As you may know, I think each village should have two buildings at their heart. A Church (well, obviously) and a pub. I know that my mentions of the pub can freak out some of my readers from outside of the UK, as bars are often associated with drunkenness, licentiousness and lots of other ness-es which are not too healthy - but in the UK the pub has traditionally been a community building, a place for conversations, arguments, meetings, plans being made and generally somewhere to get to know each other. Yes there are drinks available, and some drink to excess but on the whole a couple of pints or whatever is considered enough for most and it is as much the company as the alcohol that is the draw. My own preference is for a proper ale, Real Ale, enjoyed with some good conversation and the occasional nip out to the garden for (ahem) a breath of fresh air.
Pubs are under threat, though. In city centres and towns many of them do exist as drinking factories, where people go to binge drink, and the 'happy hour' culture has encouraged that. But many of the things brought in to stop this culture of excess has impacted upon the vast majority of community minded pubs. More restrictive licenses and higher taxes on alcohol particularly. Alongside the blanket ban on smoking (which was meant to encourage more people to come to pubs but has succeeded in emptying a number), the business rates and general cost of running a business is putting pubs out of business by the day.
So, when there was mention of the possibility of reopening one of the pubs in one of the villages in the Five Alive Mission Community under the auspices of being a community pub (run, administered, managed and supported by the villagers of the community it is in) I jumped at the chance to support this. When I heard that this was going to be facilitated by a TV production company who want to make a series of short documentary/reality telly films on such endeavours I was wary, but willing to hear them out.
Last week I went to a very informal meeting with the production team (along with a group from the village) to discuss the possibility of making this happen. They are offering to train cellar keepers/bar staff/food staff. They are offering to cover four personal licenses for staff. They are offering free advice from someone who manages a number of pubs in the NEast of England for a month. They are willing to front some money to buy stock on an interest free basis and only payable if the pub makes a profit. They will pay the first month or so's rent and rates. All they want to do is film it, and preferably make it succeed (they made it clear that they don't think that failure will be a ratings winner).
So I'm sold. I am meeting with the team tomorrow at Church to say why I think it is a good idea (and might be filmed, so must wash hair/trim beard/put my shiny vicar shirt on). We then have a meeting tomorrow evening which all of the village are invited to at which we need as a community to show our support, willingness and desire to have a pub in the village. We are also going to have to put our money where our mouths are and actually be willing to put in the graft that will make this happen. That is where it could stand or fall. I will keep you updated - I am excited about the idea, it is a lovely pub in a great village, it could be a very good place to start the 'Churchpub' or 'pubchurch' meeting I would like to see happening in the New Year. It could well be a good meeting place, it has a lot of history to it (it was once Sir Francis Drake's pub) it is comfortable and has lots of potenital.
We shall see what happens. Here is to the Yarcombe Inn!