Dr Thomas Thurnell-Read, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Loughborough University, has published a report on the role of pubs in tackling loneliness.

Dr Thurnell-Read has published widely on the changing nature of contemporary drinking culture. His latest study focusses on the significant roles British pubs play in the fight against loneliness. Open Arms: The Role of Pubs in Tackling Loneliness, was based on research commissioned by The Campaign to End Loneliness and in collaboration with Heineken UK. The research was undertaken prior to the CV-19 pandemic hitting the UK, so its findings are now even more important!


Open Arms: The Role of Pubs in Tackling Loneliness

 The report examines the role that pubs can play in tackling loneliness – an issue which is widespread in modern Britain and has a negative impact not only on individuals’ mental health, but on communities overall.

Pub-goers reported that tea and coffee, soft drinks and well-priced food are just as (if not more) important than the alcohol on offer. However, the draw of pubs goes far deeper than just the products pouring at the bar. Open Arms found that the appeal of the pub for many is the offline, highly valued opportunities for traditional socialisation.

For the cost of a drink, the report states, a person can pass time in the company of others, engaging in social interaction or simply being around other people. We’d also emphasise that pubs provide a financially accessible opportunity of socialisation for those with low expendable income. So, while the low price of supermarket beer might lead some to forgo the pub in favour of their sofa, a trip to the pub offers wellbeing value that home simply cannot.

People frequent their local pub for a multitude of reasons, including to enjoy the activities and events pubs offer and the opportunities those provide for interacting with others.

‘Historically, pubs have been venues for sociability and companionship. They are often perceived in playing a role in connecting individuals, groups and communities in beneficial ways. The research was guided by the belief that pubs can, and often do, have a social value beyond their economic role.’ — Dr Thurnell-Read, Open Arms: The Role of Pubs in Tackling Loneliness

Hosting and facilitating activities and events is, undoubtedly, one of our favourite parts of running pubs. Coffee mornings for new and expecting parents, raucous comedy nights, pub quizzes, drag shows, board game sessions, fitness classes, team meetings, cuisine nights, live music, pub birthdays, day festivals, garden parties – all of these events (and many more) can be enjoyed in Castle Rock pubs.

More recently, the Poppy and Pint, Bread and Bitter and the Willowbrook hosted the Heron Music Café. These fun, uplifting sessions are run by local musicians and are accessible for all, created specifically to provide social opportunities to those feeling isolated, or living with dementia or other health conditions. The goal of the Heron Music Café is to bring the community together to ‘enjoy live music for wellbeing’. We can’t wait to host them again soon and urge you to come along when we do!

The report also acknowledges the importance of pub staff in facilitating opportunities for socialisation:

‘It is […] important to recognise the huge amounts of undervalued or unacknowledged skilled labour done by staff working in the pub and wider hospitality trade in terms of welcoming, attending to and supporting individuals and groups at risk of loneliness.’ — Dr Thurnell-Read, Open Arms: The Role of Pubs in Tackling Loneliness

We’ll cheers to that one!


Our takeaway

Above all, we want Castle Rock pubs to be warm, welcoming spaces where anyone and everyone feels safe, comfortable, and relaxed.

‘The idea was simple: Create a welcoming, friendly pub and serve high quality beer’— Chris Holmes, founder of Castle Rock

One area of Open Arms which is especially useful to us as we lay our plans for re-opening one day, is the concept of ‘designing out loneliness’. The report finds that some in our society, particularly elderly individuals, are often dissuaded from visiting pubs which are less accessible. While some issues of access may be beyond our control (such as public transport routes or impractically located toilets), we will be doing all we can to increase the accessibility of our pubs by assessing our layouts, lighting, and music levels.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, Open Arms notes that older women often lack the confidence to enter pubs alone for fear that they won’t be welcome, or it won’t be to their tastes. Furthermore, the report adds that pubs are not always felt to be welcoming for people from ethnic communities – both findings which we will be examining within our own venues as priority.

We will reinvigorate our efforts to run pubs which offer fun, social opportunities to elderly, disabled and neurodiverse customers, with events like the Heron Music Café.

As always, we welcome your feedback, suggestions and ideas! Please drop us a message on social media or using the contact form on our website and share your thoughts.


Read the report

We could go on (and on and on) about all the fascinating findings in Dr Thurnell-Read’s report, but instead we encourage you to read it here. Please share its findings with your own community of friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours.

Unfortunately, the toughest time may still be ahead of the UK pub industry – easing out of lockdown is even more tremulous than going in. We still need you to sing our praises to your MPs and council representatives and, most importantly, please drop by when our doors finally re-open. We can’t bloody wait to see you.

Read Open Arms: The Role of Pubs in Tackling Loneliness

Contact Dr Thurnell-Read at t.thurnell-read@lboro.ac.uk


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