Customers in the Six Yard Box pose for a pic.

The London-based Irish pub where pints are exchanged for Panini stickers

Sebastian O’Driscoll chats to us about the recently opened Six Yard Box bar.

FOR IRISH PEOPLE, moving to London can be a daunting and potentially alienating experience. The idea of living in a different city and having to make new friends can make the already awkward transition seem all the more tense and difficult.

However, sometimes, Ireland is closer to home than a lonely innocent abroad might imagine.

For Irish Londoners eager to discover an antidote to those recurring feelings of nostalgia for home, the Six Yard Box pub on Elephant Road in central London is certainly worth a gander at the very least.

Whether it’s Father Ted bingo, a ceiling plastered with Panini stickers or live screenings of Ireland’s Six Nations matches, there’s plenty to remind the average Irish person of home.

The bar’s owner, Sebastian O’Driscoll, who hails from Carrigaline in Cork, originally came to London six years ago.

“Whenever my friends and I wanted to go and watch football, it was always to some crappy chain bar in Leicester Square,” he tells The42. “I don’t live around there, so it’s a bit of a nightmare to get into. I always thought if we could set up a cool little bar down here, it would do quite well.”

Last year, his dream suddenly looked like it could become a reality. A project entitled Artworks was established in his area, and gave new businesses the opportunity to rent refurbished shipping containers. O’Driscoll took advantage of this unique incentive, quitting his previous job working for a charity and building a pub with his friends in this unusual location.

After doing a bit of travelling while waiting for the area to be ready for action, he returned, and in January of this year, the Six Yard Box was opened for business.


(Screenings of Six Nations rugby games helped the bar to become popular)

However, any idealistic perceptions of owning a pub would have been quickly pared back amid an opening month when business was distinctly slow.

“It wasn’t a great time to start a bar when everyone was hungover from Christmas and doing ‘Dry January,’” he explains. “So the first month was a bit terrifying — there were a lot of friends coming in and just getting me through. I was a bit worried and felt ‘maybe there is a lot more to this than I thought’.”

Nevertheless, the Six Nations and the Irish rugby team’s ensuing success in the competition gave the bar a significant boost, with locals suddenly eager to attend in their droves.


(The ceiling of the pub is covered with Panini stickers)

Another enticing aspect of the pub is its penchant for novelty value — a longstanding association with Panini football stickers being a prime example.

“One of the lads had been collecting Panini stickers over the summer for the World Cup,” he recalls. “So we thought ‘why don’t we just put a few stickers on the wall and see what it looks like’. We put up his little pile of swaps and I’d say it covered one-fiftieth of the whole thing, but it actually looked decent. So I bought a couple of boxes on eBay, but it wasn’t the sheer volume we needed [to completely cover the wall].

“One thing we had was loads and loads of beer and we needed stickers. So rather than going out and buying them, we just thought we’d love to get people who are into Panini stickers coming down and they might find it was a nice bar and somewhere cool to relax, and maybe we could get our hands on a few swaps. So it was kind of organic how it came about.”

And while O’Driscoll has now reined in his Panini sticker collecting, he still wouldn’t be entirely averse to accepting them as viable currency.

“We were doing that, and we still need a few more stickers, so if someone came in with a load of stickers, we’d probably sort them out for a few pints. But in terms of the three-inches-of-stickers-per-pint rule, we don’t do that at the minute.”


(Father Ted bingo is one of the bars many attractions)

Another of the bar’s more idiosyncratic attractions is Father Ted bingo, in honour of one of Ireland’s most beloved sitcoms.

“The first day guys who had never seen Father Ted before came in. You needed a lot of pre-knowledge for the game. So for the episode where Father Stone has an accident, someone said ‘he died’ and fell over laughing and I said ‘no he didn’t,’ but they were like ‘he did, he did,’ and I said ‘you’ve literally no idea what you’re talking about’. They were just trying to get a free drink.”

Yet for all its Irish characteristics, the pub tends to appeal to customers from an array of different backgrounds. A nearby Colombian community have discovered its charms, as have a Sevilla FC Supporters Group, while it is particularly popular with young people, as both London South Bank University and the London College of Arts are situated nearby.

“But we’re getting people of all generations,” O’Driscoll adds. “I volunteer with the Southwark Irish Pensioners Project, so I meet up with this elderly guy from Monaghan every week for a cup of tea and stuff.

“I brought him down and I don’t think it was what he was expecting. He probably thought it would be more of a standard Irish pub and I spoke to the co-ordinator of the pensioners’ group and I’d love to have them down as well, but it’d probably be for tea rather than drinks and football. I suppose the FIFA tournaments and stuff like that are perfect for 90s kids.”


(Customers in the Six Yard Box participate in a game of table football)

He continues: “We had the Deaf Charlton football team in. One of their lads was doing the London marathon and he wanted to do a fundraiser, so we held the fundraiser in the bar for him. He invited his friends on the football team and the majority were deaf, so there was almost no sound, but it was a really good atmosphere — they were using sign language, although I had a bit of music on.

“So there are different groups arranging bookings and I think word is spreading, but for the bar itself, one of the good and bad things is its size. It’s in a shipping container — you can’t really get more than about 40 people in there. But at the same time, if you have 25 or 30 people in there for a game or something, it generates a really good atmosphere. For a group like the Charlton football team doing a FIFA tournament, they can pretty much take over the whole place and we’re able to have really great day.”

With the pub becoming more successful, O’Driscoll has felt compelled to come up with further novel ideas, including tours of breweries whereby customers effectively vote on which beers the pub should supply, as well as both partaking in and attending games of football.

“We went to the local football club, which is really low standard ninth division of English soccer, but there was a really good crowd. There was about 3,500 people there. You could bring in your own beer from the local Sainsburys, so it was pretty feverish.

“Then we took a huge crowd of supporters back to the bar. So we want to do stuff like that more regularly — to join in with the local groups that are already here.”

And while this approach is working well, O’Driscoll suggests such success is more by accident than design.

“I don’t think it’s as trite as us thinking ‘can we really be successful,’ he says. “To be honest, I’ve wanted to do that brewery tour and go to one of those games for months, so I just thought, if I turn it into a work thing, I’ll be able to do it.

“I think it helps that we’re not some huge chain pub with a lot of money behind us. It’s a little bit more genuine than that, which people are picking up on and wanting to be involved with as well. So maybe it’s the secret to our success, but it’s certainly not been a planned secret.”

And the Cork native believes that there is a feeling of optimism now that new businesses can thrive, following a few difficult years economically on both sides of the water.

“I wanted to set this bar set up and had a very fixed notion of doing it in an old converted pub, a high street site or something, but with a bit of lateral thinking, [we realised] what we could do with a shipping container and how we could make it work. The budget wasn’t huge, but at the same time, I didn’t want that to make it suffer.

“So we were able to set it up and having spoken to a lot of the business people, it does feel like a bit of a corner’s been turned and that it will be onwards and upwards.”

While being “very pleased” with how the first few months have gone, O’Driscoll admits the bar remains “a work in progress” — when I contact the publican, he is on his way to a timbre yard where he hopes to buy more wood, which he needs to build extra tables.


(Another Irish institution, Tayto crisps, is displayed in the bar)

So although it’s early days for the Six Yard Box, O’Driscoll still allows himself to dream about setting up a similar enterprise back home.

“One of our ambitions is to do something in Cork or Dublin, and actually bring something like this over, if it’s successful [in the long-term] in London. It’s unexplored and I do think there are some fantastic opportunities out there in Ireland for things like this.

“I do miss Ireland. But I’ve been in London for so long and I’ve set up my very first business and my partner’s over here as well, so I feel like I’ve built a bit of a life here.

“What I really miss is the atmosphere in Cork and Dublin. I was over in Kinsale recently, and we went out in Cork to town. There’s a really nice atmosphere — that kind of laidback feel. In London, everything’s so fast and competitive, everyone is rushing around as if they’re the most important person in the world, whereas in Cork, I like the languidness that exists.”

‘Legend is an overused term but AP fits the bill’ – Tributes pour in as McCoy bows out>

Some of the biggest names in Irish athletics are all under one roof this weekend>

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.