Have you heard the one about the three blokes who walked into a pub?
No seriously? Have you?
This one is no joke.
It’s the story of a trio of highly-talented TV professionals who’ve been trekking New South Wales to extract some of the cracking yarns which get absorbed into soggy beer coasters and become the stuff of urban legend.
“The pub is a place where stories are born, history is created and the legacy of its characters are passed down through generations, so it really is a logical place to go fishing for tall tales and turn them into a TV show,” journalist and producer Tim Allan said.
“But beyond that, it’s a meeting place for townships and communities. They’re the centrepiece and heartbeat of country towns and in so many ways a barometer for what a community is all about.”
And that’s pretty much the premise of The Local, the brainchild of Tim and former broadcast colleagues Matt Jeffery and Andrew McKinnon.
Over the past few months they’ve been hitting the road and bumping in on country boozers and their patrons to give the world a first-hand and authentic account of the rural pub scene.
It was given a low-key launch via Facebook last month. The response was immediate and exceeded initial expectations.
“Within the first 24 hours the first episode had racked up more than 20,000 views so we knew we were onto something that people were going to embrace and that gave us the fire in the belly to keep going and do more,” Tim said.
“I love pubs and I love the country so this was combining two of my greatest passions. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and then when COVID hit, most of my work as a freelance sports producer dried up so I had time on my hands.”
“Then Matt and Andrew got in touch and we were talking and they said we’re thinking about doing a pub project. I said well that’s what I’ve always wanted to do too so I’m in. That’s pretty much how the idea and the concept was born.”
Soon after, the boys popped into Tarana, a small town in the state’s central-west, about three hours drive from Sydney.
Bouyed by the early support from viewers, they moved onto the 150-year-old O’Connell Hotel, halfway between Oberon and Bathurst.
“I think it’s very timely to be doing this in 2020. The hotel industry was one that was among the hardest hit by the restrictions brought about by the COVID crisis and we lobbed on their doorstep just as they were starting to re-open to the public,” Tim said.
“What has come through is that sense of how important the local pub is to these small country towns. They had something they loved that was taken away from them for a period of time so there’s a very nostalgic feel to the story-telling from the patrons.”
“Pubs have done it tough this year but so have the people who help prop them up. And I think that’s even more so in small country towns where the pub plays such a prominent role in the community and its mental health, so it’s been brilliant to see what a difference having that sense of normality returning made on everyone involved.”
The Local is about more than just exaggerated tall tales over a schooner of the finest local brew. It is a window into the history of the town and a lesson on the pub’s role in framing that.
In an upcoming episode filmed in Stuart Town, the crew hit the Ironbark Inn, named after the original name of the town – Ironbarks – and the focus of a famous poem written by legendary scribe Banjo Paterson – “The Man from Ironbark.”
“There used to be a law called the ‘Bona-Fide Traveller Rule’ which meant only visitors were allowed to have a drink in the pub on a Sunday. Well, that wasn’t good for business so the owner at the time, a single Mum of three took her fight to the authorities and had it overturned. Those type of stories play a huge part in the history of these small towns,” he said.
“We’ve already heard from so many people saying they’ll be making a trip to these towns to have a drink and a feed at the local pub which is really rewarding to hear.”
“I still hear from the team in Tarana who say they’ve never been busier because people have seen the show online and want to check it out.”
“This is about highlighting how the town and the pub fit together and giving country watering holes a helping hand. To know that’s already bearing fruit is bloody brilliant.”
The Local team will be back on the road soon to spotlight more country pubs across New South Wales. If you know of a business who can help support this project through sponsorship, they’d love to hear from you! Drop them a line on their Facebook page HERE.
See you down at The Local!