Pubs and Charity

by Steve Renshaw

“Where would we be without the local?” That’s the strapline for CAMRA’s community pubs campaign. And this month we’re asking, “Where would charities be without the local?”

According to figures from PubAid, 85% of pubs raise money for charity, totalling over £106 million in the last year. This means that each pub raised, on average, £2,742. And new research shows people would visit pubs more regularly if their local pubs organised more charity events.

It’s time pubs got the recognition for their amazing work in raising funds for numerous charities across Britain. They get unfairly blamed for anti-social behaviour but often the alcohol that has led to these problems has not been drunk in pubs. The industry has been struggling in these tough economic times but the research shows all parties win if pubs run charity events. The charities get important donations, pubs get busier and the locals get some fun events to attend.

One magnificent example of fundraising is The Ship Victory in Chester. Over 11 years, this cosy, city-centre pub has raised a staggering £105,000 for the Breast Care Unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital. And JD Wetherspoon, who have a pub estate of over 850 pubs, have recently announced that they have raised £7 million over the years for CLIC Sargent.

Des O’Flanagan, one of the co-founders of PubAid, said, “What other industry can demonstrate such generosity and selflessness in this economic climate. These results should act as a reminder that pubs are very much part of the fabric of our community and make a meaningful contribution”.

I popped in to one of our top community pubs to talk about fundraising. Mal and Diane Gray have been running Bateman’s pubs for 14 years and have been at the Butcher and Beast in Heighington since 2009. In 2011, they were named Bateman’s Publicans of the Year, and last year they were highly commended for their cellar, food and flowers.

Heighington is fortunate to have two pubs. Both serve food, but whereas the Turk’s Head shows live sport on a big screen, the Butcher relies on lively conversations for entertainment. And it’s well supported by the villagers. Any pub that has six handpumps is clearly turning over plenty of ale.

The pub regularly raises funds for local and national charities. They also support charity events at the village hall next door. But when I asked Mal about it, I was struck by his matter-of-fact attitude. It was as though doing his bit for charity was one of those things that you do when you run a pub – like cleaning the beer lines.

And, of course, that’s the point. People don’t go to pubs just to drink. They go to spend time with friends and neighbours. And if they’re visitors, they go to join in with the local community. And when people get together, they start thinking about what they can do for those less fortunate than themselves.

So don’t spend all your social hours at home with cheap supermarket beer. Make the effort to get down to your local pub and be part of your community.

And what about the beer? With three Bateman’s ales and three guests on offer, it was a difficult choice. But I was drawn to American Pale Ale (5.4% ABV) from the Sonnet 43 Brew House, a new microbrewery in Durham. My pint was dark gold with a creamy head and beautifully clear. From the name, I expected a big burst of hops, but it turned out to be well-balanced with malt and spicy fruit flavour.

Follow us on Twitter @Lincoln_CAMRA for news on events at local pubs.