I must start by saying that researching this post was a distinct pleasure.
London was the centre of commercial animation for Europe in the 1980s. Much of that was due to the high regard for the quality of the British animation and, in particular, the reputation of Richard Williams Animation. As with many small enterprises, it was feast or famine… and many animators worked on freelance basis. In addition to the British having a pub-centric culture – the pub was where people would pick up their ‘next’ assignments. Soho was the centre of the London creative scene, so the Soho pubs were the employment exchanges for creative, masquerading as their social hubs.
Two Soho area pubs mentioned by the Who framed Roger Rabbit animators were Fitzroy Tavern (at 16 Charlotte St. in Fitzrovia) and Star & Garter (at 62 Poland St. in Soho). The Star & Garter has been operating as a public house since 1825 and Fitzroy Tavern since 1887. The Star & Garter is cozy and a bit off the track of the Soho youth pub crawl. It remains a very popular meeting spot for the London animation crowd.
Camden Town was a bit dodgy in the 1980s, but it has been revitalized and the area around the Camden Town underground station is vibrant, with markets and a carnival atmosphere… and lots of pubs. The various crews at The Forum usually had little reason to go from floor to floor in the building, so the social groups tended to align with the working groups… and each group had its favourite pubs. The closest pub was the St. Martin’s Tavern (at 35 Pratt St.). It backed on to St. Martin’s Gardens, which had served as the Camden Town cemetery in the past. The location on Pratt St. dates to 1869. It was nicknamed ‘The Pub of the Living Dead’ or ‘Bone House’ because it was rumoured to be on the burial site of plague victims. It was a favourite place to go for a Guinness and cottage pie. It is now closed and re-purposed.
Another favourite pub of the local animators was The Hawley Arms (at 2 Castlehaven Rd.), across the Regent’s canal and across from the Camden Market.
There were several pubs that featured live music. The World’s End (at 174 Camden High St.) has been in the present location since 1875. A live music hall, called Underworld, was installed under the pub in 1988. A few steps up the street is The Electric Ballroom (at 184 Camden High St.), which was a favourite place for music and dancing on a Friday night. Further up Camden High St., and just across from lock 17 on the Regent’s canal, was Dingwall’s. It was a favourite of Dave Spafford, who played in a band there and who so loved the London pub scene that he and his wife Debbie (formerly, Debbie Lilly) had a regular Friday night pub night for years at their North Hollywood home.
Other Camden Town pubs included: The Cobden Arms (28 Camden High St.), The Camden Head (100 Camden High St.), established in 1787, The Bucks Head (202 Camden High St.), The Elephants Head (224 Camden High St.), established in 1832, Oxford Arms (at 265 Camden High St.), The Constitution (at 42 St. Pancras Way), Mornington Arms (now, The Sheephaven Bay, at 2 Mornington St.), and Prince Albert (at 163 Royal College St. – across the street from the house at 138 Royal College St., in which Richard Williams Animation operated while Who framed Roger Rabbit was being produced in The Forum).
A favourite pub of Roy Naisbitt’s was The Edinboro Castle (at 57 Mornington Terrace). It was at The Edinboro Castle that the crew had a reunion event in 2015.