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CAMRA: Pubs in the Community

This week’s article from Neville Grundy, former Editor of the CAMRA Branch Magazine, Ale & Hearty.

The Plough Hotel

"No great loss.” said a friend when I mentioned that The Plough at Crossens was to be demolished and replaced by a housing estate. He was referring to the fact that it didn’t serve real ale, but I could not agree: a pub that does not sell real ale might do so in the future but a housing estate never will. There is, of course, more to it that that. A pub of any kind is one of a diminishing number of places where we can meet people outside of our own families and workplaces.

CAMRA campaigns for pubs as well as real ale. Contrary to stereotypes, CAMRA members do not favour only grim and grimy back street locals. In fact, although I have drunk in such pubs in the past, I wouldn’t know where to find one nowadays. CAMRA set up a National Inventory of pubs with largely unspoilt interiors in response to the wave of misguided refurbishments that ruined so many pubs in the 1960s and 1970s. Knock out all those walls, the thinking went, and you can cram more people in. The problem was that people preferred not to sit in a room that had all the ambience of an airport transit lounge. Furthermore, it took so many people to make such rooms seem even half full that even reasonably busy pubs often lacked atmosphere.

Two local National Inventory pubs demonstrate the range of pubs CAMRA wants to preserve. The Scottish Piper in Lydiate proudly announces that it is the oldest pub in Lancashire. It has a thatched roof, whitewashed walls and three cosy rooms served by a small bar. Local legend has it that it was named after an injured Scottish Piper left by Bonnie Prince Charlie’s retreating Highland army in 1746; he stayed and married the landlord’s daughter.

In contrast, the Philharmonic Dining Rooms in Liverpool is an extravaganza of Victorian exuberance. It has elaborate high ceilings and beautiful woodwork carved by the craftsmen who usually worked on luxury ships. Even the gents, all marble and brass, is justly famous.

But any pub can be a focal point for a community. As well as selling drinks, they provide rooms for functions and meetings, home bases for darts, pool, bowling or quiz teams, and venues for live music, showing films or watching the match. Many also do reasonably priced meals. What other institutions in our community can do all of that?

The local CAMRA Branch celebrates its 30th Anniversary this Saturday 19th April. As it is Easter Saturday we are not holding a formal occasion, but some of us will be in the Baron’s Bar from about 2:30pm, where it all started on that date. We shall also applaud the return of normal glasses, and enjoy the great selection of beers at a good price. We’ll probably visit a few other spots later too. If you would like to join us, please just turn up.

Contact CAMRA on Tel: 01704 573768 or email mikepcamra@gmail.com if you have any queries.

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