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Comfy Black Country pub inspires award-winning writer's new poetry book

An award-winning writer and publisher is celebrating the launch of his latest book - a love letter to his treasured Black Country boozer.

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Nic Outterside with his new book "Bar room Scrawl"

Bar Room Scrawl – Poems and Pints from the Starting Gate is writer Nic Outterside’s 62nd book, and its publication coincides with the fifth anniversary of the opening of the micro-pub in Birches Barn Road in Wolverhampton, which has become a thriving community hub since its opening in October 2018.

The Gate, as locals call it, opened its doors in the premises of a former HSBC bank branch and made clever use of the old fittings - for instance using the former bank counter as the new bar - and quickly became a popular local place to meet.

Despite the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on hospitality businesses in 2020 and 2021, The Starting Gate survived as a refuge for many people.

Mr Outterside said the pub had a warming charm and friendly feeling to it.

He said: “It reminds me of the warm Miners Welfare clubs I once knew in Barnsley and the dominoes bars in Burton upon Trent.

“Small, friendly and welcoming. No fruit machines, no TV and no jukebox. Just people, laughter and chatter, and a pub quiz once a month - and brilliant beer!

“It’s an oasis, a community centre and a place to meet friends and catch up on the week’s gossip.”

The Starting Gate has formed part of Mr Outterside's life since moving to Wolverhampton in January 2015, after a life change from a nervous breakdown caused him to leave a career in newspaper and magazine journalism.

He said it helped him to start putting his thoughts to paper and begin publishing books.

He said: “The move to a strange place where everyone seemed to sound like Noddy Holder was both terrifying and exciting. My inner anxiety reached a new plateau.

“I sought medical help in coming to terms with everything, when my GP suggested I begin a cathartic exercise in writing about the events which led to the breakdown.

“After about six months of mapping out my life I often retreated to writing stream-of-consciousness poetry.

“In October 2014, I had made enough of these poetic ramblings to fill a book. And I then decided to publish my first book, titled The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light.

"I was then gobsmacked at how my book – which sold over 200 copies – was received."

Mr Outterside said that every poem in the new book was either conceived, inspired or written within The Starting Gate.

He said: “My book is populated with the characters I have met in the pub.

“And by the way, I have discovered during the past eight years that only Noddy Holder sounds like Noddy Holder.”

To find out more about the book and to buy a copy, go to