Crafty idea at pub’s community café benefiting both locals and pub

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A weekly craft group being hosted at the community café at The Blue Bell The Blue Bell at Stoke Ferry, in Norfolk, is benefiting both the local creative community and this community-owned pub.

The pub, which reopened in June (22) after being purchased by over 400 members of the community a year earlier, opened a community café, with the support of a Pub is The Hub Community Services Fund grant and the expert advice of regional advisor Terry Stork.


The Blue Bell now hosts a weekly ‘Craft Café’ on a Wednesday morning, a time when the community café is operating in the pub, which sees people bring along craft projects they are working on, including painting, knitting, crochet, needlework and whittling or taking part in monthly craft workshops such as rock painting, needle felting, pottery, sketching, upcycling and wreath making.

Helps bring in customers

Jim McNeill, an original founder member of Stoke Ferry Community Enterprise Limited, the Community Benefit Society that owns and runs the pub-cafe, says: “Around 15 to 20 people attend the group each week and it is still evolving. It is really benefiting The Blue Bell as attendees buy coffee and cakes and some stay on for lunch or come back to visit the pub at other times.”  

He adds: “The pub advertises the group, but really it runs itself. It is a great thing for our village and the pub to be hosting and I would highly recommend to others to follow our lead.” 

Lyn Juniper-Solley, a volunteer at The Blue Bell and a craft workshop host, adds: “It is so easy for a pub to do. Just allocate some space and let people know it is happening. It is really simple to organise. With the workshops people can just turn up and see if there is space or contact the host to book in.”

She adds: “It would have never occurred to me before getting involved with The Blue Bell to host a craft group in a pub. It is absolutely brilliant and ticks lots of boxes. As a community asset, which this pub is, it is also nice to show that it isn’t just about having a drink, but there are lots of other things you can do in this environment that are open to all and valuable to local people.”

Customers joining in group

The pub’s craft group coordinator Lorna Cootes says: “It is wonderful meeting at the pub, with a warm and friendly atmosphere on offer and people who have seen us doing activities in the café, now joining us weekly.”

She adds: “Hosting at the pub takes away all the extra organisation in running a club, such as sorting out refreshments, booking arrangements, and being responsible for the opening and closing of a premises.”

Helping make connections

As well as encouraging people to try something new or for crafters to share their latest project, the craft group is also an ideal way for people to connect with others through a shared interest to help make new friends.

Organiser Lorna says: “It is a such a good way of people making friends, as you can be sitting there doing something and don’t have to chat all the time but can break the ice with whatever activity you are doing at the time. Group members have had the most amazing chats. It has been wonderful.”

She adds: “The activity helps remove the fear factor for people in coming along, as they know they are coming to do something. A range of different people attend, including a couple of gentlemen and two recently bereaved women, who say it is their way of not being isolated and they can come along and have some fun and get some support.”

 Pubs Welcoming Craft Groups – tips from crafters Lyn and Lorna

  • A craft group where people can bring along projects they are working on is great, but hosting regular workshops also helps to maintain interest for group members and attract others.
  • Recruit a volunteer to coordinate a craft workshop programme for you.
  • Support the group by advertising the group and activities for them.
  • Keep the craft activity at an accessible skill level, from beginners upwards, so people feel they can come along and have a go.
  • Be really clear in your advertising that everyone is welcome, regardless of age of ability. Get information out there on what else you have available, such as a relaxed environment and coffee and cake. Encourage people to come along and just watch what is going on if wanted and get a feel for it.
  • Keep workshop activities accessible price wise. Find crafts that are budget-friendly, such as rock painting.
  • Feature crafts that are small and easy to do around a table.
  • Around ten people works well for a craft workshop and one to two hours is the ideal length.
  • Cover tables to make sure they aren’t messed up from craft materials.
  • Ensure the space being offered has good lighting.

The Blue Bell also hosts a successful weekly over 60s luncheon, with a two-course set price meal and tea and coffee on offer, where people are invited to come with friends or make new ones.

Other successful events the pub has hosted include a ‘Teddy Bears Picnic and Story Time’ for children during the school holidays and a ‘Cider and Sausage Festival’.

Successful Village Market Stall

As part of the pub’s ‘Food 4 All’ project a ‘Village Market Stall’ offering fresh and local donated produce from local suppliers, including fruit, vegetables, plants, honey and eggs at affordable prices has also proved successful for the pub and reopens in Spring 2023.

The Blue Bell’s Jim McNeill says: “The stall was a great success in its first year with proceeds (and any unsold produce) donated to our community pub-café. Just as important as the commercial aspect of this initiative was the opportunity it provided for local people to meet up and socialise. One spin off was the establishment of a cribbage team at the pub.”

Gardening group to bring people together    

A new gardening group is also being set up at The Blue Bell for the winter for local gardeners and small holders to get together to exchange knowledge and ideas and swap plants, cuttings and seeds. The group will also provide an opportunity for attendees to help develop a wildlife area in the pub’s gardens, as well as featuring occasional guests with expertise in different aspects of horticulture, such as composting and herb/herbalism.

‘Pubs Welcoming Creativity’ initiative

Publicans are being encouraged to welcome creative groups into their pubs in an initiative by voluntary arts charity Creative Lives, which Pub is The Hub is supporting.

Find out more here: Spaces for creativity | Creative Lives (