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Real Ale campaigners hails Local Pub Week success, but urge more support for pubs

John Freeman
Ale campaigners outside the Golden Ball, Lancaster, during Local Pubs Week“The local” is a valuable social asset but is under threat and needs your support. That's the message from The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) who marked Local Pubs Week in the Lancaster area with events celebrating the role of pubs in the life of the community.

“Community and Renewal” was the theme of the week in which Lunesdale CAMRA highlighted both the historical significance of pubs and local brewing and the struggle for survival currently facing numerous pubs. The branch marked the occasion with a public meeting and with visits to three pubs it describes as “local heroes.”

A meeting at Lancaster's The Borough celebrated the 140th anniversary of local pub company and sometime brewer, Mitchell's, and the 40th birthday of CAMRA, and called for action to help save threatened pubs.

The meeting was attended by three generations of the Barker family, owners of Mitchell's.

Speaking for the firm, Andrew Barker said that Mitchell's had been “part of the fabric of the community for 140 years. And our commitment to real ale is as strong as ever.

"For us, cask ale is king,” he said, with the company functioning as “effectively a free house chain with an excellent variety of ales.” The firm's acquisition of York Brewery was a natural development. “Getting back into brewing was inevitable as brewing is part of our heritage.”

Later in the week CAMRA members and supporters visited local pubs with dramatic stories of struggle and survival against the odds. The George & Dragon on Lancaster's quayside, winner of CAMRA's Most Improved Pub award, had been transformed from a nondescript, poorly supportted venue into a thriving community local by young landlords Ian and Kye Lloyd.

The historic and atmospheric Golden Ball, a remote venue on the Lune estuary which can be cut off at high tide, had been shut down by its former owners, but had been restored and reopened as a free house by inovative new manager, Steve Hunt. It now offered a choice of real ales and good food.

Final call was at The Smugglers' Den, Morecambe's oldest pub. Here, after seven years of building a community local selling great real ale, Chris and Sue Mason were quitting, effectively forced out by the crisis affecting the trade.

“Pubs Week shows that these are the best and worst of times," says CAMRA Social Secretary Julian Holt. "There's more good beer around than ever before, and some locals - the ones that have found the right formula - are thriving.

"On the other hand, nationally 29 pubs a week are closing, and countless others are just hanging on. This is a real crisis for local communities. Saving the pub should be the main priority for campaigners now.”

• Lunesdale CAMRA: