Ryan Chetiyawardana has been part of the Imbibe family for over a decade. We asked him to write a few kind words about the legacy of Imbibe as the magazine comes to a close. Tissues at the ready...
I’ve often been asked about the success of the UK hospitality scene, and of the Lyan brand, and I regularly talk about the incredible influence of the cultural diversity in Britain on both; how the public have always been excited by new things – regardless of where they have come from – has been a huge boom for us all.
And although this is objectively true, what often gets missed from the conversations when I talk about a holistic effort is the wider people we love to see as extended parts of our team, related family or peers. This includes designers, PR agencies, photographers, stylists (and more) – and of course, journalists.
The scene wouldn’t be where it is without a publication like Imbibe
It’s easy to miss off people when assigning praise – nothing sinister, just that the sheer volume of people needed to make the industry tick becomes a lengthy list – but those reporting on things, those who have probed for clarity and helped connect to the every-person often aren’t seen as part of the chain. But I can honestly say the scene wouldn’t be where it is without a publication like Imbibe.
Not only did it spill over through their amazing writers into consumer territory, it acted as a bolster and impetus of encouragement for the hunger and passion of the UK scene. Of course this was through the magazine, but also the resources over a decade of work on the website, through to the awards and live events. The team encouraged us to be proud of the things we were passionate about (from a personal perspective, one of my first breaks was an article on my Salt and Pepper bitters in 2008, and my first column piece in 2010 complaining of the lack of diversity in London bars comparing to my recent move from Scotland, through to a very sweet piece on the team following our international expansion announcement), and they gave airtime to things that would unify us and feel relevant to the industry as a whole.
The team encouraged us to be proud of the things we were passionate about and they gave airtime to things that would unify us
Of course there were articles relating to new trends, and informative deep dives into wine, beers and spirits – I’m unsure what will carry this mantle going forward, and I worry what this will mean for a new generation of bartender. The internet is a great resource, but what’s really needed is curatorship, and the editors at Imbibe were always so good at centring in on the relevant information. It wasn’t fluff pieces or vanity articles, it was proper journalism dedicated to our trade, and without it, I’m not sure we would’ve progressed as a scene in the same way.
Bars, producers, competitions, trade bodies; we all need to share information – but it needs someone to trim away the marketing and help us find ways to translate it in a manner that has wide appeal. I am very worried about what happens with the gap that is left by its departure will mean.
It wasn’t fluff pieces or vanity articles, it was proper journalism dedicated to our trade
But largely, I am going to miss the social aspects that surrounded this role – the tastings and panels, the exciting discussions with peers and the writers, the buzz of the awards nights and the friendly calls to discuss an emerging topic. There’s been many (many!) blows dealt by the pandemic, but as time goes on, it’s emerging that this is really resonating to the core of the industry – and I’m very sad to see Imbibe amongst the losses. Sad face.