artist Banksy, and the bar doubles up as a recording studio for Tracey's radio show - where guests have included MP Tony Benn and Alabama Three - the band fronted by Merthyr Tydfil singer Rob Love, and ex-Libertines frontman Pete Doherty used to host a poetry night here. "Everything happens at The Foundry," said Tracey, a 43-year-old mum-of-four. "Howard Marks comes in, and Mark Thomas [stand-up comedian and activist] is a regular and says it's his favourite pub anywhere." But underneath all the performance, Tracey says it's still just a great boozer. "You don't have to be a celebrity to come here - we get punters from 18 to 85 from all walks of life," she said. "It's a massive community thing." "We don't even need a bouncer on the door because it's so friendly. "A lot of underground political stuff goes on and it's full of weird and wonderful things but people come here just as much for the great atmosphere. "I think it's one of the last places like it - it's really important to me and John that people feel comfortable here." The Rough Pub Guide was compiled as a tribute to 'the landlords that time forgot' - say authors Paul Moody and Robin Turner - and Tracey said theirs is a simple, and traditional formula. "It's a real team effort." she said. "I like the husband and wife thing - it feels like having people around to the house for tea and I'm the hostess. "Being Welsh that helps because we get on with everybody. "It might be arty but deep-down it's very old fashioned - not long ago we were rolling barrels over from Pitfield Brewery that used to be over the road!" Tracey, who has been involved in political activism all over the world, also has strong views on the vital place of a pub in the community. "The way things are going with pubs is discouraging people to run fun places like this because of the entertainment licensing laws especially," she said. "Pubs have a real role in keeping the community, and young people, engaged - I think the demise of pubs leads to more street crime. "My friends at home ask me to start somewhere like this in the Valleys - and I'd love to one day - I think it would really work in Wales. "There will always be a need for somewhere to go for a good pint and a sing-song." When it comes down I don't know what I'll do LIZ Smart is a landlady, friend, and counsellor at her pub, The Vulcan, in Cardiff's Adamsdown. The place where she has been licensee for 16 years has such a reputation it has ranked number eight in the guide - despite it being due for demolition next year. Built in 1853, it is run by Liz and husband Brian and, like its Top Ten neighbour in East London, has managed the right mix of good beer and a party atmosphere. "It's very down-to-earth," said Liz, 49. "Most people who come here are beer drinkers, CAMRA drinkers - they love their real ale. "People like it here because it takes them back to years ago." While sadly this time next year the pub will have made way for a car park as part of the St David's 2 shopping development, Liz is determined to keep the party spirit going until the very end. "On match days we get the choirs in - once we had one in the bar and one in the lounge and it really touched me in the heart," she said. "I've been running pubs for 31 years - it's all I know - I just love people." The authors write in the guide: "If you looked up the definition of 'perfect city centre pub', there would be a picture of The Vulcan Hotel right next to it. "No nonsense and unreconstructed, The Vulcan is beautifully tiled outside, warm and wooden inside. "The Vulcan should be protected as a listed building." Liz said while she will be 'devastated' to see it go - The Vulcan will have a good send-off thanks to its regulars. "I'm like a mum to the students who come in from the University of Glamorgan's Atrium - I listen to all their problems," she said. "We get solicitors, students, the unemployed, all sorts of people, and in all the time we've been here we've never had any trouble. "People say they come in here and are struck by how friendly everybody is - they tell me they can go somewhere else and stand there all night before somebody speaks to them - that would never happen here." Bubbly Liz works nights as Brian takes over for the day shift - so what are the challenges for a woman in charge of one of Cardiff's most lively pubs? "It's a man's pub, but if they get a bit rowdy or start swearing they'll apologise straight away," she said. And what does she think people will miss most when the bulldozers come next summer? "We've got such a great atmosphere - there aren't many pubs like The Vulcan. "It's sad because in years to come, I think they'll be trying to get places to look older and they'll have nothing but plastic-looking wine bars. "When it comes down next year, I don't know what I'll do. "It's touching to see how well-loved the pub is - not a day passes without 50 people asking me "is it still going?" But she adds the good news is some of those loyal customers could be able to take away a part of history as well as their fond memories. "I don't know what we'll do with everything we've collected over the years - we might have an auction," she said. "The people have kept it open so I'd like to give something back to them." The Rough Pub Guide: A Celebration of the Great British Boozer, costs 9.99, published by Orion Books. Wales Online