A Men’s Shed and community allotment are among ways a Lancashire publican is making a difference to local people at risk of experiencing feelings of loneliness
Multi award-winning pub the Eagle & Child in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester, is positioned at the heart of its community due to the drive and ethics of its publican Glen Duckett who fervently believes that businesses need to give back.
The Lancashire pub runs as a social enterprise to benefit its community and give opportunities and career options to disadvantaged people, from young offenders through to people with disabilities. Since Glen took over The Eagle & Child in 2011 more than 130 marginalised young people have been helped into work.
As part of his commitment to supporting the pub’s local area, Glen and his team are also involved with a range of volunteer groups, working with everyone from the local scout group and primary school to Rotary Club.
Community focus is ‘no brainer’
Glen says: “I believe businesses should be focused on their local area. Gone are the days where everybody can just ‘take take’ from the community.”
Glen describes this approach as being a “no brainer” to any business as this helps to engage with local residents, who are potential customers, as well as helping to improve the standard of living for those in your area.
Find out more about The Eagle & Child here: Eagle and Child 10 years on in 2021! – YouTube
It is this approach, of wanting to help and engage with local people, that has seen Glen focus on the ever-growing issue of loneliness.
There is a changing culture and as a leader in your community you should be providing that leadership to try to help improve the area.
Simple acts have big impact
Glen has found that simple gestures have proved effective in helping people at risk of experiencing feelings of loneliness, such as popping around with a pint to one of his regulars who had been grieving the loss of his wife.
“I went and knocked on his door and told him that we were all thinking of him and all here when he needs us,” says Glen.
He adds: “He was back in the pub the next Friday night with all the guys. It just took something simple like that. You have just got to be compassionate and considerate.”
Growing connections through pub’s garden
It is his compassionate ethos to the business, which also saw Glen’s interests in horticulture and education become part of his vision to regenerate the pub’s garden as a community service.
When he took on The Eagle & Child a decade ago, it had nearly an acre of unused space, covered in brambles and fly tipping junk. Following lots of hard work Glen reopened the garden with lots of new features including an outdoor kitchen and bar, polytunnel, veg and compost beds, fruit shrubs, ornamental beds, a mini orchard with chickens and a children’s area.
This wonderful garden operates as an ‘allotment’, looked after by volunteers, with the pub’s team working with the Incredible Edible Group, www.incredibleedible.org.uk, which promotes using disused garden plots to create sources of healthy food and encourage education on gardening. Incredible Edible members continue to support the project as part of the wider network of local community growing spaces.
The garden has also played host to projects including ‘Messy Play’ sessions for kids, willow weaving workshops and basic horticulture training.
I went and knocked on his door and told him that we were all thinking of him and all here when he needs us. He was back in the pub the next Friday night with all the guys. It just took something simple like that. You have just got to be compassionate and considerate.
For many individuals the Men's Shed has been a lifeline and part of their community recovery.
Building friendships at Men’s Shed
Recognising the need to help tackle isolation among men living in his area Glen partnered with Rammy Men,www.RammyMen.org, ww a local charity set up to help combat suicide, to establish a Men’s Shed group at the pub last November. Potential attendees were identified by Rammy Men and the local Rotary Club (YES)
The Men’s Shed offers a community space for men to come together to connect with others and has continued during lockdown to support those in need. It is run very informally to allow those attending to build up relationships and create a culture where people feel they can just turn up when they want to. The weekly sessions see around six men meeting up to learn about gardening, with areas covered so far including pruning, general landscaping and propagation.
Glen says: “We have certain people that come every week and some people that come when they can. It is just a two-hour horticulture session doing whatever needs to be done in the pub’s garden.”
He adds: “We have one guy that comes on a bus and travels over from Whitefield which is near Manchester. He had a nervous breakdown and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. For him it has been a lifeline and been part of his community recovery.”
Mental health support
Glen is also planning to introduce a ‘Growing Resilience’ course, which he describes as a “mental health toolkit”. These training sessions and discussions will run for an hour after horticulture sessions, focusing on health and wellbeing.
Attendees will take garden produce home and there are plans to introduce cooking sessions, such as demonstrating slow cooker meals, to show people how to put basic, healthy meals together.
Glen says: “If people are using food banks, as some people are, then they may not be sure what to do with all the foods they have. If you have these ingredients how do you make a meal out of them?”
He believes the project will have an important impact in helping people with their mental health as the third Covid-19 lockdown eases.
“I think people are sceptical about going out with Covid-19 and Rammy Men has said that they have been struggling to get people together,” he says.
“We are doing activities outside as there is much less risk. This project is going to be important in helping people get their confidence back.”
Top tips to other publicans:
- Find out what other community organisations are doing in your local area. Glen recommends contacting Groundwork, groundwork.org.uk, a federation of UK charities mobilising practical community action on poverty and the environment, who help develop projects in partnership with local communities.
- Publicans shouldn’t be frightened to take on volunteers. Manage volunteers in the same way as you do team members and make sure they are inducted, trained, know where everything is and all the pub’s policies.
- If a publican and some local residents set up a community group with a constitution then they could open a bank account and apply for funding.
- Most local authorities have small charitable pots and there is also the National Lottery Fund, who offer grants for projects of up to £10,000. More information here: Funding | The National Lottery Community Fund (tnlcommunityfund.org.uk)