By Alun Jones
Its been a while since the idea of the ‘pubs’ programme was first mentioned by the Wales This Week team @WalesThisWeek.
So long ago that
I can’t honestly remember how the subject came about or even who had suggested it, but what I do remember is that it was raised at the end of a very long production meeting, my first production meeting with the team, and it immediately gave new life to everyone in the room.
Pubs are closing, this was, and sadly still is a fact . They are closing at an alarming rate, and it was soon pretty clear that we all had something to say about that!
That was it, that was the story; it was a sad story, a very sad story but it was also a good one. ‘Last Orders’ was now officially in production and the conversations went on…
At any available opportunity we would talk amongst ourselves about the places we all knew – where you could go to get good food; which pub sold the best pint of beer; which microbreweries we had visited; and which ingredients we felt were important to a pub’s success. I’m a supporter of the local pub and I enjoy the opportunity of being able to speak about the subject but the interesting thing here was that I was clearly not alone; office eavesdroppers would drop in and out of our team talks, family members and friends would offer their advice about places we should visit; everyone had an opinion and before we even knew it the story had altered completely.
It was not long before ‘Last Orders’ was rejected by series editor Mike Talbot and ‘Raising the Bar’ was commissioned in its place.
If ‘Last Orders was a good story ‘Raising the Bar’ was a great one.
Wales This Week: Raising the Bar takes a look at the pub scene as we see it today. True we have faced a number of closures over the years and far too many landlords and publicans have lost their livelihoods to an industry which has remorselessly consumed its workforce but today, as I write, the industry is on the turn, things are finally looking up! According to the British Beer and Pubs Association, the number of pubs calling time is now falling.
The pub has found its identity once again and in the face of uncertainty our communities have stood up and fought back against the possibility of closure.
Communities such as that of Pentrebach in Powys have worked together to finance and save their ‘community pubs’ not because they felt that this was a sensible investment but because they were afraid to lose their local – ten years on and the Shoemakers Arms is still going strong!
Schemes like The Pub is The Hub are working with communities in order to promote the use of the public house beyond that of the ale house or restaurant. Pubs are now becoming post offices, community centres, cafés, restaurants and allotments and in doing so they are keeping their roots as social meeting places while still pulling in the customers at the bar.
There has been a resurgence in our interest in Real Ale and we now have over forty Microbreweries such as the Otley Brewery in Pontypridd (@OtleyBrewingCo on twitter) who are regularly supplying pubs throughout the country raising both our interest in beer as well as our interest in locally sourced produce.
The pubs of Wales have changed dramatically for very many reasons but one thing seems certain, they are still attracting people through their doors and as long as that remains to be true the industry will continue to serve its customers.
I was told recently by Andrew Davies, known to most as Pugsley who was landlord at the Plough and Harrow in the Vale of Glamorgan that “People Make Pubs” and you know I think he’s right. We have had a battle on our hands for nearly ten years now but as time goes by it’s looking increasingly like communities like that of Pentrebach are finally saving our local pubs and I for one wish them all the luck in the world.
Watch Wales This Week: Raising the Bar tonight at 1930 on ITV 1 Wales.
- Alun Jones is a journalist and researcher working on Wales This Week, you can follow him on twitter @alungjones