Raising a glass to social change

Tom Sheppard

Digital Manager

18th July 2018



UnLtd is committed to supporting local people in over 30 areas over the next three years.

We are working with the Local Trust in 19 areas that span a wide range of communities, including rural areas, new towns, market towns, suburbs and cities.

Back in 2010 The Bevendean Hotel closed. Three low-income housing estates - home to 18,000 people - were left without a single pub in their area.

The pub in the Mouslecoombe and Bevendean estates had become synonymous with anti-social behaviour and crime for many in the area, including the local authority and police force in Brighton. However, a group of residents sought to change that. They recognised the importance of a local pub to a community and wanted to return the building back to the local asset it had been for decades prior to its downturn.

Over two years, volunteers raised funds and sold shares to hundreds of local people. They spoke to families, the local authority and the police about their plans for the newly imagined local pub, to be renamed The Bevy.

“The pub was built in the late 1930s, as was most of the estate that it’s on,” explains Iain Chambers, now general manager at The Bevy.

“When it first opened it was a community pub in the classic sense. Although it was privately owned, the people who came to the pub did things like raffles and they would raise money to take local kids to the seaside. If they hadn't seen a local for a few days, they would knock on his door to make sure he was okay. That was the kind of pub it was back then, and that's what we wanted to recreate.”

It became a community pub at the end of 2013 - the first of its type in the country to open on a council estate.People in later life at the Bevy community pub in Brighton

UnLtd were inspired by The Bevy’s model of social change in a community led by people from the local area. Although not formally backed by UnLtd, the founders were invited to host a workshop at UnLtd and Local Trust’s Enterprising Communities event. Pam Hardisty, UnLtd’s head of community entrepreneurship, explained: “Just because you live in an economically poor area, does not have to mean you are poor as a human being. We’ve been inspired by this story in Brighton because it shows the power of social entrepreneurship – when everyday people are encouraged into taking entrepreneurial responses. We want to learn from the success of The Bevy, and see more stories like this in places right around the United Kingdom.”

It was not easy to set-up this venture. The team behind The Bevy had to align community support with agreements from authorities and start to build momentum behind their vision of social change.

“Because we had shown that we were trustworthy and our intentions were to reopen it as a community pub, the police and the local authority could see that there was a benefit,” says Iain.

“Drinking socially is different to drinking at home. Drinking at home can be problematic. If you're drinking socially, somebody is keeping an eye on you - you're talking instead of drinking, somebody is there to say, 'have you had enough mate?' or 'why don't you have something to eat?' Those are all things that can dampen down the negative aspects of alcohol and by bringing people together we were reintroducing the idea of a community around a pub where you can do socially beneficial activities.”

“From there, stems all the other socially beneficial things, like allowing people to use the meeting room for free if they’re discussing a neighbourhood project all the way through to a lunch every Friday for older people.”Local people enjoying the community pub in Brighton, the Bevy

Relaunching the pub and transforming it into an asset for the community hasn’t been without its challenges, Iain explains. The first phase, that of raising the funds, persuading people to join the campaign and talking to the community was only the first step.

“If the pub reopens and it previously had a poisonous reputation, you're probably going to have to speak to people, almost on a one-to-one level, to explain to them that you're actually running a proper establishment,” says Iain.

The management committee was tough on antisocial behavior early on. But it was also important to start crafting a new, positive image, the Bevy organised events, including family-friendly days. Pricing was such that it was affordable for all in the community.

But there were also practical challenges, Iain says.

“How do you run a pub? If that's not your previous business, what do you do? You have to put your trust in your employees and find the right people, but you also have to learn how to do it yourself - things like business bank accounts, purchasing, staffing, health and safety. You have to learn all that stuff and it's not easy.”

But the pub is now strengthening the community and acting as a heart for the three estates it serves.

Set up as a chance for older, socially isolated residents to meet, the Friday lunch club offers activities like a raffle and bingo as well as a hearty, two-course meal for just £3. The management wanted to keep costs as low as possible, so linked up with a local college, which had students with learning difficulties who often found it hard to get good work experience.

The partnership has meant The Bevy gets good volunteers to help with the lunch club, the people who attend the club get a hot meal for a low cost and the students get some work experience on their CV. However Iain says there are further social benefits.

“People with learning difficulties are meeting people with mobility difficulties or isolation issues, and they're all meeting the others who come into the pub,” he says.

“People who wouldn't normally come together are getting to meet each other. When you bring people together like this, you find out that they have quite a lot in common and quite a lot to say to each other. That goes further towards addressing things like schisms within society or issues like isolation or discrimination towards disability.”

“If there were more pubs run like the Bevy, rather than by a business that just wants to make as much money as possible, I think you'd have a different economy and a different community.”

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