Pubpaper 826 – Pubs and Community

Posted: 28th September 2015 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

There are sometimes moments which absolutely define what a local pub is about, those little things which may seem significant in the overall flow of life, but links people over the communal pint.   I was sitting in my local pub, The Cock and Bottle early evening on Friday, relaxing over beer.  There is a great old guy I’ve known for the 16 years I’ve lived in the village called Postie Paul (although now retired, the name has stuck).   We got chatting as usual and ended up working on the crossword together, five minutes late we are both stumped, a couple of other people come over and as the beer flows a few more clues are solved, leaving 2 or 3 stubborn clues left.  Giving up on it for a while, another local pops over for a chat and finishes off the crossword.  The age range of those who solved it is 40 to 75, all of which entered the pub in separate parties.

Now the crossword may be at the centre of this story, but it is the least important element of it.  The crucial thing is how the ebb and flow between people from different circles develops over time so there becomes this loose community within the four walls which extends outside into the wider world.  At the Cock and Bottle, like many local pubs, there are people who have been going there for fifteen, twenty, maybe thirty years or longer, having had their first “legal” pint there when they turned 18.   Through landlord changes, refurbishments, periods of closure, they are as much part of the pub as the bench seats and the bar, and have probably outlived a number of both.   

Mix in the interlopers like me who have moved into the village and have lived here long enough to be considered a “local” now as well as the new generation of drinkers, some of which I can remember from them being 6 or 7 year olds playing at the top of my street, and now more commonly seen walking up the road at 2 or 3 in the morning, you knowing they aren’t getting up anytime before lunch realistically.   Add all these groups (and others) together and you get a wonderful mixing bowl for society to be created.   The strings of community strengthen over time and in this era where work and family pressures seem to use up all the time some people have, the sense of community like this has been lost in many places.

You go to most local pubs on a Friday tea time, you probably see a good number of work vans in the the car park.   If you have ever wondered where the plumber knows a good gas engineer or builder from, it is probably one of these Friday teatimes and subsequent social and professional interactions leading from that.  It is where people find other people with skills they need and don’t have.  I can’t plumb, build a wall or fix a boiler to save my life, but I can build a decent website, write copy, design a poster or logo and create business stationery, all of which I have done in exchange for jobs around the house.  These same links help me raise money in sponsorship for the charities the Ramfest Music Festival supports each year.

But the benefits from the local pub helping to forge the local community is not just for economic gain.   It is just common decency that if I see Paul at the bus stop and I am going his way, I’ll offer him a lift even if it is a few minutes out of my way (although when I drove a few people out to a pub about 13 years ago, he came within a gnat’s whisker of being left there, but that is another story).   My local pub was brought by a local family about 5 years ago after laying closed for a substantial few months, a lot of sweat and effort went into making the building safe and creating a really nice local.   That the pub is owned by a family, many of which as adults and children were regulars in its previous incarnation for many years and is not just a money making machine for Enterprise Inns (who previously owned the property) has certainly helped this sense of community and is something I’d like to see happen in more villages.  

Even in towns this can happen at individual pub level.  The Commercial / Railway Inn, Brighouse for example, Trevor and Sue own the place outright after being there for many years and it is well and truly their place, they feel themselves part of the community. They and the customers keep an eye out for other more vulnerable customers making sure that people get home or they are checked on if not seen as often as expected.  

The local pub should be heart of the community and it is through connections built that we get back that sense of cohesion which has been lost to lesser and greater extents across this country.