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Book-launch venue hop: The Ship Pub

Nov-VenueHop-TheShip-04The Ship Pub has been the crux of the arts scene in St. John’s, Newfoundland, for nearly 40 years. The famous Atlantic Canadian local, nestled in Solomon’s Lane between Water and Duckworth Streets, is situated almost as if it were underwater. The bar has a nautical feel without seeming like a tourist
trap, possibly due to the authentic folk-art painting of a flame-haired mermaid, old-fashioned light fixtures, wooden floors, barred windows, and porthole door. The Ship is a comfortable location to pop in to for an afternoon pint of Quidi Vidi 1892 and a plate of fish cakes, or to catch a live show.

Nov-VenueHop-TheShip-061. The corner stage is dimly lit, slightly higher than table height, and close enough for those bellied up to the bar to feel intimate. The comfortable atmosphere helped make the pub – which recently altered its name from the Ship Inn after a change in ownership – home to a rich and diverse literary community in a city known for its legendary storytellers. Acclaimed local authors and poets – including Michael Crummey, Lisa Moore, Stan Dragland, Agnes Walsh, and Michael Winter – have read, launched, and celebrated literature here.

Alistair MacLeod signs a dedication for author Bruce Johnson at a Ship book launch.

Alistair MacLeod signs a dedication for author Bruce Johnson at a Ship book launch.

2. The ship is notorious for hosting some of the country’s biggest book launches. Although it holds 120 people, it had to turn patrons away at the door when Chad Pelley, author of Every Little Thing, and Claire Wilkshire, author of Maxine, co-launched their Breakwater Books–published novels there in 2013.

3. Tony murray, the bar’s entertainment booker, feels the Ship’s charms are courtesy of the friendly staff and eclectic patrons. It’s a place, he says, where musicians, poets, and artists mingle. Murray typically books music on the weekends, but usually leaves Sunday and Tuesday nights open to host a reading or book launch.

Nov-VenueHop-TheShip-03“It’s an eye-opener that half the country’s finest [writers] are also your neighbours, and familiar faces at the Ship,” says Pelley. “It feels like home for me, or a friend’s living room.”