Following a public vote involving more than 65,000 people, each of the 15 winners from the Great British Pub Awards – Pub Heroes in September was invited to apply for grant funding from Coca-Cola.
A special Coca-Cola Community Pub Fund of £165,000 was shared between the victors as a ‘thank you’ for supporting their communities during the ongoing pandemic and help boost their businesses.
While an initial £1,000 was pledged towards a charity of each operator’s choice, the remaining £150,000 pub pot was shared among the 15 winners to help fund venue improvements or community initiatives.
Here, we revisit three pub heroes to discover how they have used their grant funding to fulfil passion projects.
‘A therapeutic garden for people to unwind and relax’
Having won the Staff Welfare gong for maintaining regular contact with not just with its team but their extended families – even providing mindful sessions on the beach and bringing in yoga instructors to stream sessions – its little surprise to hear that the Bowgie Inn in Crantock, Cornwall, has used its winnings to install a Wellbeing and Sensory Garden.
“We had a number of ideas on how we could use the donation to benefit others, and the final idea we put forward was the culmination of long discussions between ourselves and our team to decide what really made us 'tick',” owner Sally Pickles said.
“Having spent months supporting - and being supported by - our local and online communities, it only felt right for our community to benefit from the £10,000 fund we were applying for.
“With that in mind, we put together our application for a Wellbeing and Sensory Garden, and we’ve recently been told we’ve been successful.”
The Bowgie’s garden will feature a sensory space for those with mental health issues, special needs or learning difficulties; a community herb garden allowing visitors to learn about horticulture and enjoy produce and a sensory fibre-optic lightshow for night-time display as well as objects and plants aimed to stimulate senses through touch, sight, scent, taste and hearing.
Having recently broken ground on the project, which will be created and built in the grounds of their beer garden overlooking Crantock beach, Pickles forecast that it would be completed by Easter.
“A positive element to arise from these challenging times is how much more people are valuing the outdoors, outside spaces and fresh air, a sanctuary of calm at a time when the world seems in turmoil,” Pickles continued. “That’s how our idea of a Wellbeing and Sensory Garden was born.
“It will be a calming space, a community area for learning about plants and growing food, a therapeutic garden for people to unwind and relax, a place to understand new smells, scents, sights and natural life, and overall, somewhere where people can feel connected to nature and away from the daily stresses and strains of life during the pandemic and beyond.”
“We would like to invite visitors from local schools and encourage engagement in outdoor garden activities supervised by group leaders to help address mild to moderate mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, autism, as well as those who are disabled, special needs, partially-sighted or blind to name just a few examples of outreach systems we hope to establish.”
Winner of the Feeding the Community category, the Keel Row in Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, followed up a £1,000 donation to charity partner Daft as a Brush by using Coca-Cola’s £10,000 spur to complete important upgrades at the site in the hope of continuing the very work that saw it crowed a Pub Hero in 2020.
The funding has primarily been used to install new, more secure, pub doors, recarpet the venue throughout and pay for new dining chairs in the restaurant.
The team also kept a further £1,000 aside to donate to Daft as a Brush, which provides a free transport service for cancer patients across the north east when travelling to hospital for chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
“The improvements we’ve made with the grant have made a huge difference – we’ve been wanting to make them for a while, but something else always comes along and takes priority,” publican Sharon Herron said.
“To receive such a sizeable lump sum from Coca-Cola has made this possible for us at last, and as well as treating ourselves and our customers to some upgrades on-site, we’re so glad to keep supporting the amazing work of Daft as a Brush.
“When we’re finally able to re-open it will be even more special, as we can welcome our loyal customers to a new and improved Keel Row. We’re incredibly grateful for all their support so far.”
What’s more, during England’s third national lockdown in January, Herron and her team have continued to provide essential services and resources to those in need by collecting and donating around 50 laptops to help local families who are home-schooling while continuing to provide a takeaway service.
“We’ve been inspired by the ways in which publicans have stepped up to support local people throughout the coronavirus pandemic, despite many facing hardship themselves,” Paul Robertson, head of on-premise at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) GB added.
“The Coca-Cola Community Pub Fund is our way of saying a heartfelt ‘thank you’, and the grant money is designed to help these businesses – and their communities – get back on their feet when they’re able to. The Keel Row interior looks amazing and we’re so pleased for the team.”
‘Cause for optimism as we go into 2021’
Winner of the Pub Shop category at the 2020 awards, the Spread Eagle pub in Bromley Cross, Greater Manchester, has used Coca-Cola’s £10,000 grant to transform its outside space and boost its capacity for drinking, dining and watching sports all year round – as well as hosting a Covid-secure winter wonderland and Santa’s grotto.
Following a £1,000 donation to the team’s chosen charity, the Friends of Hough Lane Garden group, the pub’s operators doubled the size of its now 16x26ft outdoor decking area and installed five six-seater pods made from upcycled garden sheds.
Every part of the outdoor area is now covered by CCTV, in reach of a heater, and can see one of three new outdoor TV sets. The operators have also invested in festoon lighting and a retractable awning.
“Our new outside space gives us far more capacity while social distancing measures are in place – and when restrictions are finally lifted altogether, it can comfortably host more than 100 people, seated and standing,” Daniel Dunne, who runs the pub with George Campbell, said.
“The upgrades to our garden mean we’ll be able to entertain more customers and offer an even better experience – and gives us cause for optimism as we go into 2021.”
The Spread Eagle’s team has also continued with its community work, providing Christmas hampers for everyone over the age of 75 in the community with the help of the Egerton and Bromley Cross Support Group and their suppliers.
Dunne and Campbell also volunteered as marshals when the first Covid vaccinations were administered to the area’s elderly and vulnerable.
“So many pubs have shown remarkable compassion and resilience since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak – that’s why we’re so keen to support them, and for their customers to do the same when they can and when restrictions allow,” CCEP's Robertson added.
“The transformation of the Spread Eagle’s garden is amazing, and we hope it gives their business a boost in 2021 and beyond.”