Pub-twinning – a summary of events

Pub-twinning language lessons

Commissioned by the FRED Festival in Cumbria, ‘Regulars’ was an interactive installation that ‘twinned’ two pubs in the Lake District with two pubs located in the rural Bavarian region of Chiemgau. A screen, microphone and web-cam were installed at each location, to create a live video link that connected two pubs together for the duration of the festival; virtual regulars and parallel realities, propping up the bar.

Pub-twinning – A short summary of events

On the 16th of October the experiment ‘Regulars‘ was officially opened in four pubs, The Old Crown and The Black Swan in Cumbria, and Gasthaus Schellenberg and Gasthof zur Post in Chiemgau. The start of a relationship like this was never going to be easy (what do you say when suddenly placed face to face with a complete stranger who is actually standing over 1000km away?), but following those first awkward steps and a few technical hitches the project took off.

After sixteen eventful days the project came to an end, having surpassed and confounded the expectations, doubts and reservations that many of us had been having in the run up to the event.

In the end none of the four pubs wanted us to switch off the installation.

The following report offers a summary of some of the events that took place.


“Pure communication” “Revolutionary!”
Rita Gonzales, Gasthof zur Post

The video conferencing equipment used in the experiment is not really designed for a pub environment, so people adapted and found alternative ways to communicate with one another over the hubbub of a lively pub. From day one regulars were dancing with each other, using blackboards to write messages and even playing with puppets. When nobody knew what to say or do they would simply raise their pint, do a thumbs-up or send a small wave.

“At first you expect it to function like a television, and you get a surprise when people start waving at you! It takes a while before you realise that this is live, that they are also watching you” Markus, Gasthaus Schellenberg

During quieter moments people had the chance to engage in more ‘normal’ conversations with one another, introducing themselves, exchanging small talk, telling stories or even sharing a more intimate, personal moment. One lady, having taken a fancy to somebody in Germany, crouches over the camera to exclaim that, “All English men are bastards!” Some of the locals in England took time to learn a few Bavarian words, and on one occasion a group of language students in Obing went to the pub to brush up on their English conversation skills.

A lot of project related communication also took place away from the installation itself, as Anglo-Germanic relations became a typical topic of conversation between regulars. Connections and memories started to come out of the woodwork. The ‘war’ popped up now and then, but not as much as some had expected.

The closest friendships were inevitably formed between those who worked at the four pubs, a tired drink late at night or a small chat while doing the hoovering. Even the two pub dogs in Hesket Newmarket and Bergen started exchanging the odd bark to form a long distance relationship. Routines and rhythms started to become familiar as regulars started being very matter of fact about their twin pub, and at times even quite protective, as if they had known each other for years.

We had made sure that our encrypted video link was not recorded and could not be viewed by any third party, but one of our biggest questions at the start of the project remained: How intrusive would this technology/form of communication be, when placed within a pub environment?

Being told that everybody seemed to accept the technology actually surprised us, especially in the current panoptic climate of surveillance. Maybe this was due to the way in which, unlike a surveillance camera, this was a two-way form of interaction, an honest form of voyeurism in which both parties could watch one another. Malcolm at The Old Crown described how the actual technology used in the experiment seemed to disappear or become a non-issue. The screen was simply viewed as a window, and the project was defined more through its humanity than its technology.

Despite hearing that nobody had objected to the installation, you could see that not everybody was entirely comfortable in front of the camera. On a personal level we also found communicating with the device strange and at times a little anti-social. It felt like being in a kind of bubble. We became conscious of our raised voices and of how the screen diverted our focus of attention and concentration away from my immediate environment.

We had thought that the sense of humour in Bavaria and Cumbria would prove quite similar, but this may not always be the case. Robert from the Gasthaus Schellenberg tells us that the Bavarian humour comes across as a bit more ‘raw’, and sometimes seemed to put people off in England, bringing a premature end to the communication.

You wonder if this kind of twinning between different public localities will become commonplace in the future, as similar technologies become more affordable and possibly more popular. Could this be utilised as a beneficial communicative tool, or would the continued presence of such devices only serve to disrupt (or redefine) the way in which we interact with one another in social situations?


“Like throwing a pebble in a pond”
Malcolm Hawksworth, The Old Crown

We had tried our best to get the project off to a good start, organising an exchange of locally brewed ales and providing each pub with some basic information about the region and pub they would soon be twinning with. Once the project got underway the pubs started to take things into their own hands, initiating and participating in additional ‚exchanges’, staging events, sharing pub traditions and starting to build up a relationship with their twin pub.

Pubs were decorated with Bavarian or English flags and plastered with pictures, information and announcements and the sound of local musicians was streamed across cyberspace into partner pubs. An international pub quiz at The Black Swan and Gasthof zur Post went down so well that pub quizzes may become a regular fixture in Bavaria, cake was flown in from Bavaria and shared out to the regulars in Cumbria, sausages headed in the other direction. The Black Swan offered Bavarian ‚Spätzle’ to their guests, using a machine sent by John and Rita in Germany, while guests at Gasthaus Schellenberg may be the first people in Germany to learn the unique 7-nail game from The Old Crown. Guests in Gasthof zur Post took pleasure in commenting on the fact that they could still smoke at the bar, while in England the regulars would have to stand outside.

How long this young relationship between two pub communities will last remains to be seen, though people from all locations have already made plans to visit one another in the near future. At the very least the project has added another small chapter to each pubs history.

The other form of exchange took place between two conceptual artists and four rural communities. The project (and festival) inevitably encountered a variety of reactions, generating discussions about the value of this kind of work, about how we might define art, and about the relationship between money and creating art. It’s not a bad exercise trying to justify your existence!.


One interesting and unexpected development was the revelation that older people, at least in Gasthaus Schellenberg, had interacted more with the technology and seemed more interested and intrigued by the project than younger visitors to the pub. Has the project served to create a bridge of understanding and interest between an older generation, who were more likely to view the video link as a small wonder, and a younger generation who may already be using this form of communication on a regular basis? Has placing this technology in a social environment made it more accessible, or perhaps simply more playful?

Media interest

A collection of press cuttings can be found here


We were very lucky to work with four fantastic pubs. Each pub put a lot of energy, time and resources into the project, bringing the relationship to life in their own individual ways. Without people like Malcolm, Pat, Louise, Laura, Alan, Robert, Markus, Rita and John (and many more), a project like this may would not have worked out the way it did.

Special thanks go to Tandberg Communications for their support installing the equipment and for being truly wonderful project partners, to Armistead European for transporting the beer to and from Germany, and of course to the FRED Festival for commissioning the project in the first place.

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Susanne Kudielka and Kaspar Wimberley work internationally as interventionists and performance researchers specialising in site-specific and site-responsive art, alternative strategies for audience interaction and new forms of artistic collaboration.

The artistic process usually begins with a given site, and a process of observation and dialogue that analyses, and eventually responds, to the architectural, socio-political, geographical, mythological, connotative and historical narratives that can be found there.

Projects are quietly subversive, playfully readjusting the narrative and appreciation of a particular activity or a given site. The working process often involves those that live in an area, and aims to be accessible and relevant.

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