Members of ‘virtual pub’ celebrate first in-person meeting with three-day party in Perth

One hundred and thirty people from around the world who were part of a ‘virtual pub’ created in lockdown two years ago threw a three-day party in Perth this month to celebrate an in-person encounter for the first-ever time.

Regulars of ‘The Stagger Inn’, from the rest of Scotland and England to Belgium and America, finally gathered at the Salutation Hotel on the weekend of April 15-17 for an extravaganza games, songs, dances, costumes and fundraising.

The story of the virtual community began in 2020 during the first lockdown where a young musician called Ewan Galloway, from Dalkeith, was unemployed. Hearing that recording music is good for mental health, he started playing his accordion on an online stream.

For 10 weeks, it played every day of the week and quickly gathered an enthusiastic following of people scattered thousands of miles away struggling with the isolation caused by the pandemic.

Over the next few months, Ewan’s game evolved into a weekly Friday night event called “Friday Fun Night”, where he played until five o’clock while the virtual audience made requests and chatted together.

In time this became the Stagger Inn where over 400 people became members, from as far away as Sweden, Norway, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America, l Germany and the Netherlands.

Ceilidhs were a popular choice this weekend

Ewan also hosted a weekly virtual country dance session playing country dance music.

As restrictions eased, Ewan hosted the ‘Stagger Inn on the Road’ event at the Hotel Salutation where many virtual family members had the chance to greet each other and dance together for the first time.

Sarah Horne, a Stagger Inn regular who helped organize the event, said Perth was chosen because most of the members lived in Scotland and its central location made it the easiest place for punters.

Attendees arrived Friday afternoon and at 6 p.m. gathered in the ballroom to enjoy their first live Stagger Inn night.

The stage was set up with a large banner with a photo of the studio where Ewan usually plays.

The evening included all the usual Stagger Inn activities including ‘Hanky ​​tunes’ and there was a video link with a group of Shetlanders to join in the fun.

On Saturday, the Stagger Inn set disappeared and the stage was transformed for a ‘big dance’ which raised £1,500 for the Trinity sea cadet unit, of which Ewan is commanding officer.

Trinity Sea Cadet President Donald Cameron was on hand to accept the donation.

The event began with a “Great March” and was followed by a program of country dancing and ceilidh dancing.

The evening then included a variety of fundraising events, a raffle with no less than 70 prizes, whiskey bottle rolling money, a silent auction for a fabulous photo and a scavenger hunt for a beautiful tractor and wooden trailer.

Ewan Galloway with his Stagger Inn backdrop and a replacement for his beloved cat Tiger

On Sunday morning there was an additional country dancing lesson to launch a very special book of country dances created entirely by Ewan called The Ship Ahoy.

Sunday afternoons included a ceilidh class and Sunday evenings the hotel ballroom had a party night.

Many members of the Stagger Inn family choose to dress up for the fancy dress parade, which is attended by the Teletubbies, Harry Potter, James Bond, Mary Poppins and the Pope.

Virtual publican Ewan thanked the many people who had helped support the weekend celebrations.

Ewan, who rocked the stage with his six-piece band for most of the weekend, said: “It’s been an absolutely amazing weekend from virtual to real – practically unbelievable.

“People have traveled hundreds of miles to be together and to meet each other.

“It’s something that will live with me for a long time and I hope everyone else who participated in it.

“For such a great group to also help raise such a fantastic amount of money to donate to the Sea Cadet unit I lead is exceptional.

“I am very proud and honored to know such a great group of people.

“We had amazing food and drink with lovely rooms to stay in, all presented by a great team of staff.

“It’s a dream come true! See you next year at the Stagger Inn.

Event aid Sarah Horne said Inn’s group of 400 now felt like “one big family”.

“My body is definitely back at Blackburn but my heart and soul is still definitely at the Stagger Inn [in Perth ],” she added.

“And I’m sure, like all of you, your thoughts and minds are full of our wonderful weekend.”

Sarah added that many who attended the event called it “the best weekend of their lives”.

Garry Tait from Belgium said: “What can one say – a truly magical weekend. Just like you imagine the Stagger Inn.

“Everyone is involved to help, dancers with stamina like stallions, top musicians performing a fantastic range of tunes, excellent hotel service. But one man made it happen and Ewan Galloway, you are now a legendary mate.

Helen Robinson from Shetland added: “We felt we had to support Ewan as he supported us throughout the lockdown.

“The best thing about the Stagger Inn weekend was meeting all of our virtual friends in person and attending an event for the first time since COVID.”

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