Interview with Olly Dixon — founder of Margaret London (and co-founder of The Gun pub and The Gun FC)
On a quintessential winter’s day, we stepped from a sodden London pavement out of the gloom and into the warm embrace that is The Gun pub on Well Street in Hackney, E9.
We were there to meet Olly Dixon, who’s both one of the owners here and also co-founder of communications agency, Margaret. Over a quiet pint in the Gun Powder Room, we spoke with him about the pub, his love of Spurs and of course, the infamous Gun FC.
Corinthian: So, first off Olly, how would you explain your various roles?
Olly Dixon: Well I’m the creative director and co-founder of an agency called Margaret. We connect brands with early adopters and opinion formers through campaigns, branding, content and general good ideas…
And I also own this pub of course, called The Gun.
C: Does everyone here support a team? Must be a bit of banter around the place after the weekends…
OD: There isn’t a huge amount of football banter in the office to be honest. One of our designers, Adam, is an Arsenal fan and I’m Spurs so at the moment it’s a good time to talk to him…but this could change of course. My partner here at the The Gun, Nick supports Liverpool, so things might become a little tense towards the end of the season but for now I’m winning any banter battles.
C: And so how did The Gun FC come about?
OD: A couple of years ago me and a couple of friends bought this pub. We wanted to create a proper local with great independent beers. We have interesting people playing records, classic cocktails and I think the best atmosphere in London, its full of like minded happy souls and a Friday evening beer can easily turn into a 1am party.
The designers we worked with on the branding were keen to set up a football team and we loved the idea of having a pub team. I was also keen to pull on the boots again…I realised fairly early on that I was too old and unfit though. I played a handful of games about 3 seasons ago and since I stopped playing the team has thrived and is now top of the league. So my playing days are definitely gone, but The Gun FC is smashing it.
C: What position were you?
OD: Very much a Paulo Maldini type role. Visionary, hardworking, creative and fair…in my mind, in reality…lazy, unfit and frustrated.
C: Did you always play as a child?
OD: I joined a local team when I was 8, I was terrible. Always scored own goals and generally didn’t have a clue what was going on. But I really loved it, so worked hard and played every spare minute I had. I got hold of a Pele training video on VHS that I found at a car boot sale which I used to watch all the time. How to curl a ball, how to tackle…it had everything. I went from worst player, to winning trophies every season for most improved player, managers player and players player. I was fairly decent and played for a South of England league 11 and was offered trials at Southampton…but we were going on holiday and my mum was more interested in taking me to churches in France than football…I really don’t think I would have made it though, so I’ve forgiven her.
By the time I was 15 I had discovered music and girls and I stopped playing.
C: And at the pub, you have certain principles about watching football at the Gun don’t you?
OD: When we opened it was the Euros and we were trying to decide if we should show the football or not. It can be a bit of a statement when you first launch to say we are a football pub. I’m not a fan of shouting at the TV, it creates a negative atmosphere. So we basically outlined some rules…no negativity, no aggressive shouting, no England bashing for sustained periods. I’m always amazed by how much football fans hate and moan about the team they support. Teams win and lose, it’s the way it works. Football is a beautiful game, its great to watch, it should be celebrated. So we had some amazing nights with a really mixed international crowd discussing football, laughing and smiling at the beautiful game. Shirts were swapped and friendships were forged that remain to this day. We have become known as one of the only pubs in London where you can get a really decent pint of beer and watch the football with true fans of the beautiful game.
C: Obviously we at Corinthian like to see football played in line with the Corinthian Spirit… is that sense of fair play something you believe in?
OD: Absolutely. In the few games I did play for The Gun on Hackney Marshes there was a bit too much agro with certain teams. Win at all costs type attitude. I definitely don’t buy into that, being competitive is important, but it is a game and should be played by gentleman…or gentlewomen. Its an art form. I am far more likely to watch Zidane a 21st Century Portrait than I am Football Factory.
C: What other sports do you play?
OD: I’m getting into free diving after an amazing holiday in the Solomon Islands. Not sure if that’s a sport. I’ve ran a marathon, but never again, very painful.
C: We believe the Corinthian Spirit doesn’t just apply to the football pitch, would you agree?
OD: I take my Paulo Maldini characteristic into the office. I want to enjoy life and enjoy working with the people around me, Margaret is (I hope) a very positive and creative place to work.
C: So do you find that the notion of fair play seeps into all aspects of life then? Not just in sports?
OD: Well if only it did a little more. The world feels particularly lopsided at the moment. We could all learn a thing or two from the Corinthian Spirit.
C: So when you have a game of football now, where can you usually be found?
OD: I played recently for Resident Advisor‘s 5 a-side team, that was fun and we won the indie music cup. 5 a-side is definitely easier than 11 a-side, but to be honest they have some very good young players who carried me through. I think I’m better suited to sitting in The Gun waiting for the team to come back after a match. I’m good at congratulating!