The old adage ‘you can’t polish a turd’ is thrown around a lot lately (especially by me, after a few drinks, usually before I start telling people I run Dronfield) and it’s true of many of the pub refurbishments town-wide. Troubled landlords think a little paint and some Neutradol is going to change the reputation of their failing pubs. The flagship offending turd, The Bridge Inn, serves only to confirms this. Alas, there is an exception to this rule: The White Swan. The refurbished White Swan smells nice, looks fresh and is ready for some weekend action (just like your mum).
For those unfamiliar with The White Swan (and by proxy, unfamiliar with Dronfield’s thriving music scene), it’s a drinkers pub for drinkers who like a good drink and don’t mind drinking to prove it. Also, it has notably less toothless racists than a standard local, which is a benefit if you’ve come to this country to steal all the best jobs like cabbage picking and washing cars (which – at the time of writing – I haven’t). The bar staff don’t judge you when you’re buying your last pint of Stella with loose change and pocket fluff, and nobody wears tracksuits.
Last weekend saw Dronfield’s big-brained quiz-master (and slapdash gardener), Elliott Hill, oversee the refurbishment of The White Swan with his raggedy band of volunteers, looking more like a community service gang headed up by a Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen playing a colonial slaver than a renovation team. Dronfield Digital caught up with local resident Mr Hill to ask him why he felt so strongly about the pub to volunteer his time at a weekend to tell other people how to whitewash walls faster: “I’m the sort of guy who will snap up any opportunity to have even the smallest amount of power over anything and this sounded like I could really shout at people without having to face repercussions. Plus, the idea of a few free beers!”
Those of you who haven’t visited The White Swan before will want to go down and visit it before the novelty of the refurbishment wears off and everyone remembers they are there because drinking in silence is much more fun than listening to their wives tell them how long they are going to be walking round the garden centre on Sunday.
Local guitar hero (and all-round good guy), Chris Firminger, hosts his fantastic Jam Night on a Tuesday. So if you don’t mind having a drink on a school night and want to see live music without worrying about the amount of Deep Purple songs you’ll here, go down. Unlike most open-mic nights, where the same acts get up week-in-week-out playing the same songs the same way to the same people, drinking the same drinks, stood in the same place so rigidly you can set your watch by it, The White Swan’s Jam Night is quite the opposite… It’s fun.
If you’re less about music and more about quizzes, Elliott Hill (previously mentioned megalomaniac and professional grass-cutter), hosts Dronfield’s most perilous, most entertaining, most quizzical quiz this side of the Penines. You can always be sure there will be a question about Margaret Thatcher, Elton John and whichever obscure former British Prime Minister he’s reading about this week (probably Clement Attlee). It’s the most fun you can have in Dronfield on a Sunday if you’re single, have no plans and want an excuse to drink.
Thanks to bar team member Rebecca Kelly for providing the photographs for this article.