To kick-off our Heart of the Community campaign, here are 11 reasons why the pub is so great. You can probably think of many more, so email us at email@example.com and we'll publish them all
1 Jobs and cash: A staggering 556,000 people work in Britain's pubs and bars, making the industry one of the country's biggest employers. The pub is traditionally a fantastic introduction to the world of work for young people, providing flexible hours and a fun, safe environment. It is also a great career move, whether you have ambitions to run a chain of bars, a thriving local or an upmarket gastro pub. And it provides a great outlet for other professionals, including chefs, bar staff, mixologists and security workers. The pub also supports jobs for its suppliers such as drinks and food producers. Customers spend £28.5bn on alcohol in pubs and hotels each year and, in total, the trade contributes £22bn annually to the economy (all figures from the Office of National Statistics). Gordon Brown would be weeping into his whisky if it weren't for the British pub.
2 History: Pubs are as much a part of heritage in this country as Stonehenge, Big Ben or Canterbury Cathedral. Almost every town or village in the country has at least one pub with a fascinating story to tell, often tied to the history of the local area. Pubs are tourist attractions in themselves, or at least serve as the ideal starting point to an excursion for millions of tourists every year.
3 Fun: You've just got a promotion at work so where do you go to celebrate? You want to congratulate your best mate on his engagement. Will you have a few glasses of wine at home or a few pints down your local? Whether it's your wedding anniversary, birthday, stag or hen night, the pub is the first choice for a celebratory drink. Friday evenings mark the start of the weekend and the pub is the obvious place to toast the close of the working week with a few refreshers. Whatever the reason, nowhere beats the Great British pub for a few drinks in a relaxing environment with your friends and loved ones.
4 Support: Just as pubs are the place to be when times are good, it is also a British tradition to look to the pub for comfort and security when the going gets tough. The pub is as suitable for a wake as it is for a wedding, christening or anniversary. The expression 'drowning your sorrows is common, but the British pub is far more than just an outlet for drinking. Nine weeks ago, hostelries acted as a safe haven for London's commuters following the terrorist attacks on the Tube. They could have easily filled the capital's coffee bars or restaurants, but nothing can replicate the atmosphere for discussing life's problems with a friend while propping up the bar, pint in hand.
5 Sport: 'If you can't get to the stadium to watch the game, the pub is the best place to watch it. That is the ringing endorsement from none other than former England football player and current Manchester City manager Stuart Pearce. And it doesn't even matter what your sport is football, cricket, rugby, tennis or golf can all be viewed with a beer. The pub is the place of choice because of its unique atmosphere. Nowhere is better for a gathering of like-minded fans to enjoy the banter and chew the fat over the controversial moments. More than 5.4m adults watch live sport in the pub each week. Where did fans flock to watch the Ashes triumph, Liverpool's Champions League win and the rugby world cup win in 2003? You guessed it the pub.
6 Music: Coldplay. The Undertones. Razorlight. What have all these bands got in common? They all started on the road to stardom in the great pubs of Britain. If you want a career in music, and you don't have Simon Cowell to back you up, you will inevitably ply your trade in a pub. The local music scene is a hotbed of creativity for budding superstars and wannabes. As if to prove the close links between the nation's music fraternity and the pub, music magazine NME is currently using the classic British pub for a tour of up-and-coming bands. Put very simply, without the pub, the British music scene would be dominated by synthetic, generic pop and garish novelty songs. Think about that next time the Crazy Frog croaks out of your radio.
7 Charity: Of the £7.1bn donated to charities last year, 27.3% came from spontaneous donations at pubs, churches and shops. The tsunami disaster affected millions in Asia and pubs were at the very forefront of raising money to help them. Pubs donated their entrance fees to New Year's Eve parties to help the victims. Cahoots bar in Blackpool raised £1,090 in just one hour while Greene King tenants raised £100,000 between them. Scour the local paper and you will find tales of pubs raising money for local hospitals, for cancer research, families affected by a recent loss or to save the rhinos. There will be karaoke evenings, raffles, head-shaving contests and barbecues to raise cash for great causes. Honest, decent and warm-hearted people run our pubs.
8 Safe drinking: The pub is the home of responsible drinking. It provides a space where alcohol can be consumed under controlled conditions. Pubs take their responsibilities very seriously and a look at recent initiatives prove that. The Best Bar None scheme, which recognises and rewards best practice, is set to roll out to 50 towns and cities across Britain. The Morning Advertiser is hosting the second Responsible Drinks Retailing awards this November. The British Beer and Pub Association's code on promotions and happy hours bans all-inclusive deals, promotions that encourage speed drinking, and includes guidance for running happy hours. That kind of responsible retailing is not a feature of the £12-for-24 cans of continental lager deals at the supermarket.
9 The Hub: Rural communities are facing unprecedented challenges 72% of all countryside settlements no longer have a village shop, 74% have no post office. But pubs are using their resourcefulness and resilience to prove their worth as the hub of the community. They are diversifying at a staggering rate and taking on the role of post office, village shop and even bakery for the community. The Pub is the Hub campaign website, which provides advice on diversification, currently receives around 6,000 hits a month. Other remote places are taking part in the locals online scheme to provide customers with computer literacy courses and information technology. If you add into the mix that pubs provide communities with a place to meet, a place to hold parties, they really are at the heart of the community. There are even vicars now who realise the pub is the best place to hold services and meet the community.
10 Classless: The pub brings every facet of society together, from the rich to the poor, from the young to the elderly. The pub admits everyone and asks for nothing in return. Pubs are all-embracing. There is nowhere else us Brits would chat at the bar to a complete stranger. Thousands of commuters stand with their heads down on the tube not wishing to make eye contact let alone engage in a conversation. But get them into a pub and conversation will flow, whether it's a friendly 'hello mate or a more in-depth 'how was your day? The pub is society's great social leveller.
11 Love, actually: Goodness knows how many romances have started in the pub. Goodness knows how many have finished there.