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Open arms: Why pubs are key in the fight against loneliness

Posted: 2 February 2021 | | No comments yet

A new report has confirmed just how important the Great British pub is in the fight against loneliness, as brewery Heineken takes to calling vulnerable people to relieve solitude in place of sharing a pint.

friends sharing a pint at the pub

After almost a year of restrictions, regional and national lockdowns, and tiers, people across the UK have been affected physically, economically and mentally due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with loneliness being a huge concern across communities.

The usual places to meet, socialise and connect with people have been removed. One of the key places for millions of Britons to do so in their ‘normal’ day to day life is the Great British pub. In fact, as a result of the pandemic more than 300 pubs have been permanently closed, and many more fear the same fate with no end in sight for the national lockdown.  

To launch this year’s annual Brewing Good Cheer campaign, Heineken has teamed up with The Campaign to End Loneliness and Loughborough University to release the Open Arms report. This report reveals the important and positive role pubs play in communities up and down the country – providing people from all walks of life with a space to come together for social interaction and connection.

The centre of a community

Just over three quarters (76 percent) of respondents in the Open Arms report said they felt that the pub where they worked made a positive contribution to the local community and just over two thirds (64 percent) felt that their pub was one of the main places that people living in the local area could socialise. When asked whether they agree or strongly agree with the statement ‘when a pub closes the local community suffers’, 86 percent answered yes.

The report also claims that a conversation between regulars in a pub, or between a patron and a member of the pub staff team, can go a considerable way to alleviate feelings of loneliness – even though it may last merely seconds or minutes. Older pub-goers in particular said the sociable and welcoming atmosphere of a pub gave them the chance to make friends and stay socially active.

“Loneliness has been a growing concern in our society in recent years, but the pandemic has brought the issue of loneliness into sharp relief,” said Robin Hewings, Director Campaigns, Policy and Research at the Campaign to End Loneliness.

“We’ve seen both older and younger people affected by feelings of loneliness. ONS figures show that in 2020 more than 7.5 million people (30 percent of the UK population) said feelings of loneliness affected their well-being during lockdown.

“Pubs are places, which particularly for older people, offer a safe and sociable space to meet other people. Importantly, this report has recommendations for how pubs can be even more welcoming places, for example through more accessible design.”

Dr Thomas Thurnell-Read, a Senior Lecturer at Loughborough University and writer of the report added: “Pubs can be really important settings for social activities beyond the home and the workplace, a place where people can feel a connection with others.

“The report reveals that for many, going to the local pub is an opportunity to get out of the house and have a conversation. Especially for older residents, meaningful social interactions like this can be infrequent, especially in retirement or after the bereavement of a long-term partner.

“This social contact, and the sense of connection and community it provides, has been under threat during the COVID-19 pandemic, and protecting the social role of pubs is now more important than ever.”

A phone call in place of a pint 

The Open Arms report has been released as part of Heineken’s Brewing Good Cheer campaign – a campaign that would usually see Christmas lunches being held for hundreds of people in pubs across the country. Instead, the brewery says it has been doing what it can to help support its pubs up and down the country and the communities connected to them.

Thousands of pounds have been donated to 100 pubs across the UK and Heineken colleagues across the UK have been virtually volunteering to help lonely, isolated or vulnerable people by calling them on the phone.

“This year has been incredibly tough for so many people. Loneliness and isolation have affected many across the country and our annual Brewing Good Cheer campaign is all about tackling that,” said James Crampton, Corporate Affairs Director at Heineken UK.

“Of course, we understand the need for restrictions to safeguard the wellbeing of the nation, but this report recognises the important role that the Great British pub plays in communities and we don’t want to forget that.

“Pubs are hubs of communities in every village, town and city. They’re so much more than just a place to have a pint – they’re a place to be with each other, and as soon as is safe to do so, we cannot wait to welcome people back.”

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