Beer is the key to communities - study

EXPERTS have discovered the fabric holding the communities of East Anglia together - beer.

Laurence Cawley

EXPERTS have discovered the fabric holding the communities of East Anglia together - beer.

Brewer Greene King commissioned a study by leading anthropologist Kate Fox to look at the role of pubs in the 21st Century.

The Oxford University-based social scientist claims the survival of the British pub is a matter of both local and national significance because of the role it plays in the lives of East Anglians.

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Reporting back on her findings, Dr Fox said her research showed pubs helped prevent family arguments and helped bridge gaps between people of different ages.

She said: “While many people bemoan the breakdown of community in Britain, the local pub continues to serve as a hub for sociability and the bringing together of people from different walks of life in a way that no other social institution can.

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“British people feel very strongly about 'the pub' and its place in the nation's infrastructure as well as the individual communities all pubs serve. They really are a vital social lifeline.”

Her findings show nearly a third of East Anglians believe their pub is a “vital” part of their communities and one of the few places where strangers are confident about striking up a conversation with somebody they do not know.

Landlord Pete Shaves, who runs The Bushel in St John's Street with his wife Christine, said: “People just like coming in and meeting everybody and our patrons vary from 18 right up to the 70s and 80s, it is very mixed. For me, it is like people coming into my front room.

Mr Shaves said despite the importance of public houses, evenings out were the first thing axed from people's budgets when finances got tight. This, he said, was a great shame because a trip down to the pub did not have to cost much and people gained psychologically from getting out for a while and speaking with others in a friendly relaxed environment.

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said the study - a combination of polling and focus groups among pub goers - showed the role of the pub remained strong despite challenges the industry faces in the current climate and in the post smoking-ban era.

“Pubs may have a tradition that goes back centuries, but it is the future that matters most. The message from this research is extremely positive: it shows that the pub is not only relevant now, but that its appeal is abiding over time,” he said.

The key findings:

A third of 18-24 year olds say that online interaction will never be able to compete with real encounters with friends, family and new acquaintances in the pub, while one in four young people use virtual social networks as a means to boost their get togethers at pubs.

More than 40% of East Anglians also voted the pub better for family get-togethers than hosting at home.

More than 1.2 million East Anglians (32%) have a portfolio of pubs that they rely on for interaction with different social groups on different occasions - from places after work to moan about their boss to romantic pubs for a drink with a date

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