Winter Warmers: Pubs, Poems, Positivity

Live & Local partner with INN CROWD and Pub is the Hub to create new opportunities for artists in the Midlands and spread cheer to publicans and local communities.

Steve’s poem, ‘This is the Best Pub in the World’, is released today, Wednesday 17 February.

Live & Local celebrates pubs and poetry through creative partnerships with INN CROWD and Pub is the Hub. Featuring a poet from the West Midlands, the Winter Warmers campaign offers hope and entertainment to pubs and their communities around the country through regional poetry, while the INN CROWD residency sees a community poet collaborate with punters on a poem honouring their beloved Warwickshire pub.

WINTER WARMERS

As part of the national Winter Warmers Campaign, INN CROWD and Pub is the Hub have commissioned poets from six regions of the UK to compose poems that celebrate pubs, publicans and the people who visit them. The feel-good campaign aims to bring positivity whilst pubs are still closed and forge a positive collaboration between two of the hardest hit industries in the pandemic.

Poet for the Midlands, Steve Pottinger, from Willenhall, near Wolverhampton, is helping publicans across our counties spread some cheer to people in their local communities during these challenging times, with a heartwarming poem about pubs he has written and performed – ‘This is the Best Pub in the World’.

Steve said: “I hope it helps put a smile on people’s faces, and a spring in their step. I hope it reminds them of everything they love about pubs . . . I hope it reminds them of the good things we’ve spent so much of this year missing.”

Alongside the regional poems, a ‘National Poem of Thanks to our Nation’s Publicans’, written and performed by Alexandra Ewing, serves to praise the resilience of pubs and the support they have provided in times of hardship.

As a partner in the project, Live & Local have been engaging with publicans across the Midlands, helping them share the Midlands poem, ‘This is the Best Pub in the World’, on social media and on posters outside their pubs. To help keep connected with their locals, publicans are also using postcards with the poem on (‘postcards of positivity’) and putting them in customers’ takeaway bags and food boxes, or writing a cheery note on them to post through the doors of people who may be struggling.

One pub involved in the project, The Fleece Inn, Bretforton, Worcestershire has been using these ‘postcards of positivity’ to spread some cheer to their community.

Since the first lockdown, the publicans Tash Daly and Nigel Smith have been running a takeaway and delivery service whilst also raising £1,500 for the NHS within two months. They also instigated a volunteer ‘Covid support’ network, alongside the Community Shop, which provides a ‘Good to Talk’ phone line and group of callers to help tackle isolation and loneliness.

Tash told us about the impact that Covid-19 has had on their community:

 “Sadly, not being able to pop into the village pub has increased feelings of loneliness and isolation. We have lots of regulars who just come in by themselves, they might not talk a lot but just being around people is an important part of their week. Not being able to mark happy, sad or funny moments by joining friends and villagers in the pub has left people feeling adrift and alone. We keep in touch with our community by social media and phone calls but we cannot wait to open the doors again!”

The postcards of positivity are included in takeaway bags and boxes for their customers to enjoy and they also keep in touch with their regulars via ‘Fleece TV’, a new online event platform including a virtual quiz, and a Friday pub night where people are invited to get together to chat virtually and have a drink.

Tash and Nigel have also displayed the Winter Warmers poems in their pub window, and the window of their sister pub, The Cardinal’s Hat, in Worcester, for people to read as they pass by.

Tash told us that the poems “convey the breadth of the pub scene and the simple pleasures of going to the pub: feeling at home and with friends we know, and have yet to know. Surprisingly emotional!”

Another pub involved in the project, Nemo’s Bar at Stoney Cove, Leicestershire, also plans to use these ‘postcards of positivity’ to spread some cheer to their community. 

Sue, owner of Nemo’s Bar told us that, as her pub is located at Stoney Cove, the National Inland Diving Centre, the “impact [of the pandemic] has been far wider reaching than “Local”, as customers are not only local but come from all over the country.” 

In 2020, there were around four weeks when the diving and swimming continued at Stoney Cove and Nemo’s Bar was able to operate on a smaller basis, serving take-away hot drinks and snacks. However, since the most recent lockdown was put in place, at the end of December, the whole site has been closed and Nemo’s Bar has been unable to trade. 

Sue is looking ahead to the reopening of Nemo’s bar and has plans to spread cheer with the poetry ‘postcards of positivity’:

“We are going to do a letter box drop to the local community letting them know when we re-open and give some out to the divers and swimmers when they have food and drink from our take-out hatch.” 

About the Midlands poem, ‘This is the Best Pub in the World’, Sue said, “We are all just hoping that we can re-open soon and live up to the poem!” 

Steve’s poem, ‘This is the Best Pub in the World’, is released today, Wednesday 17 February, across social media channels and is available to watch, alongside the other poems in the Winter Warmers collection, on the INN CROWD website.

INN CROWD RESIDENCY

Towards the end of the first lockdown in summer 2020, Live & Local introduced poet Brenda Read-Brown to The New Inn, a community owned pub in Norton Lindsey, Nr Warwick to collaborate with locals and write poem about the pub. This project was developed and funded by INN CROWD, created in response to the pandemic to support pubs and spoken word artists and poets. Community poet, Brenda Read-Brown, worked remotely with pub regulars to create a poem ‘Crowd Round’. Regulars were invited to engage on social media or over the phone to communicate their favourite things about the pub they’d been missing. This was edited into a poem which will be printed on a postcards and will be shared with regulars and patrons, as well as being displayed in the pub as a tribute for years to come.

Brenda Read-Brown said:

“Working on the ‘Crowd Round’ project, with INN CROWD, Live & Local, and The New Inn, has been a delight. The poem I constructed for the pub could not have been written without the thoughts and words of pub regulars. . . reading what everyone said about it has made me want to go there as soon as it’s possible to do so.”

OPPORTUNITIES TO GET INVOLVED

There are still opportunities for publicans to get involved in the Winter Warmers campaign and we encourage more pubs and communities in the Midlands to get in touch with us. The pubs based in the Midlands involved in the Winter Warmers project are: The Nelson Arms in Middleton, Nemo’s Bar in Leicestershire, The George and Dragon in Stoke Golding, The College Arms in Lower Quinton, Warwickshire, The Thorold Arms in Harmston, The Fleece Inn in Bretforton, Worcestershire, The Royal Oak in Collingham, The George in Willenhall, Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton and The Pretty Bricks in Walsall.

Dionne Sambrook, Community Engagement Officer at Live & Local said:

“Both the INN CROWD residency and Winter Warmers project have allowed us to connect with new audiences, celebrate the importance of pubs and publicans in their communities and support new artwork from poets in the Midlands. We’re delighted to be able to continue our work with pubs throughout the pandemic and we hope these projects will bring smile to the faces of those involved and those missing their local.”

Contact community@liveandlocal.org.uk if you’d like to get involved.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to discover more Winter Warmers and other feel-good Live & Local projects.

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