Tales from Coopers Townhouse Part 1: Maria
Everyone in Liverpool knows of Coopers Townhouse. Situated just outside of one of the main doorways next to Clayton Square, and opposite the entrance to Central Station, few could miss it. By all accounts it presents itself as an all day party – a pub that apparently doesn’t do downtime, or even quiet chats – Coopers is an original Liverpool character, one that is characterised most readily by it’s perpetual homemade soundtrack of loud, uproarious karaoke.
In my mind, the place is representative of so many wonderful idiosyncrasies that are so precise to the city and in my opinion, worth celebrating.
Becoming almost regularly mythologised amongst people who in all likelihood have never been in it, I was left with an abundance of curiosity about the pub that has resulted in this project. For the rest of the week I’ll be posting short stories inspired by Coopers and interviews with staff and punters alike.
All photography for this week’s project was done by the supremely talented Pete McConnell.
Hope you enjoy it,
“You lookin’ for me, love?” asks Maria Hodges – the owner of Coopers Townhouse – with a massive smile on her face.
I nod and introduce myself and tell her about the project I’m working on, and for some reason I’m full on expecting a response somewhere along the lines of ‘You want to write? About this place? About us?! GET OUTTAAA MAH PUBBB,’ which is most definitely the result of growing up watching too many soaps, and being regularly scared out of my own living room by the mere onscreen presence of Peggy Mitchell.
Thankfully Maria isn’t of the Peggy Mitchell ilk, and is more than happy to oblige myself and Pete (armed and ready with his camera) with having a good old snoop around the place, getting to know some of the regulars and grabbing a quick interview.
She speaks in a singsong Scouse accent that regularly devolves into the kind of infectious dirty cackle that would likely make a sailor blush.
“I think the thing is with this place is that it’s not plastic, you know? It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than an alehouse, like”, Maria starts in explaining the mass appeal of the place, “I mean it’s a family run business – and we’ve had it for 23 years now – so we’ve got a lot of regulars. Everyone’s part of the family, like. We even put food on for the customers – no charge. We just all look out for each other”.
The place definitely has the feel of being sat in someone’s living room at a family party. There’s a great easy going, good time vibe to the place and you get the idea that nobody could ever be lonely in it.
I think back to some of the family parties I went to as a kid, and how at a particular time in the night (right around my bedtime) the booze would be flowing and everyone would be up singing. It’s a tradition that’s died out a little, or at the very least changed – becoming less of a communal everyone in the area is invited to just a select group of mates causing havoc in someone’s flat, and singing Destiny’s Child tunes at 4 in the morning until someone passes out or the police come knocking.
Coopers is very much of the old school, all inclusive singalong. If nothing else it’s probably most renowned by local shoppers for having karaoke blasting out at all hours of the day. I ask Maria about the karaoke and she replies,
“See, it’s actually not meant to be just karaoke,” she corrects me, laughing, “We have a bunch of really great singers who come in and perform for the audience, ‘cos we love to have live music on. But we also invite people up to sing, and if people do want to get up and do a song then we’re not going to stop them. That’s just the way it is. Obviously we get some awful singers, but that’s just part of the charm.”
As she says this someone starts singing ‘Dock Of The Bay’ at the front of the pub –
“See! That’s my daughter singing now! Hasn’t she got a helluva voice?”
And she does – an amazing voice, in fact – soft and evocative, she has the whole pub captivated. The crowd gets louder and more vibrant as the songs go on, cheering and clapping along to the music, totally at home.
Before I let her get back to the bar, Maria finishes by saying, simply, “Fact is, your life could be falling apart and you can come in here and you’re sure to find something that’ll make you smile.”
Which you get the feeing is no exaggeration, and a sentiment that Peggy Mitchell could’ve learnt from.