PUBLIC houses were once at the centre of community life, and now a new campaign aims to make that the case once again by highlighting they are so much more than places just to have a pint ­— but are a place to meet up with friends, make new friends and ultimately help tackle the growing issue of loneliness ­— with the number of people feeling isolated is constantly increasing

Saiqa Chaudhari reports.

PUBS are once again putting themselves at the heart of the community to tackle loneliness, starting by bringing some festive cheer to their neighbourhoods this Christmas.

Brewing Good Cheer campaign is underway to highlight the role pubs can play in the community all year round in bringing communities together.

Now in its fourth year, the campaign, sponsored by Heineken is now in its fourth year is helping to reunite communities and tackle social isolation.

The Railway Inn in Bromley Cross and the House Without a Name ­— 'No Name' ­­— in Harwood are taking part in the national initiative.

The campaign comes as figures AgeUK show nearly a fifth of adults in the North West regularly go up to six months at a time without attending any social events ­— even if it is just going out for a coffee with a friend.

In 2018, 100 pubs took part in hosting Christmas lunches for over 2,000 people as part of the initiative. That figure is set to increase to 180 pubs in 2019.

Lawson Mountstevens, Managing Director for Star Pubs & Bars, Heineken UK, said: “The Great British pub is at the heart of communities up and down the country. It’s a place where people from all walks of life can come together to meet old friends and make new ones.

“We’re delighted to be working with more of our pub licensees than ever for the fourth year of Brewing Good Cheer. In that time, we’ve worked with hundreds of pubs and brought together thousands of people, reminding and inspiring people to use their local. We want to bring people together, to show them exactly what our great pubs have to offer, not just at Christmas time but all year long.”

The Railway Inn launched the campaign in Bolton by celebrating the work of community based group Men in Sheds by hosting a festive coffee morning for its members and volunteers.

Mike Hales who runs the Railway Inn added: “The Railway is a local success story, proving what can be achieved with a little imagination and re-invention.

"Our labour of love has turned a derelict music venue, into a thriving community hub with a strong heritage theme, both indoors and outdoors.

"We’re used to hosting a range of different events for local people and for the second year running, we wanted to do something lovely again this Christmas to bring happiness to some of our local residents, who often struggle to join in with social occasions.

"Initiatives like Brewing Good Cheer are a great idea for helping to combat loneliness, particularly at Christmas, which is why we were keen to take part again.”

Tonge Moor based Men in Sheds is a community-based, non-profit group which has been running since 2015.

Its members range in age from 25 to 84 in which they work together to create various items while learning new skills building new friendships and enjoying a new social circle.

Whereas garden sheds and their activities are often solitary in nature, Men in Sheds is designed to be the opposite.

Dave Donohue from Tonge Moor Men in Sheds said: “We are delighted to have been invited to be part of this fantastic initiative­— Mike and his team gave us a very warm welcome.

"Pubs, like sheds, are great for meeting like-minded people and having someone to share your worries with. As a by-product of all of that, they reduce isolation and feelings of loneliness.”