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Your Life: Pub Spy; FOOD AND DRINK John Hewitt, Belfast. Where creativity flows as much as the beer.

Byline: By Swig McGuinness

THERE is so much to be proud of in the way of artistic legacy in Northern Ireland yet often we fail to toast it properly.

In cities such as Oxford - that stiff upper-lipped seat of learning - there are bars steeped in the history of the great and the good which rightly pay tribute to this through artefacts and displays on the wall.

There's no better example than the Eagle & Child, where literary leviathans JRR Tolkien and Lewis Carroll unveiled the drafts of their works.

In this respect, we have a lot of catching up to do.

However, despite being a relatively young pub, The John Hewitt has taken to immersing itself in the cultural history of Belfast and beyond with fervour.

Opened in 1999 and christened in honour of the celebrated Belfast poet and socialist, the sizeable L-shaped bar is a meeting point for local writers, students, artists and hacks.

A portrait of the man himself, who is sadly no longer with us, looks down kindly from the back wall.

On the stage there's always room for new acts at Monday's open mic, or those who prefer a back seat can catch jazz on a Friday or a traditional session on Saturdays.

There's a great offshoot snug which can easily take around a dozen people for those not of a musical mind, but another bonus in the Hewitt is that TVs and DJs are a no-no. So relax, soak the atmosphere and chatter.

The walls can carry anything from the elegant to startling art exhibitions, which gives extra impetus to pay a visit every so often, but the display most people pay attention to is the monthly guest beer chalked on to a blackboard above the bar.

Behind the counter you will find one of the most diverse selections of booze in the city, with drink from the likes of Japan, Mexico and Germany, as well as some great local ales. It's sublime.

Owned by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre, it is a place where creativity flows as well as the beer and, appropriately enough given its literary name, definitely something to write home about.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 24, 2008
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