Pubs and the Community

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This article was originally published in InnSpire Magazine issue 148.

Time is relentless, marching forever onward. And yes, the times they are a-changin’ but sometimes the song remains the same. Now, please excuse this slightly dramatic and somewhat pretentious opening but for many the pub has been the one consistent thing in their life. To many a pub is not just a building where you can get a decent pint but a place to meet friends both old and new. A place where everybody knows your name and you are greeted with a smile from a friendly face. It may even be the only place, where a person gets to talk to another human that day. Bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds. So, yes traditional pubs still have a part in our communities and their role in our towns and villages has evolved. Maybe now more than ever…

It’s true that times are hard and our village high-streets are very different from what they used to be. Our village banks are gone, traditional butcher’s and fruit and veg stores are a rarity and our little independent businesses are struggling to keep the lights on. That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. This would be rather depressing article if that was the case and we’d like to avoid the sentiment of “it was better when I was Iad and you could get a pint of mild for 20p” (Plus you’d have change for a bag of chips, then get a lift home on milk float).

Due to communities banding together, we’ve seen neglected and run down pubs rise like a phoenix from the flames. When faced with their villages no longer having a pub, people have banded together and cried. “Not on our watch. You can’t take our pub away from us!” Across the UK, an ever-growing number of public houses are now either owned or leased by a local community group. An innovative way to save our locals from closure. Funded by volunteer shareholders and fuelled by passion, pubs have been taken from near ruin to become wonderful success stories.

Closer to home, Chesterfield’s oldest pub the Royal Oak has recently been in news. Currently up for sale, this historic building is located in The Shambles, a Grade II conservation area. Rich with character, it really should be a Chesterfield landmark. The Royal Oak’s roots as a pub stretch back to 1722 but if you go back even further it allegedly served as rest-house for The Knights Templar during the Holy Crusades of the 12th century. Imagine if those walls could talk, what stories they would tell. A campaign and Crowdfunder was formed and pressure put on the Council to ensure this pub indeed remains a pub for maybe another 100 years. It’s no easy task and the money involved vast but one can only admire those who dare to step up and wish them the best of luck.

There is also a knock on effect of having a successful local pub in your area. If they do food they will often use local produce and the real ales they serve tend to come from local breweries. Then there are jobs: the staff, the cleaners and trades the pubs use. Beyond this, other public houses have branched out by offering other services within their premises: As well as great beer you might find a village shop, art gallery, Post Office or local library sharing the building. Mutually beneficial symbiotic relationships that mean everyone wins. We should also not overlook the little things. The money raised for local raffles, the sponsorship of grass root sport clubs, the community boards promoting fellow local businesses, even pubs offering a warm place and free cup of coffee. During the dreaded Lockdown pubs adapted, with one of our locals selling fruit and veg and others becoming food banks. Pubs fighting to stay open for their community. And of course, dear reader you can help. Not just by volunteering but by visiting your local, even just for a pint. By leaving a positive review and spreading the word. By shopping locally and supporting the businesses and pubs that have done so much to support us. The majority of people that are reading this magazine, will surely agree that pubs are amazing. That society would be worst off without them. We know we are preaching to the converted. So, lets raise a glass to the local and hope they continue to serve us, the community for many more years to come.

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN INNSPIRE MAGAZINE.
AUTHOR/INTERVIEW: CHRIS FOX