Tom Howe - a showman on stage and behind the bar
DALES PEOPLE - BY CHRIS FOOTE-WOOD
GREETED by the ever-cheerful Tom Howe behind the bar, the first thing that strikes you is his magnificent retro quiff. And he might well be clad in colourful and eccentric clothes.
This is all part of Tom’s adopted “crazy guy” persona. Always smiling, he’s a self-declared “happy guy” who has done his bit for charity.
Taking over as steward of Barnard Castle Workingmen’s Club in the heart of the town some 18 months ago, Tom was already well known in Barney and beyond after working behind the bar at a number of local pubs.
He also had a spell as support officer in Deerbolt Prison.
A Barnard Castle lad with two sisters – dad Gary used to work at GSK and mum Dawn is a factory supervisor – Tom went to Green Lane Primary School and Teesdale School and Sixth Form.
He was “always interested in performing on stage, acting and singing”. He played piano and guitar (“just dabbled” he says), sang in a local choir, and has had lead roles in the musicals West Side Story and We Will Rock You. His studies included theatre, stage management and music technology.
On leaving school Tom started a drama course at Newcastle College but left after the first year.
“The second year was mainly written work,” he explains. The hospitality industry beckoned, and Tom soon found his niche working behind the bar. Taking over at Barney WMC at the start of the Covid-19 crisis, Tom found things “very quiet” during lockdown.
“We were bored in the house, so we thought we’d have some fun,” he says. “With a family bubble of four, me, my partner Katy and her parents put up a gazebo in the garden and performed jazz and swing in wayout costumes which we streamed live on Facebook.
“Second time around, we linked up with a group called Covid Cutz, sporting our quirky clothes and daft haircuts,” he says proudly.
Their efforts raised more than £10,000 which has paid for equipment at Richardson, Bishop Auckland and Darlington hospitals.
As Covid-19 restrictions eased, audiences returned to the club’s concert room to enjoy “Howey’s Crazy Bingo” with unusual prizes such as a space hopper. In the final game a winner could take home £300 or even a mobility scooter.
In his day job, the occasional difficult customer is soon dealt with. A quiet word from young Tom (he’s still only 25) is usually enough.
“Either they calm down, or they’re shown the door”, he says firmly. How long Barnard Castle will be able to keep this admitted “colourful character” who is always on show remains to be seen.