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FOMO: Gemma Cullingford and Luke Wright

Visit Duncan Grant’s gallery

Beer and music… two of my favourite things. So how could I resist the opportunity to get involved in a project that combines the two. And from today, you can too.

The music…..

Gemma Cullingford, a musician, songwriter and producer from Norfolk, has collaborated with  Suffolk-based performance poet Luke Wright  on an EP FOMO which will be available on all digital platforms from September 2023.

Today, they’ve launched the second single from that EP, also called FOMO. For those of you not down with the kids, ‘FOMO’ stands for ‘fear of missing out’ on stuff that other people are going to, especially stuff that you see going on on social media.

You can hear it here.

‘The song is an example of two very different characters coming together to create a piece about male insecurities in a time of female empowerment, that is both tragic and amusing,’ Gemma explains. ‘Luke wrote the poem – originally titled William Hague in a Baseball Cap’ – at a time when the global, social feminist movements  of #MeToo and #NotAllMen were prominent on social media, and certain middle-class, cis male celebrities were gaining attention for their controversial and sad antics.’

‘Well that’s all very good!’, I hear you say, but what’s that got to do with beer.

….the beer

To celebrate the release of FOMO, Gemma and Luke have teamed up with me and Charlie from the Iron Pier brewery in Gravesend, and have created a limited edition, tropical, hazy pale ale for the occasion.

‘It’s 5,3% abv, with a super soft mouthfeel from plenty of wheat and oats, low bitterness and mango, peach and lychee from Citra and Idaho 7 hops, ‘ says Charlie.

I’ve designed the can, based on the FOMO EP cover, in my kind of style.

‘I love beer, particularly craft beer,’ Gemma explains. ‘I love the fact that each can is a little work of art, both the process involved in brewing craft beer, the can artwork and even the texture.  Vinyl records are works of art too, but not everyone has a record player and they are pretty costly and timely to make and sell. It’s been my dream for years to be involved with a beer and I’d seen Haiku Salut had a beer linked with them and wondered if I could do the same for one of my releases.  Music and beer – a perfect partnership in my eyes! A no brainer. And I love that this collaboration is a team effort between poet, musician, artist and craft brewer, ending up with something tangible, tasty, colourful, affordable and …erm….groovy?!’

Each FOMO can has a QR code that leads to a pre-order on Bandcamp for the FOMO EP. If you buy the beer and use the code, you get a 50% discount if you enter the code iron_pier at checkout.

You can order your FOMO cans on the Iron Pier website, and we’re hoping that cans will soon be available in selected outlets around Norwich, so look out for it.

More information

Luke Wright is recognised as one of the UK’s most dynamic performance poets. His poems are inventive and engaging, documenting 21st century British life with wit, humanity, and panache. He has shared the stage with the likes of John Cooper Clarke, The Libertines, and Art Brut, and fronts the band The People Who Run The Country, whose debut single Monster was given airplay on 6Music.

Gemma Cullingford is a musician, songwriter and producer. Her music is often
dark – but always danceable – electronica. She has released two critically
acclaimed self produced solo albums, receiving airplay from the likes of 6Music,
Radio X and Soho Radio and gained fine reviews in Mojo, Uncut and Electronic Sound amongst others.

Their debut track You Are Making Progress With Your Therapist received support from Radio X’s John Kennedy who made the song his Hot One on his X-Posure show on Radio X. It was also championed by Kitty Perrin of BBC Introducing Norfolk who described their styles as ‘complimenting each other beautifully’ and who tipped off Tom Robinson for the BBC Introducing mixtape on 6 Music.

The FOMO EP in its entirety will be available on all digital platforms on September 1st 2023.

In the meantime you can catch Luke now on tour in the UK with his show The Remains of Logan Dankworth, which he is also taking to Glastonbury, and Gemma will be playing Brighton at The Hope and Ruin for Psych du Soliel on September 8th.

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Iron Pier Brewery: The Art of Brewing

Visit Duncan Grant’s gallery

As regular readers of this blog will know,  my art has ended up in places I’d never imagined.

It’s been on fabrics for Liberty London, book cover for Faber & Faber, pencil cases in Japan and shirts in Russia.  And this week it is appearing on beer cans in Gravesend, courtesy of the Iron Pier Brewery and Taproom

Iron Pier Brewery
I’ve been drinking at the Iron Pier since it opened in 2018 and they’ve hosted a couple of exhibitions of my art.  Tucked behind Perry Street on a small industrial estate, it’s a fantastic place with a great community atmosphere – and the beer is even better!

Iron Pier Brewery: Charlie Venner & James Hayward
Charlie Venner & James Hayward

The brewery is run by head brewer James Hayward, who used to run the Caveman Brewery in Swanscombe,  and his business partner Charlie Venner who, previously, ran The Compass Ale House, in Gravesend which James used to supply.

At Iron Pier they produce a range of cask , keg and barrel-aged beer to their exacting standardsas they say on their website,  it is ‘lovingly crafted, full-flavoured and perfectly conditioned’.

The brewery is named after the Gravesend town pier, which is the oldest surviving cast iron pier in the world. And many of the beers brewed there, such as Rosherville Red and Perry Street Pale,  have names drawn from the local area.

‘We always knew that we wanted to be part of the community in Gravesend,’ says James. ‘So having the taproom on the same site as the brewery gives us a real link to that community. But we also wanted to be a brewery that went beyond the local market. We supply pubs locally and in East London, and we do brewery swaps, where we’ll send our beer up to Yorkshire or Manchester  and they’ll send theirs down to Kent.  Last year , we took our beer out to a beer festival in Germany. And it’s really nice, being in Germany as a brewery from Gravesend.’

Duncan Grant: Brewery
Russell Brewery, Gravesend

Brewing in Gravesend
Iron Pier is the first brewery in Gravesend for  nearly 90 years. In 1932, Russell’s brewery, in West Street – famous for their Shrimp Brand beers – was acquired by the London brewing giants, Truman.  By 1935, brewing had stopped on the site, although it was used as bottling plant for about 50 years after that.

Truman bottling plant, Gravesend
Truman bottling plant, 1950s

If you’re familiar with Gravesend, you can still see evidence of the Russell brewery  down by the River, near Asda.  Most of the old brewery buildings were demolished, but the original maltings – the building where grain is converted into malt for brewing – still survives, although it has been converted into flats now.  The big square section of  The Maltings with its triangular roof was part of the kiln used to heat the barley.


Duncan Grant: Hop picking
Duncan Grant: Hop picking

Hops are a key ingredient of traditional brewing,  and hop-growing has always been an important agricultural activity in Kent, which is still the biggest hop-growing county in the country. At the end of the 19th century there were about 200,000 acres of hop fields in the UK, now there are only about 6,000 acres.

‘It has shrunk pretty much every year from 1897 to 2017 because of lack of demand,’ explains James Hayward. ‘Beer styles change. Most people now drink so-called continental lagers and those don’t use many hops really, so the hop market completely crashed. But it is coming back a bit now because small brewers like us tend to use a lot of local hops.’

Duncan Grant: Hops and blueberries
Duncan Grant: Hops and blueberries

There are many different hop varieties and new hop strains are being bred all the time, in England and in other hop-growing countries like USA and Slovenia. Every month Iron Pier  brew a different Joined at the Hop beer, where an English hop is partnered with a hop from somewhere else.

‘It’s a form or research and development for us, ‘James explains. ‘It gives us a chance to see what works well, and we’ve found a few that we really, really like. There’s a Slovenian hop, Styrian Cardinal, which we used in a Joined at the Hop beer and that is now in our Session IPA.’

Although much farm work is now mechanised, in the UK  hops are still mostly picked by hand as they always have been. I was talking to my mum, who is ninety in a couple of months, about when, as a child, she used to go hop-picking with her family. The Kidd family lived locally to the hop fields so, for them, hopping was a series of day trips over the two or three week harvesting period. But some large hop fields had accommodation on site and families, particularly from East London, used to stay on site to pick.

My mum dug out a couple of battered black and white photos and agreed to talk about her experiences for the blog.  Friend and composer Ian Kirton kindly offered to edit it altogether.  If you like the music, which Ian composed, you can listen here:

Anyway, here is my mum, Kathleen Grant (nee Kidd) reminiscing.

Iron Pier Brewery: Take-away service

Thinking outside the taproom
Before the coronavirus emergency, Iron Pier were planning for a busy summer – full tap rooms,  more community events, beer tents at local festivals, as well as providing beer for pubs and festivals across the country. So when lockdown started, pubs closed overnight and summer events were cancelled,  James and Charlie had to come up with a Plan B to keep their business afloat.

Plan B (part 1) was a socially distanced,  takeaway service. If  locals weren’t able to pop out to the taproom or a local pub for a few drinks with  friends, at least they could enjoy a pint or two of Iron Pier beer in the comfort of their own home. And, as James explains, it is all going very well.

Iron Pier Brewery, Gravesend‘When the virus first struck and the pubs were closed we were terrified, because selling our beer to other pubs was such a big part of our business. But our take-away 4-pint and 2-pint carry-kegs are going insanely well – even better than when we had the bar open. We started with two hours on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but we’ve had to extend Fridays to three hours now because the queues were just getting too big.’

If you fancy a carry out from Iron Pier you’ll find collection times on their Facebook page

It’s in the can
Plan B (part 2) swung into operation last Tuesday, as Iron Pier started canning four of its beers – Keller QueenSession IPA, Rosherville Red and  Breezy Day IPA – to sell through the takeaway service and its new online shop.  

‘We always had this idea in our heads that we were going to put our beer into cans,’ James explains. ‘It was originally part of our third year plan, but when this all kicked off it was like, well we’re  not making beer for pubs any more so let’s do this canning thing now.’

Iron Pier Brewery, GravesendJames and Charlie and I had already discussed the possibility of putting my artwork on the cans about a year ago, so they were able to move from idea to product really quickly. ‘Yes,’ James laughs. ‘We didn’t need to find a designer, so for us it was just finding somewhere on the can to put our logo so it didn’t get in the way of the artwork and we were done!’

While the beer is brewed on site, Iron Pier brought an external contractor into the brewery to can the beer.  In the future, if the new cans prove popular, the brewery might consider purchasing its own packaging line.

Iron Pier Brewery, GravesendBy the end of Tuesday, the brewery had three out of the four beers ‘in the can’. But there was a small technical hitch with the fourth.

‘A new process in the brewery always involves a bit of a learning curve, and something usually goes wrong,’ James explains. ‘We brewed all four beers for the canning day  but when we began filling the Breezy Day we noticed that we were still pulling through hops from the fermenter, so we decided not to can it that day.’

The team is going to  polish up the Breezy Day  ready for when the canners return in a week or so.  In the meantime, the other three canned beers are for sale. You can buy them in cases, or individually, through the take-away service or via the online shop.

‘We were really happy to see some great dissolved oxygen numbers in the can,’ James says, ‘so the beer should have a decent shelf life, which was the main thing I was worried about.’

Iron Pier Brewery, GravesendIn normal times, Iron Pier would have held a big knees up to launch their new cans, but since these are not normal times, you are invited to a Virtual Launch/Meet the Brewer/ Beer Tasting event, this evening (17th May 2020, @ 7.30 – 8.30pm) hosted by the Admiral’s Arm micropub  Follow this link for more information:

Hope to see you there. Cheers!


You can follow Iron Pier on:

My original ink drawings, as well as digital prints, of the art used on the beer cans and in this blog are available from the gallery on this website.

Keller Queen (Small Town #141)
Original ink drawing:
Digital print: 

Rosherville Red (Small Town #132)
Original ink drawing:
Digital print:

Session IPA (Twenty-eight poplars)
Original ink drawing:
Digital print:

Breezy Day IPA (Breezy Day)
Original ink drawing: SOLD
Digital print:

Russell Brewery (Brewery)
Original ink drawing: SOLD
Digital print:

Hops and blueberries
Original ink drawing:
Digital print:

Hop pickers – SOLD