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Discoveries hidden within the unlikeliest of Southsea buildings

PUBLISHED: 15:36 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:37 20 March 2017


Thought you knew Southsea? Then it’s time to take a closer look. Viv Micklefield makes some remarkable discoveries

Brewing-up a storm

“In the past, everywhere that there were soldiers would have had its own brewery,” says David Eastwood owner of Southsea Brewing Company. Yet it’s still a surprise to cross over the dry moat from Southsea Common into Henry VIII’s Tudor castle and to find an old ammunition storage room converted by David into the new HQ for his craft micro-brewery. “Luckily there was already water and electricity, although because it’s a protected building you can’t just drill into the walls or put in drainage without getting approval from Historic England,” he explains, adding: “But once I started on this project I was like a dog with a bone, I was going to make it happen.”

Having moved the business lock, stock and barrels from his garage last spring, David’s award-winning natural beers (no nasty chemical additives) have not stopped flowing. Currently able to produce up to 500 pints at a time, customers have quickly sniffed-out his pale ales, porter and black IPS. Named with a nod to their coastal locality, Search Light, Low Tide, Lights Out and Casemate to name four, can be bought in bottles, cartons and mini-kegs from the onsite Tap Room and shop, open every weekend between 12pm and 4pm. “Southsea is so full of history,” says David. “When the Castle was suggested as a location for my brewery, I thought what a fantastic place!”

• Look out for: Southsea Brewing Company beers at this year’s Portsmouth Beer Festival at the Guildhall on Friday and Saturday May 12-13 2017, portsmouthbeerfestival.wordpress.com

Time for change

Sadly the 1960s incarnation of the Coastguard Tavern in Clarendon Road was never as inviting from the outside as the Victorian pub of the same name which originally stood here. And when the hostelry finally called time in 2009 the likelihood was that along with so many other ‘lost’ pubs the site would be redeveloped. Step up local artist James Porter, whose vision and belief saw it turned into a multi-purpose arts venue. “It’s been about stripping the building back so that the community can use it,” James says, explaining how when he originally moved in six years ago, it provided the perfect space in which to work on his own large-scale abstract canvases.

Today, the room fronting on to the street doubles-up as a gallery space for other artists and, thanks to the wooden floor, as a yoga studio. A door almost hidden in the back wall reveals a small bar which can also be used as a rehearsal room (where James’s dad can often be found in full flow with his ukulele band). This Tardis of a building then draws visitors up an outside staircase to a roof terrace. “We’ve had several DJs up here already, it’s just one of the new things we’ve expanded into during the past 18 months,” says James. “Somewhere like this has really been needed in Southsea.”

• Look out for: this spring there’s a special exhibition on Portsmouth’s infamous Tricorn Centre. See the Coastguard Studio Facebook page for exhibition details and forthcoming events.

Island life

Imagine spending the night two nautical miles off-shore in the middle of the Solent, within a 150-year-old granite fortress. Rest assured your accommodation couldn’t be further removed from the basic conditions experienced by this Palmerston folly’s former defence battalions, as No Man’s Fort is now the second of three island strongholds transformed into a luxury hotel. If you can tear yourself away from the incredible views from the 23 bedroom suites, the Mess Officers restaurant and roof-top hot pools, there’s plenty more to explore including bars, shops and the lower level Sea bunker. “What makes No Man’s Fort so unique is the opportunity to experience a fort at sea incorporating rich history and original architecture combined with the very best of British hospitality,” says Paul Motzheim, head of sales and marketing at Amazing Venues, who welcomed the first staying guests in 2015 after a £5million refurbishment taking three years.

Paul says: “The biggest challenge the team at all the forts face is the weather, we are at the mercy of the sea, yet the team work tirelessly to ensure a safe transfer from Gunwharf Quays.” With guest experiences including an historic tour, as well as dinner, bed and breakfast (No Man’s Fort is available for exclusive use if you really want to push the boat out) at weekends lunch trips can also be booked.

• Look out for: themed events throughout the year with tickets available on the Solent Forts’ website, solentforts.com

Lights, camera, action

When film junkie, baker and coffee lover Genevieve Keay was looking to start a business in Southsea, a former tax office in the heart of foodie hotspot Osborne Road seemed an obvious location. Inspired by the trend for pop-up independent cinemas in London, Genevieve chose to steer clear of a cliché Hollywood movie house look, opting instead for something more akin to ‘a Cannes Film Festival and French Riviera feel’. with her Cafe au Cinema. Since opening last August, it’s a focus which seems to be paying-off.

“Challenging expectations of the typical cinema experience has been tricky but that’s something that will change as more people walk through the door,” says Genevieve. “It, already, seems quite popular as a date night as well as a get together for friends. I love it when there’s lots of girls in for a showing, it feels like I’m hosting a big slumber party! I’ve also gained a following of mums who enjoy my Baby Cinema and children’s birthday parties.”

With films shown throughout the day, it’s during the evening when Cafe au Cinéma transforms itself as tables and chairs make way for giant squashy beanbags and a drop-down screen. Weekends are proving so popular that lights go down at 5pm and 8pm with reservations for beanbags available via the cafe’s Facebook page, where details of film listings can also be found.

• Look out for: Anime and cult classics during the week as well as pop-up art shows.


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