The Lion Brewery pub is celebrating after being named the overall winner of the Britvic Lifting Spirits Award for excellent work within its community.
Acting as the focal point within the village of Ash, on the Surrey-Hampshire border, the Lion Brewery beat strong competition from five other operators to take the title.
The awards were created by Britvic in partnership with The Morning Advertiser (MA) to recognise operators that have given the most back to people through charity work or community initiatives.
The Lion Brewery was praised for organising and hosting a local music festival, which was really just the tip of the iceberg for a pub with exceptionally deep roots within the local community.
Run by Mike Armitage, 79, for almost 40 years, the pub has managed to raise nearly £200,000 for local charities since founding the Ash Music Festival in 1986, and Mike says he has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.
The festival, which is entirely run by volunteers has become a village institution, with people coming back year after year, often using it as a chance to hold reunions with old friends and family.
Meanwhile, the festival and the pub provide a great chance for local musicians and bands, with Armitage going out of his way to encourage young performers with weekly audition sessions to win the chance to open at the festival.
As well as providing space for weekly music meetings for a local acoustic musicians club, the pub also provides opportunities for aspiring comedians with a comedy night, as well as space for all manner of local clubs and groups, ranging from the pigeon club, through to book clubs and even a dementia club.
Armitage says: “We don’t do it on our own. The community helps us be successful. That is what it is about, being part of the community.
“We won an award and came here today and I thought that was it. When it was announced that we were number one, the champions you might say, I had a tear in my eye.
“The other finalists who do a lot for charity and I appreciate what they do. So we are a part and they are a part of the community.”
To celebrate their success, Britvic have given the pub £1,000 to donate to a local community project or charity of their choice, as well as 50 cases of Britvic mixers. The five runners-up will also win £200 each for their own good causes, and 20 case of mixers each.
Britvic senior brand manager Malcolm McDermott says: “The initial conception of the Britvic Lifting Spirits Awards, which first launched in 2017, followed the relaunch of our iconic Britvic Mixers and Juices range, a range that has been lifting people’s spirits and has been a part of British pub culture since 1938.
“With these awards, we wanted to take this idea one step further to recognise the people responsible for lifting the spirits of their local community. Pubs have long been considered the hub of the community, leading the way in developing new ideas and ways to help support their customers, their community, and most importantly, bring local people together.
“Last year, we had the privilege of learning about some truly outstanding and heart-warming stories from pubs nationwide and, this year, the bar was raised even higher. It was inspiring to learn all about the incredible
activities, innovative initiatives and see a wonderful community spirit come through in every entry.
“It was a really tough job judging this year’s awards due to the exceptionally high standard of all the entries received. However, the passion and enthusiasm of Mike and Lyndsay Armitage at the Lion Brewery really shone through for the judges. With their fantastic achievements and contribution to the community, they really have gone above and beyond to lift the spirits of their community. We wish them huge congratulations on being named this year’s
deserving winners of the Britvic Lifting Spirits Awards.”
MA editor Ed Bedington adds: “The Lion Brewery is a great example of a pub that is firmly embedded at the very heart of its local community, acting almost as the glue for surrounding families, helping to promote and encourage engagement across a wide range of interest.
“However, all of our finalists were of a superb standard and I’d like to praise them all for their excellent work. They are a real credit to the sector.”
Seven Stars, Country Village Inns – Stalmine, Lancashire
Manager Keith Slater and his team at the Seven Stars have been instrumental in leading the organisation of various sports-related charity events to raise funds for many charities in the local area.
Working with his team, Slater has shown incredible passion and determination to give real integrity and structure to the events by forming a committee with other members of the local community.
As well as charities within the local community benefiting from Slater’s fundraising endeavours, his focus on delivering fun and engaging events, which are welcoming for humans and their four-legged friends, has helped turn around an ailing business and breathe fresh life into the Seven Stars pub.
The New World Trading Company – Knutsford, Cheshire
The New World Trading Company and the teams across its 22 UK sites have undertaken an array of different activities to support Barnardo’s, the UK’s largest children’s charity, including everything from Dragon Boat racing and Three Peaks climbing, through to hair-raising challenges like sky diving.
However, it’s the work they’ve done to support schools within the communities in which they operate that really stood out for the judges.
The team’s enthusiasm for educating children on the importance of food, nutrition and health really shone through in their entry. Their desire to pioneer bright futures is inspiring, as is their work with schools to raise awareness of mindfulness and mental health, as part of which they partnered with a programme called Mind Mechanics.
Jolly Farmer Alehouse & Kitchen – Bramley, Surrey
The team from the Jolly Farmer has been instrumental in raising funds for local cancer sufferer William Le Fort, a local 10-year-old boy who needs treatment that is only available in the US. Having been made aware of the plight of
Le Fort’s family and exceptional funds needed for his treatment, licensee Steve Hardstone clubbed together with others from the local community to do everything they could to help.
Hardstone and his team set about organising a charity night to help raise the funds, including an online auction offering everything from logs for a wood burner, and a day’s house cleaning through to tickets to a Premier League football match. As a result of the event, £10,000 was raised to support the family, which has helped fund two of the four treatments William needs and he is currently responding well to treatment.
The Kings Lodge Inn, The Inn Collection Group – Durham, Northumberland
Being isolated in old age is a fear for many, especially at key times such as Christmas. Through the pub’s Christmas lunch initiative, general manager Leanne Jeffrey and her team at the Kings Lodge Inn have gone beyond the call of duty to make a difference to the lives of the elderly in the local community. As well as offering a free lunch, the initiative offers something money can’t buy – companionship, support and a chance to engage with like-minded people in a friendly, warm and safe environment.
What Jeffrey and her team are doing is very individual, connecting to those around them and providing support and a friendly face at a time of year when family really counts. Having focused on bringing people together, the event has now grown and extended into a monthly dining club for the elderly, showcasing its longevity and value.
Yummy Pub Co – London, Surrey and Kent
Teaming up with its neighbour – a charity focused on helping get homeless people back on their feet – has witnessed Yummy Pub Co having a huge impact on a broad range of young lives.
Working with New Horizon Youth Centre, Yummy Pub Co has managed to play an active role in getting young adults off the streets of London, and back into society by offering them the chance to train for a career in hospitality while working in the business.
The success stories have been impressive, getting people back on track in their lives and, in some cases, back with their families, reuniting children with their parents and creating great career opportunities.