Publicans Eileen and Jock Geater and daughter Jess Harvey have worked hard to establish a pub at the heart of its local community since taking over The George, at Birkenshaw near Bradford, after lockdown in April 2021.
Examples of the strong community spirit the trio have fostered at The George include running a lockdown shop selling food essentials and working with food waste schemes to distribute food to people on their own or struggling to afford food.
Activities which help bring people at the pub together also include regular trips, such as to breweries or a mystery trip, and 35 people from the pub going on a cruise together this year too.
Since October 2022, the publicans have also been offering the pub as a warm space and have put on more daytime activities, to help entertain and bring locals together. This was inspired by 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’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQlb27qWhx0&embeds_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pubisthehub.org.uk%2F&feature=emb_imp_woyt
She adds: “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.”
The aim of the pub’s daytime activities, such as ‘Meet Up Mondays’ and ‘Thursday Board Games Day’ is 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.”
The publicans’ warm and welcoming approach to customers is also reflected by all of the pub’s team. Eileen says: “As publicans we are always out and about on the shop floor, so if people come in for the first time we will fill them in on what is on offer at the pub and just get to know them. We always make a point of telling people who we are and how long we have been at the pub and that this is a family pub etc.”
Connecting through crafting
A group that has helped locals to create connections with others is the pub’s weekly ‘Crafternoons’ group, which meets on a Tuesday from 12 noon to 2pm, offering weekly changing activities organised and led by a volunteer.
Around ten people attend the ‘crafternoons’ group weekly, with people paying £2 a session, towards craft materials. The pub’s team also collect materials from people giving things away for the group to use.
A hot drinks station is set-up for the group, so they can make themselves refreshments during their session.
It was during lockdown that the idea of hosting a regular craft group at the pub came about. Eileen says: “It was my sister’s idea, who is into crafting, and she was saying that there was nowhere locally for people to go to do this and meet up, so the group started as soon as lockdown was over.”
She adds: “The group has bought people together and started friendships. It gives people a reason to get together and get out of the house. The group has a lovely vibe and is really well supported.”
Three of the craft group attendees also now come along to the pub’s weekly quiz night together and many bring their families in for Sunday lunch.
To help encourage people along to ‘crafternoons’ Eileen features the group on posters in the pub and displayed locally and through table talkers. Word of mouth is also an important way of getting people along.
Eileen says: “Put something on and people will come. Some people have got involved by seeing the group going on in the pub, or when I’m out in the village I talk to people and tell them about it. I love being a community connector.”
The craft group also has a stall at the pub’s annual Christmas Market, which helps to raise awareness of the group and gives a great focus for their crafting activities.
A flower arranging group, organised and funded by a local organisation, which met at the pub for a few weeks was also really popular, with around ten attendees. Eileen says: “It was really successful with participants taking part in different activities, including making planters and arranging vases of flowers. The materials were funded by a grant the group got. We hope it will restart this year.”
Knitting people together
The George is also the venue for a ‘Wool & Wine’ group, which meets at the pub on Wednesday evenings and has been running for a couple of months, with around seven attendees and growing.
Eileen says: “We just book a table out for them each week. The group started meeting at The George following a conversation I had with the organiser who said they were hosting a knitting group at home. They are enjoying meeting at the pub, which also gives plenty of space for more people to come along as the group continues to expand.”
Eileen’s tips on hosting creative groups
- It is about being flexible and giving groups a warm welcome and the opportunity to feel at home, so they don’t feel like they can’t move tables or make a mess. You want to create an environment where they feel they can do their class freely and easily.
- The ‘crafternoons’ group meet in our sports bar, which has really big tables which are ideal for crafting and can be pushed together to create a really big table for people to sit around. We let the group re-design the room how they want for their activities.
- Ensure your team members are well-briefed on the needs of the group and that it doesn’t matter if they make a mess.
‘Pubs Welcoming Creativity’ initiative
The George now features a ‘Creativity Welcome Here’ window sticker and poster from Creative Lives, www.creative-lives.org, in the pub to help encourage more creative groups to have a chat with the pub’s team about hosting their activities there.
Publicans can find a range of resources from Creative Lives, as part of its ‘Pubs Welcoming Creativiuty’ campaign to help them to welcome creative groups to their venues, here: Pubs Welcoming Creativity – Toolkit | Creative Lives (creative-lives.org)