Insights from Norfolk pub The Locks Inn on how they have unlocked the opportunity around welcoming creative groups to the pub……
Community-owned The Locks Inn at Geldeston, www.thelocksinn.com, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, is a pub that has seen a big benefit from welcoming creative groups to host regular nights at the pub.
Creative activities are hosted nearly every day at The Locks Inn, which also has a community café, set-up with the support of Pub is The Hub, with regular events including monthly ‘Tales & Ales’, ‘Traditional Music and Song’ and ‘Irish Folk’ nights.
The pub’s ‘Tales & Ales’ night, is led by a volunteer who prepares something to share to kick things off and then brings people in who want to share something. The ‘Traditional Music and Song’ night, has a casual vibe with people gathering around a table to play and sing together, whilst the Irish Folk session is an open session to play music, with many of the group of attendees also meeting to do the same at two other local pubs during the month.
Multiple business benefits
From ten up to 40 people attend these regular nights. The pub’s manager Jodie Barrett says: “The groups’ nights help add to the pub’s atmosphere, encourage people to stay longer in the pub and attendees buy drinks and some come and eat before too. These creative activities encourage people to use the pub more.”
She adds: “Live music has always been a big thing for the pub, but because of our off the beaten track location, we feel we need to have something on that will help encourage people to come and see us during the low season. The groups help encourage people to make the journey to us and being able to have these successful nights, enables us to keep our head above water and keep staff on during the low season.”
Ask locals what they want
The pub’s strong focus on creative activities comes from the results of a survey undertaken, when the pub was taken into community ownership two years ago. The pub’s new shareholders were asked what they would like to see stay or return at The Locks Inn. Many wanted a focus on creative groups, and lots of people came forward with their time, expertise and talents to help the pub run regular nights, who after two years still come every week to help the pub’s team keep something happening.
These community volunteers, not only come along to host, but also help promote their groups. “We get lots of returning, regular faces who enjoy a particular night, but every month there are always a couple of new faces because the organiser has gone out and spread the word,” explains Jodie.
From an organisational perspective, Jodie says it is very simple to host the groups/nights. “We just have tables and the fire, we offer some hospitality to the organisers, such as a free drink on arrival, but really is just making sure that we have saved them a table and space”, she says.
Consider best space to host
Lots of the pub’s creative groups were originally hosted in its main bar, but as they have grown in popularity, some such as ‘Tales & Ales’ and ‘Traditional Song’, have moved into the pub’s event room. “During the pub’s quieter times in January and February all the groups are hosted in the main bar. But we need a bigger space for the number of attendees at some groups, and also a space away for some groups from loud pub noise, as you need a more intimate and quieter place for some.”
A monthly Craft-along group, hosted by Jodie, also started at the pub in November 2022 , inspired by the ‘Pubs Welcoming Creativity’ campaign from Creative Lives, Pubs Welcoming Creativity (creative-lives.org), which Pub is The Hub and CAMRA are supporting.
The monthly group, which is free to attend, is being hosted on a Wednesday night in the pub’s main bar area and builds on the success of the pub’s monthly book club.
Jodie says: “We have had lots of interest in the ‘Craft-along. Initially I didn’t want to set it out as just around one set craft, but for attendees to bring along and share what they are working on.”
Giving people reasons to come out
She adds: “Rather than staying at home in the evening on your own, why not come out and get together with people with a shared passion. That shared interest helps people to connect with others. You can learn about different crafts from each other.”
Some attendees come in before the group starts to eat which also helps drive the pub’s food sales. Jodie says: “As they can see people arriving it then gives them the courage to come over and join in.”
The pub also hosted a Christmas centrepiece workshop, which was fully booked, and is hosting kids craftworkshops this Spring and in school holidays to build of the success of previous Easter workshops.
Jodie says: “The demand shows that there are lots of people that are keen to learn new skills, so workshops are a good way of appealing to them.”
Spreading the word
The Locks Inn now also has a ‘Creativity Friendly Space’ sticker from Creative Lives in its front window to help raise awareness with local people that the pub is open to hosting more creative groups and activities.
Jodie adds: “We also feature on our ‘What’s On’ events board that if there is anything that people are interested in doing, then come talk to us.”
Upcoming groups/nights to join in are also highlighted on the pub’s website and social media.
Another benefit of hosting the creative groups is that they can help keep things interesting for the pub’s team. Jodie says: “We all have our own favourite nights that we like to work. Often, because our team members enjoy these nights so much, they come back on their night off to be a part of it too, which is lovely.
*For more information and inspiration on getting involved in the ‘Pubs Welcoming Creativity’ initiaitve see Pubs Welcoming Creativity (creative-lives.org)