Hang Fire’s Shauna Guinn Talks Football, Community and Food

Ahhh, ‘Hang Fire,’ The pride of the town, everyone’s favourite Barbecue restaurant which opened up in The Pumphouse early last year. Let’s be honest, who thought Barry needed a Barbecue restaurant? And then who thought it would be so frikkin’ good?

I recently met a group of American pilots who were based at Cardiff Airport for 18 months who said that Hang Fire was the best BBQ they have ever had….These guys were from Phoenix and St. Louis…Seriously!

In the run up to this weekend’s Nathaniel MG Cup clash between Barry Town United and TNS, The Daily Vale have been recording a documentary with the staff, players and fans of Barry Town of which Hang Fire had kindly agreed to become the primary sponsor and we had heard the rumour that Shauna Guinn (1 half of Hang Fire) was formerly a Barry Town player herself with the ladies team so we popped down for a chat.

Can you tell us about your football career?

I started playing football when I was about 7 in Belfast, I played for a few local teams but women’s football in Northern Ireland was not as developed as it was in England and Wales. It was a game that men played, not women and I grew up with football in a context where it was all linked to the political struggles of where I was from, you only supported a team based on your religion, not because you liked that team. so my team was always Linfield because we were protestants from The Shore Road in Belfast and also we supported Glasgow Rangers and not Celtic, we always used to grow up supporting teams based on that.

I had some friends who were all in the Welsh Women’s team and 8 or 9 of them played for Barry Town so I joined too.

I left Northern Ireland and came to Wales as a student and ended up playing football for Swansea University and then Cardiff University. When I left Uni I wanted to continue to play and I had some friends who were all in the Welsh Women’s team and 8 or 9 of them played for Barry Town, so I joined too, only for a season but at that time Barry Town were at the forefront of Woman’s football in the UK. They were one of the best teams, them and Doncaster Belles. They were brilliant, regular cup final appearances and always in the top 2 in the league. To be honest, I wasn’t good enough to play in the first team so I trained with them for a season in around ’99 – 2000. The problem with women’s football is that there is no money. If you are semi-pro you might get a tracksuit and a free coach to the games but you’d never get paid so everyone had to work.

I trained as a social worker and I was a social worker for years in Barry working in fostering and adoption teams. To play at Barry Town’s level there was an expectation that you would train two times a week and play a match on the Sunday but trying to be a full-time social worker and commit to the training I couldn’t do, so I left Barry Town and went to Cardiff City, played 1 year in the first team and then 2 years in the second team but again I couldn’t commit to the training so eventually left.

All over the UK women footballers all have jobs, P.E Teachers, Doctors etc. and they’re all trying to shoe-horn in football on top of their day jobs. I’m sure it’s the same for the Barry Town men’s team now, it would be great for them to all be paid for just playing football.

You currently sponsor the Barry Town Girls U11 team, how did that come about?

When Barry Town United offered us at Hang Fire the chance to sponsor them, then the natural thing we wanted to do was sponsor the girls and the under 11’s in particular as by the time the money trickles down we thought they could do with the money the most. Also, my plan for this year is to get my coaching badge and be a coach for the under 11’s and I have been speaking to their coach about it. That is my plan for 2017! I Think it’s great that you guys are making this documentary about the football club as I think that the club can be a big part of the regeneration of Barry.

Hang Fire would have been a hit anywhere, so why Barry?

We’re very proud to be here as Barry is the biggest town in Wales and although it is a big town it still has a community vibe, a community spirit about it. That’s part of the reason that we wanted to be here because the history of the type of food we serve at Hang Fire is all about communities and bringing people together. There’s no way you can put a big hunk of meat in a smoker and eat it yourself, you put big hunks of meat in the smoker so everyone sits down and eats together.

The other thing about this food is that it has always been very popular in poorer, under resourced and disadvantaged communities. It’s about taking a cheaper cut of meat and spending time and effort getting a product that tastes amazing. We would rather be in a community and grow with that community rather than just stick ourselves somewhere like Cardiff City Centre where you’re just surrounded by chain restaurants. We’re very proud to be a small, independent, female lead restaurant and we’re the only woman in Britain specialising in American Barbecue and I think a lot of people in Barry have taken us to their hearts because there are very few non-Michelin Star restaurants in the UK where everything gets made from scratch on the premises. That’s a big part of the love for our food.

When we first came to the Pumphouse 80% of our customers were people who followed us around, people from Cardiff, where as now what we are finding is that 80% of the people who eat in this restaurant are from Barry and that is really important to us because when we set up a restaurant here, we wanted it to be a restaurant for the people of Barry not a hipster restaurant where people from Cardiff will just come for a night out. We actually wanted to be a place where families, couples and groups from Barry can come Wednesday to Sunday and ‘hopefully’ get a table.

That has been the main challenge, getting people tables because we’re very busy.

We thought about going 100% bookings but what we realised was that if it was 100% then you wouldn’t necessarily have a restaurant for the people of Barry. But with 50/50 you won’t get people from Cardiff, Penarth, Bristol, Bridgend or Monmouth likely to chance a walk in but if you live across the road or around here then you’ll chance it.

We’re very proud of the Pumphouse, it’s Grade II listed, Victorian, built in 1882 for Barry Dock’s, The Dock’s being the world’s biggest exporter of coal at the time and bizarrely the biggest importer of bananas. But we’re very proud to be in a building that for years was disused and run-down. There had been talk for many many years of this building opening up in a range of ways but when it did the timing was right for us, we’ve been here 9 months now, feels like a lot longer, more like 9 years. We’ve got an independent coffee shop next door, a gym and award winning flats above and as a complex it really works.

The Town is currently on the up as well as the Football Club, how can we all be a part of that?

This is one of 7 key regeneration projects in Barry and we are very proud to be part of the change. I think Barry Town United can be part of that change as well along with the cool businesses like The Daily Vale, Barrybados and also the transformation that’s happening down on the Island. What we all need to do as enablers of the community is ensure that we don’t have a half finished job in Barry. We also need to make sure it doesn’t become the poorer relative of Cardiff Bay and I don’t think it will. My worst nightmare is that all of a sudden I’m surrounded by big chain restaurants. I really want Barry to maintain an independent business vibe to it, that’s really important to community and growth.

Another great transformation for Barry is Jenner Park, the facilities it has now versus 1999. It really has improved and I think Barry as a town has really taken football to it’s heart. I know that rugby is really important in Wales but Barry seems to be a very football based town. I only really hear people taking about football. One of the proudest moments for me since we’ve been open was just before Christmas when the Barry Town Girls Under 11 coach came in with a framed shirt with our logo on the front of it so we’re going to get that up on the wall.

Anything we can do for Barry Town United we will try to do, so getting involved with the documentary seems a natural fit and anything we can do to help Barry Town win the MG Nathaniel Cup will be great, I’ll be at the match on the 21st cheering them on, beer in hand!

I think a key driver for Barry Town at the minute is Gavin Chesterfield

What a guy! A really, really nice guy and a very avid supporter of Hang Fire since the day we arrived here. I think he and Hannah have eaten here about 10 times which is amazing in itself as you can never get a table here! They’ve been great supporters of ours so it’s great that we can give something back to the football club.

For more information on ‘Hang Fire Southern Kitchen’ please visit their website here

Featured images courtesy of Hang Fire Southern Kitchen