CAMRA celebrates pubs that tackle loneliness and social isolation
Comedian John Robins is supporting the campaign, along with the Campaign to End Loneliness and Meet up Mondays
Photo: Meet up Monday runs initiatives across Suffolk
The Campaign for Real Ale has launched a campaign to promote the important role that pubs play in tackling loneliness and social isolation, such as offering free dinners for the elderly or hosting chatty table schemes.
Dozens of pubs have shared their initiatives, including examples such as:
The Brook Inn, Plymouth hosts ‘TLC Thursdays’ (Tea, Laughter and Company) where anyone can join in for a free cake, a cup of tea and entertainment
The Harbour Bar, Gourdon, Montrose (Scotland) provides a free BBQ to anyone who collects a bag of rubbish from the beach
The New Inn, Ceredigion (Wales) boasts a cinema club, community meeting space and a library area
The Butlers Arms outside Preston runs a ‘Brewing Good Cheer’ initiative in which they host a Christmas meal for 45 people from the local Social Inclusion Football League, which addresses isolation and mental health issues amongst young men
Case studies are available below, and information on these events and more can be found on an interactive map at www.camra.org.uk/loneliness
Critically acclaimed stand-up comedian John Robins has applauded the initiative, saying: “With so many community assets lost due to a lack of funding, government cuts and the move from high street shopping to the internet, our pubs are a more important resource than ever before.
“Whilst it would be wrong to link alcohol consumption with positive mental health, many pubs are about much more than alcohol. In some villages and towns, they are now the only communal area, where regulars, neighbours and visitors can check in on each other. Even a polite two-minute chat can be a vital source of contact for those who would otherwise be isolated and lonely.
“Pubs are not just places to drink, they are places to eat together, talk, and provide fascinating links to our local history. Though your old bank may now be a Costa, the town hall a new branch of Costa, and the public library a flagship Costa, your local pub could easily date back five hundred years, they are our meeting rooms, our debating halls, our museums. And they must be supported, protected and most of all, used.”
The Campaign to End Loneliness has also thrown its support behind the campaign, providing resources and materials for both pub-goers and licensees looking to organise events.
Robin Hewings, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at the Campaign to End Loneliness said: “There are nine million lonely people in the UK, and about four million of those are older people. They lack the companionship, friendship and support we all need.
In our own polling, we found that pubs are the place that people feel most comfortable starting conversations in. Pubs are a great space for people to connect. Even just a small chat can make a big difference to someone who feels lonely.”
CAMRA is encouraging pub-goers to share what their local means to them using the hashtag #mypubstory. It aims to shine a light on how important pubs are to local communities while breaking down the taboos around mental health.
CAMRA’s National Chairman Nik Antona said: “There’s something about the colder months when it is harder to enjoy the outdoors that makes winter particularly isolating for some. Christmas can exacerbate this for those without local friends or family, making the festive period an uncomfortably stark reminder of what they’re missing out on.
“That’s why we want to highlight the role that pubs play in providing social networks for so many while connecting people to events happening in their area. It’s easy to get involved – if you’re a licensee, just drop us a line and we will do our best to spread the word about your events.
“If you’re somebody who’s looking to make new friends this winter, visit our website to find valuable resources and events near you. We hope to make a real difference this winter and the more people who get involved the greater impact we can have – so start sharing your stories and events today.”
For the out of hours press office, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about the campaign and local events, visit https://camra.org.uk/lonelines
To share your story on social media, use the hashtag #mypubstory
To submit an event near you, contact email@example.com
Case studies + photos available here
The Brook Inn runs a variety of events including ‘TLC Thursday’ – an hour every Thursday afternoon where visitors can enjoy Tea, Laughter and Company. Anyone who lives alone, feels lonely or simply wants to widen their circle of friends is welcome to join in. They regularly see 30-40 visitors and invite volunteers to come along to entertain or inform, with events such as Q&As with a local politician, entertainment from local musicians, health professionals, artists and even a young hip-hop dancer who has the whole room body popping! They are also well connected with the local U3A (University of the third age) groups who use the pub for events such as computer groups, French lessons, quiz groups etc.
Contact: John Govier, Landlord on 01752 297604 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Four Ale Taproom is a small community micro bar serving cask ale, craft beer and real cider. It offers a free cheese board on Sunday lunchtimes and sees a real community group come every week. Most bring cheese to add to the board, one gentleman even bakes his own sausage rolls to share. As the taproom is small people talk to each other, share tables and stories. They have also recently replaced two small tables with one long community table in the bar running right down the middle to encourage people to sit and talk with each other.
Contact: Simon 07850 329041 / email@example.com
The Tyler’s Kiln has launched a campaign to spread awareness of loneliness and social isolation in Canterbury & Whitstable over the festive period. They’re offering free teas, coffees and shortbread to those who bring isolated people into the pub to encourage local residents to take an active role in combating loneliness. They’ve created a great Facebook video which is getting traction locally: https://www.facebook.com/TheTy
Contact: Allister Collins on Talktous@thetylerskiln.co.uk / 01227 471912
Staff at the Tamworth Tap located just outside Birmingham are trained to recognise vulnerable customers. They subtly encourage conversation between people who arrive on their own by making introductions and including them in ongoing conversations. When it’s busy they try to seat them with considerate customers that will include them and take time to introduce themselves. They also operate events on the quieter days of the week such as a monthly quiz, bat detecting, Christmas storyteller, history talks, wreath making, brewery tours, meet the brewer, beer tasting and gin tasting.
Contact: George Greenaway – 07712 893353 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Harbour Bar hosts several community projects such as providing a free BBQ to anyone who collected a bag of rubbish from the beach. The major event of the year is the “Festive Feast with Friends” on Christmas Day. This includes a free meal for anyone who might be alone on that day. They also host and sponsor the village football team, a coastal rowing team and darts/pool/cribbage teams. Friday nights alternate between pub quiz and live music, bringing more variations on the type of customer that comes through the door.
Contact: Jonney Gardner on email@example.com
Inspired by The Alexandra in Wimbledon, developed in Suffolk and now spreading out from there, MeetUpMonday network has over 75 venues hosted sessions.
These free sessions offer tea, coffee, a ‘little something’ to go with the cuppa and have been an amazing success. Folk attending make friends and opened up a whole new world of social connections. Publicans are happy to see their pubs full of happy smiling folk and the atmosphere these sessions generate is magical. Most attendees have put themselves on a ‘cake rota’ so, in fact, the publican’s gift is pretty much just the tea and coffee.
They take place at various locations around Suffolk – to find one near you visit: http://ruralcoffeecaravan.org.
Contact: Ann Osborn, 07939581632 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The motto at the Horseshoe is “Come in as a Stranger, Leave as a Friend”. A very friendly and chatty pub, they organise monthly mini-coach trips to other pubs in the area where people can join in and all eat and drink together. They also run a knitting group to help locals make friends and have organised walks in the woods where Dave teaches survival and foraging.
Contact: Gilly Jeal on 07833204771 or 01454325658 or email GillJeals@hotmail.co.uk
The Gardeners Rest is a place where individuals can come on their own and find safe company – business is steady but the pub rarely attracts crowds. Everyone is welcome and it would be hard for many to find such an inclusive place elsewhere. People with learning disabilities and mental health issues use the pub regularly. Some members of the Society have spent their working lives creating employment opportunities for people who are disadvantaged for health and social reasons, and they intend to extend the opportunities provided by the pub to give people employment in food preparation, cleaning and in bar work.
Contact: Ian Sewer on email@example.com
The New Inn at Llanddewi Brefi is a traditional pub which provides a large selection of real ales which customers enjoy in front of the open fire. In the summer months, visitors can enjoy the beer garden and the views of the beautiful Brefi Valley. In addition to the cinema club and community meeting space, the New Inn also hosts many charity events, cockerel and pig racing, a monthly Pudding Club for the local PTA and evenings for Air Ambulance. The pub has set up a book exchange and small library area for customers and sells local produce on behalf of the producers including jams, preserves and chutneys.
Contact: Yvonne Edwards on firstname.lastname@example.org
As well as morning drop-ins, a local autism group holds regular coffee mornings and social evenings at the pub for parents and carers of autistic children and young adults. The ‘Maidenhead Memories’ group have also held their first meeting at the Craufurd Arms and are planning to meet on the first Wednesday of every month. This group helps bring together any isolated members of the community. The café and drop-in sessions have extended the service provided by the pub outside of traditional trading hours, offering not only a wider range of drinks and snacks but also the opportunity for increased social interaction and community engagement. As well as enhancing the social side of the business, additional work opportunities have also been created through employment, work experience and volunteering.
Contact: Mark Newcombe on email@example.com
Licensee Mike Hales believes a key part of Christmas is giving back to the community and participating in Brewing Good Cheer is a great way of doing it. Last year Mike hosted a Christmas meal for 45 people from his local Social Inclusion Football League, which addresses isolation and mental health issues amongst young men. “For many, it was their Christmas Day, without it, they wouldn’t have celebrated,” says Mike. Mike has now made the group the pub’s year-round charity, funding its pitch fees and kit, rebranding it Blokes Utd and providing a weekly meal. “This year we’re extending Brewing Good Cheer to my three other pubs. It’s easy to sign up and by holding it on a quieter weekday lunchtime, we didn’t lose out on other bookings.”
The pub works with South London Cares (a charity and community network of young professionals and older neighbours helping one another in a rapidly changing city) to offer regular ‘pub club’ events. In an area of London with an increasingly quick turnover of slick new bars and cocktail clubs, the pubs and bars in the area can often feel unwelcoming and alien to older people. On top of that, it can feel doubly isolating if you don’t have anyone to go to the pub with. That’s where the monthly pub club comes in – helping older and younger neighbours get together in a warm, welcoming environment and to make new intergenerational friends. The pub offers the first round of drinks for free, and more often than not, everyone stays on for a second one – proof that being at the heart of the community is also good for business.
Contact: Alex on firstname.lastname@example.org