The Big Ol’ Beer Keg of History

Vanessa Brown - - Art & Books
The London Yodeller

Cheryl Radford O-Pee-Chee with Hockey Cards No 1  Ink and Watercolour 8x10 inches“If we can create change and preserve the past while getting a bit toasty, all the better.”

On February 18th, I walked into Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium after work and met up with a rowdy bunch of local history enthusiasts for a meet-up called History & Hops, hosted by rTraction’s Shawn Adamsson. After handing off his former group, Pints & Politics, to someone else, he decided to bring fellow detectives of London lore together with the great uniting element: beer. It worked. Lots of people turned out, and with each month, the number of attendees has doubled.

The set up is pretty much perfect. The group meets each month before the London Middlesex Historical Society meeting at the old Court House at the Forks of the Thames. After some divine grub and tasty beverages, we took our slightly sloppy selves to the LMHS to hear a talk on the origins of the Fanshawe Pioneer Village, sitting in the same court room that heard the Donnelly trial and in the company of some of the most respected local historians in the city. It was a wonderful night out, and it’s refreshing to discover that I’m not alone.

IMG_20150218_194301This new development delights me. When I first joined the LMHS, and in my preceding years of archival research on Hotel London, I often found myself the youngest person in the room by thirty years or more. With generational companions like Roxanne Lutz and Jennifer Grainger (women to boot!) we were a small but happy crew of those intent on carrying the knowledge of our historical vanguard into the next century. I am so excited to see more faces joining our gang.

For an archive nerd like me, what could be cooler than craft brew and conversation with so many influential faces? I found out about fun heritage conferences and chatted about the ACO (Architectural Conservancy of Ontario) Awards, swapped business cards and felt like part of a growing community of advocates. Milos’ is the kind of place where you run into people, and so we also got to see Savannah Sewell of Out of Sound and Titus Ferguson of unLondon. It was one of those nights when everyone seems to be in the right place at the right time, all in the name of heritage.

Our city’s history is officially trending, and with the lively community of Londoners on Twitter, folks are supporting initiatives like the restoration of the Roundhouse like never before. We have prominent community members like John Fyfe-Millar putting respectful developments into beautiful buildings, and it seems like we might be entering an era where travesties like the demolition of the Talbot Block and the burnings of important heritage landmarks could be less likely to happen. If we can create change and preserve the past while getting a bit toasty, all the better.

Heritage and hops certainly do go together, as Cheryl Radford and Kym Wolfe have discovered. The follow up to their successful Barhopping into History book comes out this month with a launch party at Aeolian Hall on Wednesday, March 11th from 6:30 – 8:30 pm. Their new book, Hopping into History, London’s Old East Village, focuses on one of our city’s most architecturally fascinating neighbourhoods and its haunts for drinkers. It is filled with interesting facts and historical information, serving as both a guide to the area and also a terrific read in its own right.

Final Aeolian Hall rgbWolfe’s well-researched text is accompanied by Radford’s unique artwork. “Readers respond to images,” says Radford. “My illustrations are not photo realistic or proportionally accurate, but when the pictures and images work together they bring history to life.”

For Wolfe, the choice of focus was a no-brainer. “The Old East Village has all of the ingredients for a great Hopping Into History book – interesting historic trivia, beautiful heritage buildings, and a very engaged and connected community. Cheryl and I had such a good time doing the Barhopping book that when we thought about doing a second one, Old East Village was the first place that came to mind for both of us.”

“I’ve always been interested in stories from the past,” says illustrator Radford. “Even as a kid I read historical fiction. I really enjoyed digging into stories that are right here in our own back yards. I gained a whole new appreciation for London, and for the Old East Village. My hope is that other people will gain a new perspective and appreciation for it as well.” Radford loves depicting the architecture in our city. “We have beautiful old buildings and they all have stories, all connected to London’s unique and interesting history.”

Kym & Cheryl photographed by Tony Paul

Kym & Cheryl photographed by Tony Paul

If you come to the launch there will, of course, be beer at the cash bar and perhaps even a cohort of indulgers who might take the revelry to one of the book’s highlighted venues for an after party. There will be art by guest Peter Karas, and you can by your copy of Hopping Into History for just $15 including tax. Afterwards, you’ll be able to find copies at Dalton & Sons, Uber Cool, the Western Fair Farmers Market, Attic Books and Brown & Dickson.

It’s my personal hope that Radford and Wolfe will once again organize bar crawls to go with their new publication. I couldn’t get to the first round of tavern nights celebrating Barhopping into History, and there is no way I’ll miss a second chance to do two of my favourite things: geeking out on heritage and drinking beer.

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