Malones bars are something of an institution, known throughout Scotland and further afield for their party atmosphere and traditional Irish craic. The Irish love of partying goes down very well in Scotland; we are cousins in that regard.
Old into new
Malones previous location in Edinburgh shut down some time ago and the owners had been waiting for the right venue to become available in order to relaunch in the Scottish capital. In the meantime they kept a local foothold with a number of pop-up venues, but late in 2017 they bought Edinburgh institution Diane’s Pool Hall near Haymarket station. After decades of running the legendary pool hall Diane decided to retire, leaving the much loved two-storey corner space open to new opportunities. On a personal note, I’ve been playing pool in Diane’s for more than twenty years and really loved the place, and so I was sorry to see it go. But I was delighted to receive the call from Malones and to help make this new incarnation a really special place was the best thing I could do.
Craic and Ceol
The venue is ideally placed to take advantage of the ongoing revamp of the Haymarket area and the plan was to create an authentic Irish bar atmosphere, with a smaller bar downstairs and a larger music venue and gastropub upstairs.
Malones needed me to contribute to a number of zones in the bar, providing feature artwork that would create atmosphere and excitement. The two initial critical areas mentioned were the brick wall behind the new main stage and the staircase leading up from the bottom bar.
I arrived on site in early January 2018 and though it was still a building site in full flow, I knew it was important to get a foot in the door and get on with it; from experience if you want to hit a deadline you panic early enough. However, in order to make the job possible I had to work a night shift throughout the month as I was working in the staircase – the main thoroughfare for the site. To avoid getting in the way of the dozens of joiners, plumbers and electricians who constantly needed access up and down the stairs, I frequently turned up at around 6pm and worked till 5am.
Down With This Sort Of Thing
The staircase needed to be Irish-themed but Malones were keen to avoid worn-out stereotypes like leprechauns and shamrocks. We decided to produce a large scale ‘Father Ted’ mural; a television series that I love and that is universally popular throughout the UK. I knew that if I painted it right, customers to the pub would all come in with a big smile on their face. The most intimidating part for me was the initial drawing on paper. I sketched it over Christmas and then cleaned and primed the walls before starting painting the mural.
The builders were more than a little surprised at how fast it started coming together. We covered lots of the most famous scenes from the show.
• Dougal learns about ‘this is small / these are far away’.
• The Eurovision Song Contest entry ‘My lovely horse’
• Kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse
• The priests getting trapped in the lingerie department
I also included large scale portraits of fan favourites Mrs Doyle and Father Jack; all this and plenty of smaller details that would keep the most committed of fans happy.
For the main room upstairs I produced the new stage artwork in one long 15 hour shift. After first creating the design on paper, I then hand painted it on the bare brick wall using a digital projector for speed and convenience. The final result has a warm, inviting and authentic feeling; it feels like it has always been there and on opening night it went down very well.
Following the success of the stairwell mural and the stage design I was also asked to provide further artwork for some other areas.
Downstairs the builders had uncovered some original bifold doors that had been sealed away for decades. Eventually the plan is to reinstate the windows, but as planning permission may take some months Malones needed something authentic and Irish to fill the glazing spaces. With Guinness’s permission I recreated one of their classic advertising posters for the space. Guinness were quite firm that they wanted an exact copy, but as these are classic illustrations it was an honour to oblige. The greatest compliment was that a number of customers thought the paintings were original and had just been found behind the wall.
In addition to this Malones Marketing Manger Aoibhinn Cullen asked me to paint a feature picture for the ladies’ toilets, illustrating the classic Guinness caption ‘A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’. It has been put in the lobby of the girls’ toilets and it does a good job to dilute the Father Jack painting lurking at the door.
All this artwork was produced over the course of around a fortnight in the midst of a building site, with dust, rubble, and workmen littered around the place. However as opening night approached, the full extent of Malones plans became apparent. In addition to commissioning my pictures they had been very busy sourcing vintage items in auctions and antique shops throughout Ireland. Towards the end of the job they brought huge amounts of antique prints, signs, mirrors and objects, that when placed throughout the venue made a huge difference to the space. When opening night came, the transformation from dusty building site to stunning party venue was instant and shockingly effective.
The project has been garnering a lot of press both here in Scotland and across in Ireland – according to various comments on social media, Malones Edinburgh is already on the fans’ drinking map for the next Six Nations Championship!
Newsletter: “Bar unveils giant mural tribute to Father Ted”
Belfast Telegraph: “Paint the town Ted – bar’s tribute to Father Ted with huge mural”
Buzz.ie: “A pub in Edinburgh has just revealed a 28-meter-long Father Ted mural”
Irish Central: “Edinburgh pub unveils massive mural in honor of “Father Ted””
Irish Post: “Paint the town Ted – New Irish pub opens with amazing 28-metre mural tribute to Father Ted”
Edinburgh Evening News: In pictures: Edinburgh bar unveils giant mural tribute to Father Ted
Malones have been a joy to work with; their collective will to achieve quality and open the venue on time was really impressive and all done with Irish goodwill and spirit. The next step is to extend the Father Ted mural to the bottom of the stairs and there are plans for more branding and pictures throughout the bar. I can’t wait to see how the bar develops. With the gang’s attitude and drive, I know it’s going to be a big success.