Over nine million people across the UK are reported to be either always of often lonely, according to a study done by The Co-op and British Red Cross. And with Christmas being a particularly difficult time to be alone, it’s heartening to hear that community-owned pubs across the country are going the distance to spread some much-needed festive cheer.
From hosting Christmas lunches to holding choir concerts and donating food to the homeless, some of the over 360 pubs owned by members of the community have been putting on events specifically designed to alleviate loneliness in their local area.
A community pub has a really important role to play in breaking down barriers and bringing people together
‘Every Christmas, community pubs show they have a great heart and sense of responsibility to the people living in the surrounding area,’ said Hannah Barrett, senior project manager at community-focused charity, the Plunkett Foundation. ‘Loneliness and isolation exist throughout our society but community pubs can help fight these problems. They really go out of their way this time of year.’
One pub that has been serving Christmas lunches to its community throughout December is The Antwerp Arms in Tottenham, London. Having been in operation since the 1850s, it became a community-owned pub in 2015. ‘It certainly made a huge change to this local area insofar as not many people even talked to each other in the London way,’ explained Martin Burrows, vice chair of the Antwerp Arms Association. ‘But it has created a village atmosphere really, and this is the centre of the village. A lot of people now come to our activities, we host a lot of community events and it has become a community hub.’
Every Christmas, community pubs show they have a great heart and sense of responsibility to the people living in the surrounding area
One resident who has benefitted from the activities held at the pub is Hermon Winter, who had been homeless for a year when he heard about the scheme: ‘Ever since I have been getting better and more able to look after the things I need to in order to keep my head above water. The community has a lot to do with that.’
The Bevy in Brighton (the first community-owned and run pub in the UK) has also been holding a variety of events over the festive period, including its Friday Friends Christmas lunches for local seniors. ‘This time of year can be difficult, people can feel so stretched and isolated. A community pub has a really important role to play in breaking down barriers and bringing people together,’ said Jenny Hawke, vice chair of The Bevy. ‘We’ll have more than 50 older people here for the Friday Friends Christmas lunch, on Saturday a free party for all the local children and Sunday rounds off with all the local churches coming together at the pub to sing carols.’
In a climate where 14 pubs are closing their doors each week (a figure from the Campaign for Real Ale), it’s good to hear that community pubs have a 100% long-term success rate, with 16 beginning trading in the last year alone. With more and more community-owned pubs opening in both rural and urban areas, it’s an encouraging step towards alleviating loneliness across the country.