Piss-up at the brewery!
Twenty years have passed since the Truman brewery closed here in Brick Lane in 1989 and still much of it stands empty. It hard now the imagine the teeming life of the place that sustained itself over three centuries of brewing on this site. But thanks to the vast British Pathe online archive of news footage, I was permitted a startling glimpse of the lively community that was once here. Click to watch this brief riotous film from 1954, Trussing the Cooper, which records a traditional apprentice’s initiation ritual of humiliation. The apprentice, Gordon Wright of Bromley in Kent, is put in a barrel, covered with all kinds of filth and rolled around until he emerges coated in grime to be presented with a pint of ale, now a fully fledged cooper. It is a powerful cinematic cameo with a gleeful Dionysiac energy that cuts across the intervening half century, thrusting us into the joyful heart of their world. Whatever else was going on, these people certainly knew how to make their own fun – but I am glad I was not the one in the barrel. To his eternal credit, Gordon takes it all in great spirit. Maybe he had a couple of pints already to give him some Dutch courage?