Anna and Martin Cavanagh, publicans of community-focused village pub The Trelowarren Arms at Budock Water, Cornwall, use creativity focused events and initiatives to help engage different groups within their local area and bring new people in to the pub.
Among key ways the couple, who have been at the helm of The Trelly since 2017 and were regional winners in Punch Pubs’ ‘Publican of the Year Awards 2022’, welcome creativity at their pub is by bringing creative people together around community projects, such as making bunting for the Queen’s Jubilee.
Publican Anna says: “A group of ladies got together at the pub on Monday nights through the winter to make bunting. They set up their sewing machines on tables and enjoyed making something for the benefit of the whole community together. It got different people involved and coming into the pub.”
Crafty competitions create buzz
The publicans also bring people together through community competitions, such as its annual pasty making and ‘Bloomers’ contests, which it organises as part of the village’s annual carnival week.
Entrants enter a traditional or novelty Cornish pasty – which can be novelty in shape or flavour. The competition has seen some very interesting flavours and shapes over the years, including a full English breakfast pasty, fish pie filling and a tequila slammer pasty trio of tequila infused veg, salted beef and a lemon curd pasty to finish.
As well as taking the sought-after title of ‘Pasty Competition Winner of The Year’, the winners also receive an engraved rolling pin.
This year the pub’s ‘Bloomers’ competition took a bonnet theme and again saw a strong range of fun entries. Previous ‘Bloomers’ competitions have included creative hanging baskets. Entries, which are judged by a local florist, are displayed at the pub for a few days which helps attract locals in to the pub.
The pub has also previously organised pumpkin carving and Easter bonnet making competitions for children. Anna says: “You may only get a dozen entries, but it helps make people aware that you are a family friendly pub.”
She adds: “I’d recommend organising anything fun that gets people talking. The competitions are a bit of fun and brings in other groups in the village, like the WI, giving them something to get involved in with us. The competitions create a real buzz in the pub, with ideas flying around as soon as they are launched.”
Annual craft fair drives engagement
A successful annual craft fair is also hosted at the pub every October, featuring around 15 stalls and coffee and cake and bacon rolls served. Anna says: “Hosting in October works well for sellers, as we found holding it in December meant many people had already stocked up on Christmas gifts.”
She adds: “Once you have organised the first one it gets much easier, and I just email previous stall holders with the date and ask them if they want a spot, with the majority making annual bookings. The craft fair attracts different people who tend to stay and have a drink etc too. Lots of crafters will promote it on their social channels themselves too which helps put the pub on the radar of different people too.”
Run workshops with local businesses
Partnering with local businesses to host creative workshops is also recommended by Anna, with the pub’s events including wreath making and pottery painting events.
Anna says: “We hosted two wreath making nights with a local florist in December and both were full. Its low-hassle and we just offered mice pies and mulled wine. For our ‘Pots & Prosecco’ night we again partnered with a local business to put this on in December and people came and painted Christmas gifts. The activities help to bring in people that don’t normally use the pub.”
Another important way the pub helps support locals is by providing a room for a local post office to run a weekly mobile service. A coffee morning is run alongside the service, so that people can use it as an opportunity to socialise with others too.
The Cavanagh’s offered the pub as a venue to host this important service two years ago after the village post office closed and there was a big demand for villagers for this facility. It is hosted in the pub’s back room so people don’t have to come into the pub if they don’t want to as there is a separate entrance.
Anna says: “The post office is well used which is really good. Most people stop after and have a coffee. It offers a lovely opportunity for people to meet up and have a chat with others. There are a few ladies who live on their own so this has become a nice focus to their week to come for a coffee and a social.”
Although the pub’s great food reputation is a key footfall driver, it is around 60% wet-led with events which people can enjoy over a few drinks proving very popular such as its weekly Monday quiz night, Wednesday bingo night and a monthly book swap/club, which is organised by a volunteer.
*For more tools and inspiration around how to welcome creativity into your pub check out these resources from Creative Lives: Pubs Welcoming Creativity – Toolkit | Creative Lives (creative-lives.org)
Resources on how publicans can help tackle loneliness through creating connections at their pub are available here: www.pubisthehub.org.uk/join-inn-last-orders-for-loneliness/