As 2020 played out, the MBCF team knew my July that a physical festival at the start of 2021 wasn’t going to happen. But we knew that we didn’t want to do nothing. And we knew that what we did had to be about the part of the beer and cider world hit hardest by the pandemic – our beloved pubs.
We held out hope that by January we’d be able to organise events in the pubs across the city to encourage customers to return. As the terribly conceived “substantial meal” requirements and curfews imposed on Manchester pubs morphed into Tier 3, all the amazing work our pubs had done over the summer to keep staff and customers safe was unjustifiably discarded. With lockdown looming, it became clear MBCF was going online.
On an early December zoom call, the #PubsMatter festival was born. A half-formed sketchy ‘roadmap’ (probably better than Monday’s, but still…) was conceived. But we needed the trust of five friends, five pubs that represented our city’s amazing pubs and would work with us to make it happen.
Five of the finest were approached and agreed – The Marble Arch, Wigan Central, Petersgate Tap, The Font Chorlton and The Smithfield Tavern. And with several other partners, we believe the #PubsMatter festival has brought you, dear drinkers, great beer, cider, fun and the connection with friends. In pubs.
We asked for five different events that reflected the characters of the pubs and we asked for beers (and ciders) that represented what we will find on the bars of those pubs when we can return. The pubs and their partners delivered (literally!).
From chillin’ with tunes from the Devils Jukebox at The Smithfield to working out that Ginger Dish is an anagram of Shindigger at the Wigan Central Quiz, we saw the best of pubs – all be it from the end of a broadband line.
And you, their customers ordered the packs, came to the events and showed them that you might be being prevented from visiting them in person, but you still love them, you miss the conversation, miss the camaraderie.
Those who attended The Marble Arch After Hours debate and who listened to the brewers and publicans at other events heard that while pubs are down and breweries have had to adapt and diversify, they are still hanging on in there.
We’re not out of the woods. There’s yet more tough times and uncertainty ahead for all hospitality.
We need to maintain the support – let’s be clear, the financial support – for all our pubs.