Pubs are the focal point of communities up and down the country and yet, under increasing financial pressures, three close their doors for good every single day. At what cost?
Long Live The Local, the campaign which aims to promote pubs and cut beer duty, returns today to celebrate the positive role that pubs play in our lives & communities – and with a stark warning of the threat facing this Great British institution.
In 2018, the Chancellor listened to the voices of 116,000 people who signed the Long Live the Local petition and almost 50,000 people who wrote to their MP about the planned increase in beer duty, and froze the tax at the budget. However, with a rise planned in the Autumn Budget, the Government has merely postponed the damaging tax hike.
With increasing financial pressures from a range of taxes, including VAT, business rates and beer duty, three local pubs close their doors for good every day. This is why Britain’s Beer Alliance – the cross-industry group comprising independent pubs, pub companies , breweries and industry bodies including The British Beer & Pub Association – is yet again calling for an end to ongoing rises to beer duty to help local pubs.
This latest installment of the campaign revolves around a 30-minute documentary telling the story of The Horns Lodge in South Chailey, East Sussex – a pub that acts as a perfect microcosm of the positive and vital role pubs play in their local communities up and down the country, but also the jeopardy they face.
In this film, its universal, more than 250-year-old story is told through its eclectic group of locals – and the multitude of experiences, life events and everyday moments they have shared in this pub. It is a heartwarming account of ‘the focal point of the village’ – and it is difficult to watch without developing an urge to drop in yourself.
The film is barely six minutes in as one regular describes the pub’s ubiquitous appeal at the heart of the local community: “If there’s a power cut, you head to the pub. If there’s a snowstorm, you head to the pub. If you’ve run out of anything, you head to the ----". The film stops in its tracks, the screen black, before a devastating image flashes onto the screen: The Horns Lodge, no longer full of life but decrepit, empty, and boarded up.
It is revealed that the pressures facing all pubs became too much for The Horns Lodge, which shut its doors for the final time on 1 January 2019. The local community, devastated by this loss, initially campaigned to try and buy the pub, but its future is uncertain and the pub remains empty and closed.
The documentary, unexpectedly cut short, mirrors the lifespan of the pub and the community around it. For the remaining 24 minutes of runtime, it remains frozen on a simple but hard-hitting message: ‘Three pubs a day close their doors for good. Sign the petition to cut beer tax’.
The documentary is complemented by three shorter films, each focusing on some of the important roles pubs play in society: for local communities (‘Saving pubs saves communities’), live music (‘Keeping pubs alive keeps music live’) and sport (‘Pubs keep the big game on the big screen’). The campaign also includes a content partnership with LADbible, paid social and digital activity, a consumer-facing PR campaign, an OOH poster campaign in football stadia and a politically-focused media campaign ahead of the Autumn Budget. In-pub kits, including branded posters, beer mats and badges, will be placed into 25,000 pubs which have pledged their support for the campaign.
All activity will drive consumers to sign a petition – at longlivethelocal.pub – saying no to the planned increase in beer duty, which will again be delivered to 10 Downing Street ahead of the Autumn Budget.
The campaign was devised by creative agency Havas London, with support from fellow Havas UK agencies Havas Media (media planning and buying), One Green Bean (PR) and Socialyse (social and influencer outreach). Film production was through Smuggler, with political insight and programme development through Hanover.
David Cunningham, Programme Director of Long Live the Local, says: “We are seeing even more support from pub goers and publicans this year, driven by more emotive and powerful creative such as these films. When we deliver the petition to Number 10, we believe as many as 200,000 people will have signed and close to 100,000 will have written to their MP, demonstrating just how much people care about local pubs.”
Mark Whelan, Chief Creative Officer at Havas UK, says: “We made the emotional film, we made the music video – now comes the documentary. We have to keep the story consistent but find new ways of telling it each time.”