From the horse's mouth

An inconspicuous Valley Road, B'Kara pub is set to become a prime alternative hangout from February onwards.

While preparing for a week in London recently, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of events at my disposal. Apart from the usual staples – touristy stuff, shows at the West End… not to mention January sales for the missus (which I was, of course, shamelessly dragged along to) – other special things were going on: a limited-run burlesque show in a tent at the South Bank, an exhibition on the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead tradition… the list was frustratingly endless.

I’m sure you know where this is heading: yes, it all brought home the vaguely depressing state of the local cultural scene, which enjoys a big burst of activity mid-summer each year, but flails around otherwise, save for a memorable event or two here and there. But just before I set off to the hallowed shores of Albion, a particular Facebook group caught my attention. What looked like an otherwise inconspicuous group dedicated to a local bar – Coach and Horses in Valley Road, Birkirkara, a quaintly old school place that you’ve inevitably driven by countless times, if not visited – turned out to pretty much have all February evenings covered.

Courtesy of Tim Ellis – sometime indie party organiser and DJ, as well as musician with the emerging folk act Stalko – the English style pub will be transformed into a (mostly) relaxed hub of activity… with music and cupcakes taking precedence in the first round of events. Tim first discovered the venue when he went to a party there, after which he organised two gigs for Stalko and, more recently, an alternative Christmas eve party.

“The place had a nice feel to it,” Tim says. “The decor is wonderfully weird and of historic interest, the seating is diverse and comfortable, the owner a gentleman, there are no parking problems and there are no neighbours to bother. I’m fed up hearing complaints that no regular bar plays certain types of music. This is a perfect place to have a few drinks during the week, or to organise small gigs and parties at the weekend.”

The first event out of the stable (ahem) will be Brikkuni singer Mario Vella’s attempt at ‘Homesongs’. Set to become a weekly event, Homesongs will invite an amateur DJ to spin tracks they would otherwise play back home. Mario – who will be exposing his musical prejudices on February 2 from 21:00 – guarantees his set will be both personal and eclectic.

“I will be playing whatever has tickled my fancy as a listener over the past 15 years or so,” Mario says. “Basically anything from singer songwriter stuff to film soundtracks and/or instrumentals.”

Mario is hopeful about Tim’s initiative. “I have been longing for a hang out spot that is at once removed from the Paceville hustle and bustle and (more importantly) catering to the eclectic tastes of a considerable segment of today’s youth. Even more importantly, the venue’s schedule for the upcoming months suggests enough effort and imagination from the management’s part to see their promise through.”

An acoustic gig by Claire Tonna will follow on Febuary 4 and – in what is perhaps most telling of the initiative’s push towards events that are both unique and cosy – Andrea Pullicino will be selling cupcakes (made popular at the Patches Artisan Market) and mulled wine from a stove set up in the middle of the bar; all this to music from the bar’s Odds-On Favourites, a monthly list which in February will comprise everything from Bob Dylan to Fleet Foxes to LCD Soundsystem…

“I just wanted to create a bar where people would feel comfortable both during the week, as well as to listen to bands/parties on the weekend, playing music genres that are not played (or rarely played) in other bars around the island.

"It’s going to be a ‘local’ but at the same time a ‘national’ for a niche crowd. I also hope to attract like-minded foreigners who are living here or are here for a holiday,” Tim says and in fact, on February 18 and 19 the pub will welcome UK musician Patrick Duff (formerly of Strangelove) to perform, while also stressing that the initiative is open to all arts: “my idea is to encompass theatre and literature in a new way.”

For a full list of Coach and Horses events, visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/Coach-and-Horses-Malta/144107335643474. (or just type ‘Coach and Horses Malta’).

More in Cultural Diary