Pub is The Hub’s ambassador for loneliness for its new ‘Join Inn – Last Orders for Loneliness’ campaign, Deborah Kemp, together with its regional advisors, offers ideas on how publicans can help keep locals connected through community events and activities during Covid-19 tiers, lockdown and beyond
Loneliness has become a major issue for society that has been exacerbated further by the Covid-19 pandemic, a crisis which has highlighted the importance of meaningful connections for us all.
Simple behaviours and small actions by publicans in being connected with their community can make a big difference to local people who may be experiencing feelings of loneliness. It is an issue that affects people of any age and for many different reasons, so we are inviting publicans to ‘Join Inn’ and think about what more they can initiate or continue to do to help.
Inspirations to ‘Join Inn’:
- Host virtual events: put on weekly events which can help bring locals together and are easy for people on their own to join in, such as a quiz night, bingo night, live music, comedy sessions, DJ sets or wine or gin tasting nights. Consider a ‘guest round’ for your quiz where a local charity or organisation gets the chance to share their message in a fun way.
Host virtual coffee mornings open to all. The Swan at Clewer, Berkshire, hosted them weekly during the second lockdown, describing them as a “virtual ‘hug-in-a-mug’. Invite groups to meet-up at your pub when Covid-19 restrictions allow. Consider creating weekly coffee mornings for locals, with seating set up outside and social distancing measures in place, to ensure even customers who remain anxious about going out have somewhere safe and comfortable to go for some social interaction.
A virtual story or poem reading night has been found to be another great way of bringing the community together, with locals sharing stories about the history of your town or village and memories of the pub. Be inspired by arts project Inn Crowd who have teamed up with writers and poets to host creative residencies with pubs. Find out more here: www.inncrowd.org.uk/inn-crowd-residencies-2020/
- Be family friendly: during the first lockdown a volunteer at the Swan at Clewer, Berkshire, recorded bedtime stories to help frazzled parents, with ‘Rachel Reads’ hosted on the pub’s YouTube channel.
At the Keel Row in Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, publican Sharon Herron got a member of her team to dress up in a Peter Rabbit costume and walk around local housing estates bringing Easter cheer and delivering Easter eggs to families. Publicans may consider doing the same in the run-up to Christmas.
Perhaps enlist the services of craft experts to host Zoom art sessions for families, with craft material packs, sent out in advance. Families could make something which can be displayed at your pub.
- Keep community groups connected online: encourage local community groups who use your pub, and others who don’t, to promote or host their online events through your pub too, such as a weekly book, film, art or games club, coffee mornings, afternoon sing-alongs or bumps and babies virtual meet-ups for new or expectant parents. Enlist the services of a trusted volunteer to help you with digital activities and posts for the community. Again welcome these groups to meet-up at your pub when you can open without restrictions.
- Crafty community action: work with local organisations and volunteers to bring everyone together in spirit on a community craft project. If there is a local knitting group asking them to knit items for a community yarn bomb. Be inspired here: www.anneclarkhandmade.co.uk/category/yarn-bombing/
If you have keen sewers locally get volunteers to create face masks, which can be sold to raise money for a local charity, or collaborate on making some community bunting, from materials donated by people in the local area. This can be loaned out to community groups and families for post-Covid events or to help decorate your pub for events.
- Become a home for crafters: once your pub is open again without Covid-19 restrictions you could consider encouraging local crafters to host a weekly crafters group at your pub, such as the ‘Crafty Giggles’ group held at the Dog Inn in Belthorn, Lancashire, thedoginnatbelthorn.net, where people meet to discuss and work on craft projects. At the Shrewsbury Arms in Kingstone, Staffordshire, www.pubisthehub.org.uk/news/shrew-boosts-confidence-post-covid, a craft hut was opened this summer, with the support of a Pub is The Hub Community Services Fund grant, to give a home to craft and hobbies groups and house a future Men’s Shed workshop.
- Set coming together challenges: simple challenges help give people a positive focus and feel connected. Create simple competitions such as a colouring competition for a new design for your childrens’ menu, a best decorated Christmas tree or Christmas cake challenge or best winter photo of your local area. You could link challenges in with national days or months, such as Veganuary, with a challenge for the best vegan recipe.
- Encourage wellness through walking: government tier rules allow some people to meet with up to six people outdoors for exercise. Captain Tom Moore has launched a ‘Walk and Talk’ initiative, captaintom.org/walkandtalk, which you could encourage locals to get involved in.
Research by Age UK  shows that nearly one in five (18%) people over the age of 70 are currently less confident going for short walks outside due to Covid-19. Look to help them, and those who live or work alone, connect with other people by setting up a daily meet-up time in your car park, where people can turn up to link up with another person for a walk. Mark out places for socially distanced groups to stand to meet-up.
- Positive fundraising focus: bring people together through an initiative to raise money for a project or charity close to your local peoples’ hearts. Ideas include an online auction with goods donated by locals, hosted through your Facebook page, giving one of your online quiz nights a charity focus or encouraging locals to sign-up to collectively walk the distance to the moon.
- Get help from others: get advice from Pub is The Hub’s regional advisors on groups, initiatives and events that can help encourage people in your area, who may be experiencing feeling of loneliness, to come to your pub to connect with others. Many local authorities, who our advisors can help connect you with, also have initiatives going which are simple and beneficial for your pub to get involved with. They will also have details of organisations, such as local dementia support groups, who would benefit from hosting events at your pub. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be connected with one of our expert team.
 Age UK Report on The Impact of COVID-19 to Date on Older People’s Mental and Physical Health (October 2020) – https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/health–wellbeing/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-older-people_age-uk.pdf