As lifetime ambitions go, opening a pub with your mates has to be right up there on most blokes’ list
Add an upcoming 10-year anniversary as a painter and 20 years as a Sheffield Telegraph cartoonist and you get the idea that Pete McKee’s life is hitting some pretty important milestones.
A decade ago Pete was dabbling with paint in his kitchen in Batemoor and picking groceries for home delivery for Tesco.
Today he sells his distinctive pictures all over the world, works with top fashion designers, A-list musicians and does artwork for Family Guy, The Simpsons cartoons and real-life England cricketers.
But surely that pales into insignificance alongside opening a boozer with your drinking chums – especially when your drinking chums happen to be the Everly Pregnant Brothers.
Sheffield’s ukulele troubadours have been dispensing their anarchic wit and homespun hardcore wisdom to Sheffielders for five years.
That’s a lot of effing and chuffing.
But now they embark on a new mission. Beer.
Beer served in their own pub to be called – what else – The Brothers Arms.
It has been for many years the Shakespeare pub in Heeley – an old fashioned boozer that needed some TLC.
Beer worshippers to a man the Brothers – McKee, Shaun Doan, Richard ‘Bails’ Bailey, Klive Humberstone, Charley McKee and Ginger Dave – are looking to re-open the city landmark at the end of August after renovations – structural surprises permitting.
“We’ve saved all our money from Everly Pregnant Brothers gigs over the last two years and we’ve bought a pub!” said 48-year-old Pete in his bright new art studio.
“We decided we wanted to have a pub between us when we were looking for somewhere to have a pint while we rehearsed, so we got our own. We’re going to call it the Brothers Arms we hope, though it’s been the Shakespeare for many years.
“We want to enhance the already excellent beer run that includes the Sheaf View, White Lion and the Broadfield.
“We have a genius of a bar manager to run it for us in Nick Hayne – he had the Sheaf View and relaunched the Cremorne. What he doesn’t know about brewing isn’t worth knowing.
“We are gong to make it a shrine to Sheffield real ale though we will have beers from other areas and we will have basic beer and lager on – not everyone is into real ale.
“We’ve been working on it for a while and we finally signed a free of tie deal with Punch Taverns last Thursday. It would be rude of us not to do the odd acoustic set there and there is a small stage area. We’re also hoping to have Sunday sing-songs round the piano too, traditional style.
“We want to make it a classic pub which also serves Yorkshire tapas – crisps, pork pies and sandwiches.”
It sounds like one of his paintings already.
But there hangs the irony.
Almost every pub, cafe and shop you go in in Sheffield seems to have a McKee print on the wall – testament to the man’s ability to capture those special Sheffield moments in paint.
But there won’t be any McKee paintings on the wall at The Brothers Arms.
Call it artistic temperament, irony or just plain Yorkshire awkwardness but McKee’s not having it.
“It was my intention from the start to make it a McKee-free zone and not to have any of my work on display in the pub,” said Pete.
“The band is a pleasure and a pastime for me and not part of work. I like the irony of it being one of the few pubs in Sheffield that doesn’t have one of my pictures hanging in it.”
Away from the paradise of the pub things are moving along nicely.
“Everything is pretty much still growing and not just in Sheffield,” he said.
“Next year is 10 years since the first exhibition at The Washington. When I first started out I thought I would have some success at some level but I could not have predicted where it has gone.
“I did have a lot of self-belief and now the stuff sells all over the world. A lot of my pictures come from musical connections. People see the stuff I have done with Paul Weller and Oasis and pick it up from there.
“I still get commissions and requests but I try to limit it to 12 a year so that I have time to come up with new ideas in between.
“I have this desire to keep moving and keep changing because my work is so distinctive in style so I have to try and change – keep it interesting so I don’t get stale.
“I’m as passionate as I was when I first started. It’s still all-consuming for me but people have short attention spans.
“I will always use the fashion designer Paul Smith as template. He built up a global business from a small shop in Nottingham and now he has branches all over the world. I have worked with him on a few projects now including an exhibition in Japan. He came to the recent show in London – he’s always very supportive.
“He is talking about me doing something in the US with him and taking the Thud Crackle Pop exhibition, that we just took to London to some pretty good acclaim, to one of his stores over there.
“The music culture-based pictures cross all nationalities and languages – that’s why I like to do exhibitions on musical themes.”
Pete McKee’s work is a key part of how modern Sheffield sees itself and we can all drink to his expanding success and the popularity of the band.
And we’ll be able to do it in the Brothers Arms before the summer’s out.