ON SPOON'S CARPETS - 10 QUESTIONS WITH KIT CALESS
WORDS BY JUHI PANDE
It’s a book about carpets, and its received rave reviews in just the few short weeks since it’s release. London writer – and The City Story contributor – Kit Caless authored and photographed Spoon’s Carpets, An Appreciation, which focuses entirely on the carpets at Wetherspoon’s, a national chain of pubs in the UK. Kit traveled extensively across the UK for several weeks to document some of his favourite Wetherspoon’s carpets, and we caught up with him to find out a little more about the book.
TCS: Tell us why you took the very first photograph of a Wetherspoon’s carpet.
KC: I had just finished reading a book at a Wetherspoon’s near a train station and had time to kill before boarding my train. The book in question – The Way Inn by Will Wiles – was about hotel architecture and interiors, and I happened to look at the carpet and wondered if all Spoon’s carpets eventually fit together to become part of some giant tapestry. I didn’t think much of it until I went to another Wetherspoon’s soon after and noticed that the carpet there was entirely different. Having taken a photograph of the carpets at both Wetherspoon’s, I decided – as a personal joke -- to find out if any two Spoons carpets were the same.
TCS: What happened next?
KC: Well, by the time I had photographed 15 carpets (none of which were the same), I decided to set up a Tumblr account and invited people to send their photographs of Spoon’s carpets.
TCS: Was that when it took off?
KC: Yeah. Because the moment you ask people to collaborate, it gets big. Word spread rapidly, and the blog was even featured in The Guardian. It went viral.
TCS: So the Tumblr led to the book?
KC: Yes. It was a series of events that led to the book, really. The blog was really popular, and I happened to meet an agent at a literary festival who knew about the blog and asked me if I was interested in doing a Spoon’s carpet book. It hadn’t really occurred to me until then.
TCS: Do you genuinely like all the Spoon’s carpet designs?
KC: Well, to be honest, it went from being a joke in the beginning, like a personal “hahaha”, to knowing more about the establishment and the thought behind the carpets. When more interesting designs started to get sent to me by various people is when I got really interested in how they were actually designed, because some of them are amazing. Some are designed after a local area, or the history of the neighbourhood. The designs are not random at all. For example – there’s one in Camden called The Ice Wharf, which used to be a wharf that held ice in the 1800s. The design was a circle connected to a line and then another circle and a line. After looking at it for a while it occurred to me that it looked like a molecular structure. So I googled the molecular structure of ice and the pattern turned out to be just that!
TCS: Which has been the worst carpet you’ve seen?
KC: There’s one in Durham called the Bishop’s Mill. It is horrendous in a fascinating way. It’s like little worms in different colors, quite lurid. But I think it fits the pub. It’s a student-y pub, so it’s got a younger crowd than most other spoons.
TCS: And one that you wouldn’t mind having in your apartment?
KC: There’s one called the Imperial in Exeter, which was a hotel up till 1994. They have an orangery on the premises and it’s a really lovely space. The carpet there is beautiful; it’s quite intricate and floral, and the design alludes to the Regency era. I’d probably have that in my house.
TCS: Recommend three Wetherspoon’s in London to newbies.
KC: The Rochester Castle in Stoke Newington is the longest running Spoons in the country (not the first, but the longest surviving). It’s a real egalitarian space that one – full of old timers, students, families, people finishing work early and of course, Stoke Newington’s literary community who can’t afford to drink at the Shakespeare down the road.
The Mossy Well in Muswell Hill is a new building conversion and its pretty stunning. The carpet is pretty banging, all distressed and faded but with a Persian vibe that makes you feel like it came over to the UK in the 1700s. There is a huge mezzanine section where you can eat lunch, which has great people watching potential.
Lord Moon of the Mall is the Wetherspoon’s near Whitehall. The carpet is unspectacular and the building is pretty boring. However, you get to see juniors from the House of Commons and other underpaid people involved in the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of our current government downing pints in a bid to quell the voice in their head telling them that everything is going to the dogs.
TCS: Do you have a favourite Wetherspoon?
KC: One of my favourites – just for the story of it – is in Liverpool. It’s called The Raven, after Edgar Allan Poe’s poem. There was an artist who lived there and left for America in the1800s to find fortune. He was a street pavement artist and quite poor. He entered a competition in Boston to illustrate The Raven for a new publication but didn’t end up winning the competition. He lost all his money and eventually came back to Liverpool, died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave near where this Wetherspoon’s is. About 75-80 years later someone found his illustrations in America, and they’re now in the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Virginia. That pub is named The Raven because of this illustrator who died penniless was buried so close to it. This is the sort of story that, If you didn’t bother looking it up, you’d never know of.
TCS: Where can we buy your book?
KC: Online: Amazon, obvs. But better to go via an independent with a good online shop like Foyles
Offline: All Waterstones branches have copies. As will my fave independents Foyles, LRB Bookshop, Brick Lane Books, and all good London bookshops (and in the rest of the UK
The Rochester Castle, 145 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, London N16 0NY
Mossy Well, The Village, 258 Muswell Hill Broadway, London N10 3SH
The Lord Moon of the Wall, 16-18 Whitehall, Westminster, London SW1A 2DY