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A Year in Review: Celebrating the Community Spirit in our Pubs

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It hardly seems possible that a year has passed since the historic first lockdown was imposed on the UK. Following a year of unprecedented challenges for our industry, and the world at large, we want to take a look back and celebrate the work done by the pubs that have adapted to changing times and have continued to provide support to their local communities.

These incredible venues have been shortlisted for the Pub Aid Community Hero award for initiatives that range from offering vital supplies to residents and cooking hot meals for the elderly, to countering social isolation through online quizzes and competitions. In short, living up to their reputation as the heart and soul of the community.

Portsmouth Arms, Basingstoke: Broke a world record for the World’s Longest Pub quiz

Rich Curtis, GM at this Hall & Woodhouse pub, launched a virtual pub quiz on Facebook Live at the end of March 2020, as a way of bringing a pub experience to locked down customers in their homes. The response was enthusiastic and soon the quiz was running twice a day: a family-friendly one at 5.00 pm – staged with help from Rich’s 9-year-old son Oliver - and one for adults at 8.00 pm. Participants could join for free but were asked to make a donation to a charity, chosen by the pub and changing regularly. Within a few weeks, the quizzes had raised more than £9,000 for charity and had more than 100,000 views, not just from the UK but globally.

In May, Rich broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest quizmaster session, completing a 34-hour and 11-minute quiz which raised more than £21,000 for The Pink Place Cancer Charity in Basingstoke.

 

Old Courts, Wigan: Found and distributed musical instruments to local disadvantaged kids

The team at the Old Courts, led by licensee Rebecca Davenport, delivered 700 food parcels to local people in need, and a further 10,000 packed lunches to children during school holidays. They also made over 900 phone calls to isolated residents. The pub regularly supports a

number of arts and community projects, so during the first lockdown they also collected unwanted musical instruments from the community and delivered them to children who wanted to learn but couldn't afford an instrument – a great way to turn lockdown into a learning opportunity for youngsters. Other groups helped by the Old Courts include the Wigan Autistic Theatre Company, School of Rock and the Over-50 Jammers.

Bowgie Inn, Cornwall: Brought the beauty of the Cornish coast to the world through uplifting live streams

The Bowgie Inn used its position overlooking the beautiful Crantock beach to offer people uplifting support and compassion during the lockdown. Every day, owner Sally Pickles streamed daily live video from the beach on social media, allowing people to experience the magic of Cornwall, with thousands of viewers watching and hundreds commenting, not just in the UK, but around the world.

People shared their memories of Cornwall, and it was clear the daily videos were making lockdown life a little bit easier as they enjoyed the sound of the sea, watched the waves and stayed connected to the coast. In addition, The Bowgie hosted virtual live music gigs raising money for the NHS, streamed on Facebook straight to people's living rooms and watched by over 20,000 people, as well as virtual events like an Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday, and online yoga classes.

Orange Tree, Herts: Turned the pub into a food store to support struggling local musicians

On the day after the UK’s first lockdown began, licensee Rob Scahill made a quick decision to turn his much-loved pub and live music venue into a shop selling food and supplies which were often scarce in the early days of panic buying.

With the support of suppliers, friends and family, who volunteered their time to make the shop viable, Rob decided to make it a not-for-profit operation. The proceeds went into the newly minted Baldock Musicians Support Fund – founded by Rob to support local musicians who would be struggling without the pub gigs they relied upon to make ends meet. The Orange Tree shop opened first for vulnerable members of the community and NHS workers, giving them a safe environment to shop in before it opened to the public at large.

Rob also continued the pub’s much-loved quiz going through lockdown, with more than 100 people joining online every Tuesday. Rob said: “I am so proud to be able to say that I never closed my doors. The Baldock Musicians Fund is now closed but in the 15 weeks since the first Saturday of lockdown, we have raised an utterly incredible £22,119.25.”

 

Bevy, Brighton: Provided meals and friendly faces to their elderly patrons self-isolating

 When the lockdown was announced in March 2020, the Bevy’s team of volunteers and staff decided they would cook and deliver hot meals three times a week to ensure that none of the elderly attendees of their regular lunch clubs went hungry. Delivering the Bevy “Meals on Wheels” provided not just dinner, but a friendly face and an opportunity to check in on elderly community members who were self-isolating. The team also worked with local schools, churches, charities and community groups as well as Fareshare, to use ingredients that would otherwise have gone to landfill, serving a total of more than 6,000 meals.

They also helped to keep the community’s spirits up by staging online pub quizzes, including the world’s first online deaf-friendly quiz, and hosting a day of family-friendly online activities during the August bank holiday.

Matthew Clark is proud to support Pub Aid and to be sponsoring the 2020 Pub Community Hero Awards. We’d love to hear your stories of how your venue adapted to a historically challenging year for our industry and communities. Share them with us by tagging @Matthewclarkltd on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

About the author

Gabrielle Hutson

Gab found a love for wine (and spirits and beer and coffee!) during her years on the hospitality scene around Australia. The desire to dip her toes into a bigger wine and hospitality industry drove her to London and today she writes, reads and talks non-stop about wine for Matthew Clark's website and social channels.

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