Insights from publicans who are offering warm spaces to help support people in their local areas this winter
The number of publicans offering their pubs as warm spaces and warm rooms, to help support people in their local areas in these challenging economic times, continues to grow.
Pubs are among a range of public spaces, which also include libraries, village halls and community centres, that have signed up to schemes that encourage local people to use these venues as warm spaces throughout this hard winter.
The Locks Inn at Geldeston, Norfolk, www.thelocksinn.com, a community-owned pub that Pub is The Hub helped support to open a community café, launched itself as a warm rooms venue in November. The pub is among venues being highlighted as offering a warm room by South Norfolk Council.
Jodie Barrett, the pub’s manager says: “We are proud to be able to offer a warm space for the community – a warm space for everyone to come together, to meet up with old friends and make new ones.”
The pub’s warm spaces offer runs from Wednesday to Friday from 11am to 4pm, with a food deal of soup and a roll or a jacket potato for £3 available, as well as hot drinks. But people are welcome whenever the pub is open too.
Jodie adds: “We are encouraging people to be here rather than worrying about turning the power on at home. We decided to do this as the cost-of-living crisis is on everyone’s lips and our customers are very concerned about rising costs. You hear lots of concerns across the bar, so it is nice to be able to offer a warm space here to try and help take the stress off people.”
Community spirit burns bright
She adds: “I think pubs are the heart of the community aren’t they. If we are all feeling it at the moment, we might as well all feel it together and have that sense of community whilst we are getting through this cold, hard winter.”
At community-owned pub The Blue Bell at Stoke Ferry in Norfolk, www.bluebellstokeferry.org (another pub with a community café created with the support of Pub is The Hub), local people are being encouraged to come along to daytime events and groups at the café to keep warm and connect with others. The warm spaces initiative is being supported by Norfolk Community Foundation’s ‘Surviving Winter Fund’.
The Blue Bell’s community café is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm and Saturday from 10am to 2pm with a wood burning stove, homemade soup and roll for just £3 and bottomless pots of tea and coffee for only £1. On Thursdays a weekly over 60s lunch is also hosted with a two-course meal and tea or coffee for £9.50.
Jim McNeill, an original founder member of Stoke Ferry Community Enterprise Limited, the Community Benefit Society that owns and runs the pub-cafe, says: “The warm space initiative is going really well. Especially at the moment when lots of peoples’ boilers seem to have given up the ghost. We are saying turn off your heating at home and stay with us as long as you wish.”
He adds: “We probably have around 16 users per week at the moment which we imagine will continue to increase over the next month or so.”
Reasons to join in
As well as its food and drink offer, the pub is promoting a range of daytime groups to help keep people entertained and connected and to encourage them to come out. Groups on offer at The Blue Bell include a Monday local walkers’ group that meets at the pub for walks that end at the pub with a chat over coffee and cake; a Tuesday lunchtime local history group, and a Wednesday Craft Club, where people bring their own craft work along as well as receiving direct free training once a month from professional artists/craftspeople. Find out more about the pub’s successful craft group here: Crafty idea at pub’s community café benefiting both locals and pub (pubisthehub.org.uk)
The Blue Bell’s Jim McNeill is also organising speakers to come along to the pub during the warm spaces times to give talks on useful areas such as visual impairment, hearing impairment, internet scams and fire safety as well as other topics such as ornithology and history.
Warming hearts at The George
At private leasehold The George at Birkenshaw, near Bradford, publicans Eileen and Jock Geater and daughter Jess Harvey, were inspired to offer a warm space and put on daytime activities to help entertain and bring locals together through Pub is The Hub’s ‘Join Inn – Last Orders for Loneliness’ initiative Join Inn – Last Orders for Loneliness – Pub is The Hub.
Eileen says: ‘I read about Pub is The Hub’s ‘Join Inn – Last Orders for Loneliness’ initiative in a pub industry magazine and found out more on the PiTH website. We cried when we read David Attree’s poem ‘Calling Last Orders for Loneliness’. We thought this is us and feel our pub is the community hub and we are more than just a pub. We want to help tackle loneliness in our local area.”
In October 2022 the pub started offering a range of new daytime activities to encourage people to come to The George to keep safe, keep warm and keep in touch with others, as well as offering the opportunity to meet new people.
Eileen adds: “The pub is here, we are open, so why not use the space we have got to help others.”
Daytime activities to help draw locals in
Free toast and tea and coffee are on offer, which is set up in a corner of The George for people to help themselves to, as well as activities inspired by David’s poem Last Orders for Loneliness – YouTube, including ‘Meet Up Mondays’ with a quiz and a ‘Tuesday Brew Day’, which includes a weekly ‘Crafternoon’ from 12 to 2pm, where attendees enjoy coffee and cake and learn new skills.
The pub’s ‘Join Inn’ activities also include a ‘New Friends Day Wednesday’, where people are invited to come along and share a chat over a free can of drink or a cuppa and there is also a Thursday Board Games Day, including word puzzles, card games and classic board games.
Eileen says: “When you have an activity on it helps remove the fear factor for people in coming in as they know there is something going on they can join in.”
She adds: “People might meet up with friends or come on their own. We have lots of people who come in on their own and it is working well. People don’t need to feel like it’s a pub. A pub is not just about selling drinks. It is so much more than that. It is like having a community hall.
“The pub feels warm and inviting and we make people feel welcome and pride ourselves on getting to know people. This is their front room.”
The George team have also recently started working with Kirkless Council who are recommending people to come to the pub to keep warm and for company too.
Eileen says: “We are looking to apply for funding with them going forward which will help with further outreach opportunities.”
Locals benefiting from warm welcome
Sarah Wilson, community lead at The City Wall bar in Rochester, Kent, which has been promoting itself as a warm space, www.warmspaces.org, since November, says the bar is seeing a growing number of people coming in to use the venue as a warm space and to connect with others.
She says: “Across our Chatty Café, Chatty Cafe Scheme UK – Chatty Cafe Scheme UK (thechattycafescheme.co.uk) and ‘Warm Space’ initiatives we are welcoming around five people every couple of hours. It is great to offer a warm space to help support local people and those coming in are benefiting not only from the warmth of the venue but also from the warmth of welcome from our team and from meeting and chatting with others.”