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Event 7. Saturday 29 September
After six very successful events in Hertford we felt it was time to spread our wings and take Unwind to London. When looking for potential locations there were obvious areas such as Borough Market, Clapham and Greenwich, but it was Brick Lane that we eventually strived for. Liam and Zak knew this part of London well, and for those in our Unwind community travelling across from Hertford, it would be a simple journey.
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In terms of options there is no shortage of coffee shops and bars in which we could host our event, but we found The Canvas Cafe which trumped all else. The 100% vegan cafe is a social enterprise located on Hanbury Street just off Brick Lane, and has become a hub for the local community. It ticked all the boxes and also had a similar feel to that of Mudlarks, which was great.
With the added complexity of taking over a venue for the first time (again), plus external constraints on space and parking, we knew it would be a challenge. Once again many hands make light work and after two hours the space looked great. The chalk boards, hand drawn by Chrissie, were superb and with a combination of our neon lights, posters and banners we brought the coffee shop into life as a bar. At precisely 7pm we opened our doors for our London debut and our feet didn’t touch the floor until closing. We were really pleased that Brewgooder made a return and combined with the range from Toast Ale, made for a very popular beer offering. Introducing new brands is always exciting and it was the turn of the Isle of Wight Distillery, offering Rock Sea Vodka, Navy Strength Dark Rum & Gin and Mermaid Gin to make their first appearance. All four options were extremely well received, with the dark rum and ginger beer combo proving incredibly popular. The Rock Sea Vodka was a perfect fit for our Espresso and Mocha Martinis too, adding an extra depth to the cocktails. Thanks must go to Malcolm McClellan, the IOW spirits were great, and we will definitely be serving them again soon!
An Unwind night wouldn’t be complete without live music, and this was one of the best yet. Cam made his second appearance for us (after watching him perform at the Hertford Mystery Music Tour we knew we wanted him back), and he set the tone for what would be an amazing evening of music, with his relaxed repertoire of Passenger and Ed Sheeran-esque covers. Ed Tattersall and Archie XN Trick followed with their unique but unbelieveabe combination of Keyboard, Guitar, Saxophone, Flute and vocals that provided music of the very highest standard. You have got to see these guys in action – amazing talents. They really did raise the bar, and people were singing along and dancing – you could tell both musicians fed off this positivity too. Last but certainly not least was Stevie Pee on the decks, seeing out the next couple of hours with a combination of ‘Old School’ hits and contemporary anthems he kept the basement rocking all the way through to midnight; there was even an impromptu beat-box and saxophone addition from Archie which took the party to another level.
It’s probably clear from the description above that we could not have hoped for a better debut night in London. With lots planned in the comings months our aim is to match the atmosphere, energy and overall success of this night every single time. Challenge accepted.
Event 6. Sunday 26 August
The August Bank Holiday Sunday was a date that all three of us had been looking forward to since the announcement that Mudlarks was a key part of the Hertford Mystery Musical Tour (HMMT) – arguably one of the busiest days of the year for Hertford, and it didn’t disappoint.
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Unlike our previous events, all the music was arranged by the HMMT from 11am all the way through until 11.30pm with no less than ten acts. They included Pete ‘Oz’ Harris, Steve Stone, Keef Jackman, Colin Swift, Seymour Culver, Cam, Graham John Knappett, Lemmi Eaton, Hoodoo Fish and Elsewhere. The music varied from individual acoustic singers to six piece jazz bands, and with such variety you never quite knew what to expect but all of them were incredibly entertaining. Thank you to the HMMT team who did a remarkable job, Mudlarks was one of 30+ venues hosting music in Hertford and while the great British weather did it’s best to deter people from coming along, people flooded in with their coats on and brollies in hand, therefore our bar was full all day.
With the knowledge that this would be our busiest bar yet we decided to stick to what we knew when choosing our drinks offering. Twisting Spirits had been so popular in June that it made a return, combined with FAIR spirits, Wild Thing Prosecco and Toast Ale on tap (had it turned up). Unfortunately third party logistics failed just when we needed it most, leaving us on Saturday night with one keg of beer and very little else. Running out of beer on Sunday wasn’t an option, and this turn of events resulted in the team scouring most of North London and East Hertfordshire for Toast bottles. Having bought up every last one in a 20 mile radius of Mudlarks, and receiving a last minute delivery from Toast Towers HQ, we had found enough at the very last minute and even offered the full range of Toast Ale Craft Lager, Session IPA, American Pale Ale and Pale Ale.
Like the five events before, the atmosphere was superb throughout the day and it was great to have another opportunity to tell even more new customers what Unwind is trying to achieve, while explaining the background behind the products we were serving. There’s no doubt in our minds that with the feedback we’ve received Unwind is a concept that people support, are interested to learn more about, and thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere it creates. It is because of these learnings that as we look ahead to our next event in September, and there seems to be a very obvious choice to make of where to host Unwind next…London!
Event 5. Saturday 28 July
After what felt like an extended break between Events 3 and 4, Event 5 seemed to come round very quickly. Zak started to build good relationships with the musicians we worked with at previous bars and became responsible for this part of the event planning, choosing a particularly talented bunch which included Georgie May, Lloyd Crowley and Andres Cruz. While Lloyd had played previously with Paddy Findlay, in July Lloyd (with his two friends, named The Ukulelians) made their Unwind debut. Bringing a style of music that we had never heard before, it was incredibly well received. Needless to say Georgia, making her final appearance in the UK before moving to Dubai, did another great job with her solo acoustic style. To see out the evening, Andres got everyone dancing with his funk vibe, including his spectacular renditions of Bruno Mars, and it was lovely to see him grow in confidence over the last three performances at Unwind.
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The second highlight of our July bar was the introduction of Twisting Spirits and their three fantastic gins. The brains behind Twisting Spirits is husband and wife, Mary and Rich, who are based in Oxfordshire. Through a combination of cold and hot distillation they have created 3 high quality products with really cool branding to match that we were incredibly pleased to showcase, and it was an easy conversation starter too. With an offering of Kaffir Lime & Lemongrass, Earl Grey and Douglas Fir gin there was no doubt that people were enjoying gins they didn’t even know existed, let alone had tried. Toast Ale, Espresso and Mocha Martinis continued to prove hugely popular whilst also promoting FAIR Belize Rum combined with Fever-Tree Ginger Beer which made the best ‘dark and stormy’ cocktails.
We were very fortunate to be joined by Tom’s brother-in-law Kevin, who having previously been a guest to one of our bars, very kindly offered himself as an extra pair of hands which we were very grateful for. Thanks again Kevin, we really enjoyed having you as part of the team! With Event 5 reaffirming that our customers really enjoy the diverse and restrained range of products, it was time to look ahead to the August Bank Holiday and the Hertford Music Festival, which is set to be our most busy event of the year so far.
Event 4. Saturday 9 June
With Zak and Liam being particularly busy during May and June, seven weeks passed before we were able to schedule our fifth bar. Now in the height of a very warm summer we were confident that we knew exactly what was needed to create a memorable night. Following on the success of the FAIR liquers for the Pimp Your Prosecco, we decided to pair with just one drinks producer FAIR and roll out their whole range.
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FAIR Drinks produce a blend of high quality spirits which, as the name suggests, are all ethically sourced, Fairtrade, and aim to give everyone in the supply chain a fair deal. We had already added the superberry liqueurs to our range in May and these liqueurs were joined by Belize Rum, Quinoa Vodka and Gin. A special mention must go to the Cafe and Cacao liqueurs too, which when combined with FAIR Vodka and cold brew coffee produced the most amazing Espresso and Mocha Martinis – which our guests loved (as did we when trialing them at Liams)!
Our live music was provided by the very talented Andres Cruz, Ed Tattersall and Dan Lumley, all of whom had played before so we knew it would be a quality lineup. At one point they even gave us an impromptu trio ensemble which had everyone in the bar singing and dancing – everyone knew this was a little bit special! With mocha martinis keeping everyone buzzing through to midnight it was certainly a night we’d loved to have rolled through to the early hours. With Toast Ale our sole beer on tap and a plethora of quality drinks from FAIR, the night re-emphasised to the three of us that while choice is a good thing, a bar with 30+ spirits and beers probably isn’t. We’ll continue to focus on offering our guests a high quality, selective range of drinks which encourages them to try something new, that has a strong provenance and most importantly taste great.
Event 3. Sunday 6 May
May – the month of bank holidays. We’d chosen to schedule our biggest event to date at the start of the month and what a day it was! With a whole day to entertain our customers we decided to take our music offering up a level and introduced live music from Max Palmer, Paddy Findlay & Lloyd Crowley, Georgia May, Andres Cruz and Ed Tattersall, with Stevie Pee finishing off the remainder of the night on the decks with a heap of feel good party songs. Each musician was really well received with customers dancing, singing, and of course the request of an encore (which they kindly obliged).
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In order to compliment such a brilliant line up of musicians we decided that our well received beers and spirits from April had to make a return. However, never satisfied to just to match last month we were delighted to announce, to the satisfaction of Liam’s wife, that we found a prosecco which fulfilled our guarantee. Our new prosecco offering from ‘Wild Thing’ supports the Born Free Foundation, and being sourced by our friends at Vintage Roots, we knew it would be very good and it certainly did not disappoint. The final addition to the list, to form our Pimp Your Prosecco concept, came in the shape of four superberry liqueurs from FAIR Drinks – the flavours including Acai, Goji, Pomegranate and Kumquat. We already knew from the tasting session that they made a great cocktail and they proved extremely popular, so much so that we ran out of prosecco just before closing.
There was no doubt that this event created the strongest party vibe to date, which we loved. Pairing great drinks, superb music and knowing that drinking is making a difference is most definitely a winning combination, and we need to match every that every time!
FAIR Drinks & Pimp Your Prosecco Tasting Session
Having established the Unwind Guarantee and on the hunt for new products, we were really excited to discover FAIR Drinks. A French company which specialises in making a range of spirits and liqueurs that are not only Fairtrade, but place huge emphasis on the welfare of everyone involved in the production chain. The products that really sparked our imagination were the four superberry liqueurs, and the potential to mix them with prosecco to create Kir-Royale style drinks.
This certainly wasn’t our area of expertise, so what better way to test these new drinks out but to invite 12 local ladies to Hertford and get their feedback! We were fortunate to have a beautiful April evening and spent three hours in the Mudlarks courtyard receiving precisely the feedback we were required. It was clear that the FAIR liqueurs were going to be a big hit, and as a result the ‘Pimp Your Prosecco’ was created. Thanks to all those individuals who gave up their evening to drink prosecco with us, give some great feedback and understand a little more about Unwind.
Event 2. Saturday 14 April
Still riding a high from the first bar, the three of us could not wait to do it again. With this event, though, something fundamental had changed to Unwind and this would change our path forever. In the weeks between the first two events it was apparent that focusing on local products, and trying to offer our customers something different at each bar, was almost impossible. This lead to Liam having a lightbulb moment as he created the Unwind Guarantee – a set of criteria that determines what products we could and could not serve, and the Unwind Guarantee will ultimately shape Unwind into becoming a socially responsible business.
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With our creative juices in full flow, and all three of us acknowledging that Unwind would be more than just a bar offering ‘different’ products, a very simple slogan was created – You Drink We Give. Four short words, but ones we hope encapsulate what Unwind is about on the most basic level, and in turn demonstrating just how easy it is to make a difference – come and enjoy a drink with us, and we will do the rest.
Within days of creating the guarantee we found a range of five products that fulfilled all three of our criteria, and when introduced at our second bar, proved hugely popular. These products included Toast Ale, Brewgooder, Ginerosity, Heroes Vodka and One Gin. All of the drinks have great backstories, support incredibly worthy causes and taste superb. Our customers were keen to know more about these new brands, how they are made, who they support and why they’d never seen them before!
All three of us recognised that if we want our customers to try new products then they must be served at their very best, whether this be the mixers, glassware or the garnish – and this doesn’t stop with spirits. Both beers served are best drunk from the tap as a draught pint, so that’s exactly what we offered. Tom rapidly become “Head of Beer” and single-handedly purchased and set up two beer taps for the night. They worked perfectly, serving cold, crisp beer all night long.
Once again we ensured there was live music all evening, and this time a second addition from the Dusty Wagons band, Sam Durham, who performed alongside bandmate Dan Lumley. Sam is an incredibly talented drummer and played the box drum whilst Dan kept with his beautiful blend of guitar and vocals. The atmosphere matched that of the first bar – fun, relaxed, and most importantly inclusive. It was clear that we attracted a whole range of customers from all different demographics, which we could not be happier about.
The drinks products completely stole the show this time round and rightly so! They fly the flag for social enterprises and go to show that simply by going out for a drink, you can make a difference to a range of great causes. As always those that helped to bring the bar to life for a second time deserve a special mention, these inclusive Colin from Ginerosity, David from Toast Ale, Zoe from Brewgooder, Richard from Heroes Vodka and Ian from One Gin. Off the back of our second night it was clear that we’d be featuring these drinks again in the near future and more importantly, we can create nights only serving socially responsible drinks that taste great.
Event 1. Saturday 3 March
We found a home at Mudlarks Cafe for our very first event, and not even the ‘Beast from the East’ could keep guests away. Being the first time transforming Mudlarks into a bar, it was all hands on deck to turn our ideas into realities ready for opening. We’re pleased to say that at 7pm the doors opened and a steady stream of customers joined us, filling the venue wall to wall. The focus, both in terms of products and music, was local. In doing so, we were able to offer four superb gins from Puddingstone Distillery, the only distillery in Hertfordshire, and three great ales from Farr Brew in Welwyn. The night proved that Hertford is a town of gin drinkers and the Campfire Cask Aged and Navy Strength gins, paired with Fever-Tree mixers and slices of fruit went down a treat. The pumps were busy throughout the night too, with the Farr Brew Pale ale proving very popular with the beer connoisseurs.
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Elsewhere at the event, Five and Dime Interiors helped transform Mudlarks into a vibrant bar with their quirky and bright neon signs, creating a fun, eye-catching and inviting atmosphere. With the bar in full flow and the stage set, singer/songwriter Dan Lumley took front and centre as he played a mix of covers and original material across two brilliant sets. His beautiful blend of indie folk tones had everyone dancing and singing along until closing time.
We are really grateful to both Ben Marston at Puddingstone Distillery, plus Matt Elvidge and Nick Farr from Farr Brewery who have not only made great drinks, but were the first to say yes when we came knocking. It’s greatly appreciated and we owe you a debt of gratitude. This also extends to Mudlarks, and in particular Kevin Coghlan (Manager) who said ‘yes’, allowing us take over Mudlarks Cafe for the evening and test our concepts for a new bar. We could not have asked for a better venue or nicer bloke to work with – thanks very much Kevin.
Come midnight and our bar had almost been drunk dry – what a brilliant first night. It’s now time to search for new products and musicians for our next bar in April!