Dr Claire Markham, from the University of Lincoln, studied the impact of village pub closures on rural Lincolnshire communities, in the first academic research of its kind.
Dr Markham told the Scott Dalton radio programme on BBC Lincolnshire her interest in the topic arose from her own experiences of growing up in a small village and observing pub closures.
“I’ve lived in a Lincolnshire village my whole life and I have seen villages around me all go through losing their pub, watching them open and close, open and close. It got me thinking about my granddad who used the pub and about what impact closure has on those people who use the pub for their social life or getting out or their main meeting place.”
Dr Markham looked at 25 villages in Lincolnshire and interviewed members of the public, including both residents and publicans, on their perceptions of what local pubs need to do to thrive.
She added: “There are examples in my work where the key part for some people is the ability to meet locals there, couple that with food and then they have a meal there with real ales. My research shows that pubs have an economic, social and cultural importance.
"Those three things work together. The cultural could be – for example – selling local, good-quality food, changing your menus and playing on the history of the place. If you’re using local sources – Lincolnshire is renowned for several, such as red cattle and the Lincolnshire sausage – you can start playing on that and it can draw people in and increase the social, as people want to come in more.
Markham believes village pubs can still succeed in today’s economy, suggesting the key to longevity is “listening to your customer base”.
Invitation to publicans
She added: “What I want my research to do is show people why the village pub is important and what it means to people in rural areas. Then there are some people who have picked it up and are looking at it from a policy perspective. I would like it, in the long term, to inform policy.”
Publicans are invited to attend Dr Markham’s seminar on Wednesday 25 July at the University of Lincoln to hear more about her research into the relationship between pubs and rural communities.
In particular, the seminar will focus on “the importance of locally produced food, real ale and specialist drinks, the merging or placing of another service in the pub, local history and heritage in helping to sustain village pubs.”