On Sunday the 6th of October, Australian expats bade farewell to Shepherd’s Bush Walkabout, long-term watering hole of West London’s Antipodean community.
For two decades, the Aussie pub stood at the heart of London’s thriving Antipodean scene. Ben Groundwater of The Sydney Morning Herald remembers the bar fondly as, “A little slice of home in a foreign city.”
The pub was first built as a cinema in 1910, but was converted into a Walkabout pub in the mid-1990s. The business became unprofitable earlier this year, when Hammersmith police ordered the pub to close for two Sundays in February. Things got worse after that, when the bar was forced to refuse entry to patrons after 4pm on Sundays.
Fast forward to July and old ‘SheBu Walkie’ was being eyed out by investors charmed by the pub’s prime location. Walkabout’s parent company (Intertain) put the site on the market soon thereafter, bringing an end to the infamous joint home to young Aussies, Kiwis and Saffers on their working visas.
“Shepherd’s Bush Walkabout was a backpacking institution that’s left its mark on the city’s expat community. It was the de facto point of call for West London’s Aussie expats in the Nineties and Naughties. On any given night you’d hear the familiar ‘Strayan twang, combined with a Kiwi or Saffer accent or two,” says Gary Kockott of 1st Contact, whose client base is comprised of a significant number of Australia’s foreign nationals.
One thing for sure is that London’s expat community is changing. It’s not just straight-out-of-school backpackers with scant money, a predilection for short-term jobs and excessive drinking habits that are clogging up Shepherds Bush, Putney and Hammersmith anymore. London is now home to a thriving community of Antipodean professionals and expats with long-term careers, disposable income, and, more often than not, a quaint little pad in Islington, Dalston, Shoreditch, Putney or Mile End.
“We would like to thank all our customers for partying with us over the years; we hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have,” said Intertain, owner of 27 Aussie-themed pubs scattered throughout the UK.
Somewhat fittingly, the last day of the Walkie coincided with the NRL Grand Final between the Sydney Roosters and Manly Warringah. “All bets are off that the 6th October might be a bit of a big day down in W12 as a chapter of expat Aussie/Kiwi/Saffer history is closed off,” said the pub in a statement that recalled nearly two decades of frivolities.
For now, Australia’s dynamic expats will have to opt for the remaining Walkabouts, all of which capture the experience of living, working and backpacking in Europe’s unofficial partying capital.
If you’re looking to head to the UK, contact 1st Contact Visas & Immigration on 0808 141 1663 (free phone within the UK), 020 7759 7500 (outside the UK), or email us for all your visa, tax and migration-related queries.