I didn’t know Dave Wickett but he changed my life.
As I’ve mentioned once or twice before on this blog, I lived in Birmingham before moving to Sheffield. I started visiting Sheffield regularly in the early 2000s; the more I did, the more I noticed that the pubs were exponentially better than the ones in Birmingham. And the more I noticed that, the less I wanted to go home. Eventually I could bear it no more, sold my house, and upped sticks to South Yorkshire.
OK, the pubs weren’t the only reason. The people were kinder; the city greener, prettier and easier-going; the pace of life a little gentler. But without the ‘Valley of Beer’ visit I made with a group of friends in 2002 – taking in miraculously good ale at places like the Fat Cat, Kelham Island Tavern, Gardener’s Rest and New Barrack Tavern – I would never have fallen in love with Sheffield the way I did.
Dave Wickett founded the Fat Cat in the early 1980s, an oasis of lovingly crafted cask beer at a time when tasteless keg stuff still dominated. People told him it couldn’t be done. He didn’t just prove them wrong: by making a success of the Fat Cat and the Kelham Island Brewery, he opened the way for Sheffield’s multitude of superb independent pubs and breweries. He kick-started the ale culture of the entire city.
I’d had a rough couple of years in the early noughties. Moving to Sheffield was the best thing I ever did. Surrounded by new friends, warm welcomes, inspiring scenery, and of course extraordinarily fine beer, I felt able to get my life together and make a fresh start.
Dave Wickett died last week at the age of 64. He clearly contributed much and will surely be missed by many. On a personal note I feel a need just to say: thanks for taking me to Sheffield, Dave.