“I would definitely recommend getting involved in an INN CROWD residency to other publicans as it worked really well and has been of big benefit to the pub.”
Yvonne Brown, secretary of The Dog Inn, shares how an INN CROWD residency has left a lasting legacy for this Lancashire pub
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, when no live performances could take place in pubs as they were closed or under restrictions, INN CROWD invited applications from artists to become remote writers in residence at INN CROWD pubs across the country.
Community-owned pub The Dog Inn at Belthorn, near Blackburn, was one of the amazing venues who collaborated with artists on lockdown residencies, working with INN CROWD’s regional partner Spot On Lancashire and playwright Adam Hughes on a project called ‘Locally Brewed’. This residency saw Adam create four short stories about the Belthorn community, inspired by tales from local residents, including a story about how villagers saved the pub. Listen to these wonderful stories here: Locally Brewed – The Dog Inn at Belthorn
As well as researching and writing the stories for performance, Adam also produced a special edition of the pub’s customer newspaper ‘Dog’s Life’ featuring the stories, which is available to read here: spoton_dogs-life_041120.pdf (thedoginnatbelthorn.net)
In November 2020, volunteers from the pub delivered drinks and copies of this newspaper to locals, who were invited to join in an online event, that helped the pub celebrate its then five years of community ownership, and where one of Adam’s audio stories was premiered.
Pride in local stories told
Yvonne Brown, secretary of The Dog Inn Community Benefit Society, says: “Local residents really enjoyed the residency and felt pride in doing the stories. Celebrating village heroes is really important.”
She adds: “The residency was a great opportunity to put together a history of the village and we now have the newspaper for posterity which is also great for new residents to the village to learn more about Belthorn. I would definitely recommend getting involved in an INN CROWD residency to other publicans as it worked really well and has been of big benefit to the pub.”
Warm response to lockdown initiative
The Dog Inn, Welcome – The Dog Inn at Belthorn, which has a community café, quality food offer and excellent drinks range, including many local beers, also engaged with INN CROWD’s ‘Winter Warmer’s project, supported by Pub is The Hub, www.pubisthehub.org.uk, during the pandemic.
The ‘Winter Warmers’ initiative, Winter Warmers – Inn Crowd, saw poets from around the UK commissioned to write poems about pubs, to help support both artists and pubs who were among sectors hit hardest by the Covid-19 lockdowns. The poems were printed on ‘postcards of positivity’ and sent to pubs around the UK to use to help spread some cheer and help keep connected with local people.
The Dog Inn team distributed the poem postcards to all 250 homes in Belthorn, featuring a personal note to villagers on them from the pub team saying they hoped they were keeping safe and looked forward to seeing them back at the pub when it reopened.
Yvonne says: “Winter Warmers was a lovely initiative to help pubs keep in touch with their locals. I really liked it as a gesture to our local residents. It was a positive thing to do during lockdown to keep the pub in peoples’ minds.”
INN CROWD shows benefit pub
The Dog Inn also has a strong focus on entertainment, with its most popular activities including a weekly quiz, monthly bingo night, murder mystery events and live music nights.
Its entertainment offer also includes live theatre performances with INN CROWD, with six shows having previously been hosted in the pub’s upstairs community room.
Yvonne says: “The shows give pubs an opportunity to highlight the different things pubs can be, rather than just a pub. There is a good buzz to the shows and they are really simple to put on in a pub. The shows now have a following at the pub.”
The Dog Inn typically charges £8 for adults and £6 for children for shows and people can book tickets online through Ticket Source or buy them at the bar. The pub’s team try and promote the shows six weeks to a month in advance and market them through posters in the pub, on social media and on the pub’s newsletter.
Yvonne adds: “The shows widens the exposure of the pub and helps attract different people to it. People come from some distance, not just the village to come to the shows. After they have visited for a show they often come back to visit the pub at another time.”
She adds: “Hosting the shows is incremental business, and I would recommend to other publicans to go for it and try it. It is something different and you and your team will enjoy it. INN CROWD is very professional and easy to work with on the shows.”
Yvonne’s Top Tips On Hosting
- Market the shows through a range of channels and make the most of the materials available through INN CROWD. Highlight the shows to customers as soon as possible after booking.
- Ask INN CROWD for advice on the shows available and which might work best for your size of venue and customer base.
- Go for it. It gives your pub another point of difference for local people.
- Get involved with INN CROWD projects on offer. They are fun and will bring a lasting benefit to your pub.
The host touring scheme for the Dog Inn is SpotOn Lancashire. INN CROWD is funded by Arts Council England.
The lead partners are Applause Rural Touring, Creative Arts East and the National Centre for Writing.