The Great British Pub Awards 2020 celebrate lockdown's community heroes

Quiz-master landlords and party-planning publicans are among those recognised by this year’s awards

The Great British Pub Awards
From hosting NHS workers to delivering free meals, this year's awards highlight the pubs which have been supporting their regulars through the pandemic Credit: The Great British Pub Awards

On the very day a 10pm curfew came into force in hospitality venues across the country, the 21st annual Great British Pub Awards were announced this evening (via a digital ceremony, of course), in a powerful show of solidarity for the country's struggling industry. 

New categories were introduced this year which replaced the event's traditional focus on good food and good beer with a recognition of good deeds instead, celebrating businesses that have gone above and beyond to support local residents and frontline workers during the crisis. With categories including Feeding the Community, Charity Champion and Front Line Support, the awards set out to highlight publicans’ acts of kindness in lockdown, and the role they played in boosting morale from feeding the elderly and vulnerable to providing NHS workers with somewhere to stay.

Nearly 1,000 pubs entered the competition (fewer than previous years, due to the change in emphasis), and the 15 winners were voted for by more than 65,000 members of the public, revealed during a virtual awards ceremony hosted by TV presenter Stephen Mulhern. The winners will be supported by a community pub fund of £165,000 donated by Coca-Cola GB.

“Early on in the pandemic we received calls from pub owners telling us of the community work going on in towns, villages and cities,” says Ed Bedington, editor of pub trade publication The Morning Advertiser, which organises the Great British Pub Awards.  

“This was all being done despite the pub owners fearing for their own livelihoods. But they knew, even though they faced adversity themselves, they had to continue to support people in their communities. That’s just what publicans do.”

Here are this year’s inspiring winners...

Charity Champion Winner

The Portsmouth Arms, Basingstoke

The Portsmouth Arms raised £23,000 for The Pink Place Cancer Charity in Basingstoke Credit: The Portsmouth Arms

During lockdown, general manager Richard Curtis launched a daily Facebook Live pub quiz streamed from the pub, with each entrant invited to donate to local charities including St. Michael’s Hospice, Basingstoke Foodbank and Hampshire Medical Fund. As well as a quiz for adults, he ran one especially for children, too, hosted by his nine-year-old son Oliver. In May, Curtis broke the Guinness World Record for running the longest virtual quiz (a whopping 34 hours and 11 minutes), raising more than £23,000 for The Pink Place Cancer Charity in Basingstoke. His quizzes have raised more than £47,000 and have passed 1,000,000 viewers. 

Sponsored by Booker Makro

Community Services Winner

The Fox at Peasemore (near Newbury)

The Fox at Peasemore became a village shop during lockdown Credit: The Fox at Peasemore

In a secluded Berkshire village with an elderly population, Philip and Lauren Davison of country pub The Fox at Peasemore endeavoured to ensure everyone was being looked after. With the nearest shop four miles away, it created a village shop stocked with supplies, recruiting volunteers to deliver shopping to elderly neighbours and check in with them. “We’ve continued to tackle loneliness, creating a ‘Coffee Morning’ for residents with seating set up outside to ensure guests who feel anxious have somewhere safe to go,” says Philip. 

Sponsored by Heineken

Community Mindfulness Winner

White Horse, Kings Lynn

The White Horse delivered supplies to the key workers and hospital staff at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust Credit: The White Horse

The White Horse’s Marvin Tillman hosted a weekly live DJ set on Facebook, streaming a party into people’s homes every Friday evening for two hours to keep in touch with the pub’s regulars, and partnered with local church the  Liberty Worship Centre to donate refreshments and personal care supplies to key workers and hospital staff at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust. A popular local with a beer garden, The White Horse usually plays host to karaoke, darts, pool and quizzes.

Business Continuity Winner

The Nook Cocktail Bar, Weymouth 

The Nook in Weymouth switched to delivering bottled cocktails

Not disheartened by lockdown restrictions, beachfront bar The Nook (famed for its espresso martini) launched a home cocktail delivery service in lockdown, creating freshly made bottled cocktails to enjoy at home alongside homemade pizza and sides, while sending a twice weekly pizza delivery to the local ambulance service. Supported by regulars and the local community, it has since sold over 40,000 at-home cocktails. “We weren’t going to be beaten,” says owner Amy Burton. 

Sponsored by Diageo

Feeding the Community Winner

The Keel Row, Seaton Delaval (Northumberland) 

As well as delivering free meals to care homes, at Easter, publican Sharon Herron set out with a Peter Rabbit mascot to deliver treats to nearby households Credit: The Keel Row

When pubs closed, The Keel Row’s volunteers launched a free delivery and takeaway service. Prices for home-cooked dishes from the dog-friendly community pub 10 miles from Newcastle were reduced to ensure all were able to access the service, and meals were delivered daily to local care homes and sheltered accommodation. At Easter, publican Sharon Herron set out with a Peter Rabbit mascot to deliver treats to nearby households. She also introduced an at-home afternoon tea service, including a special VE day afternoon tea.

Sponsored by Ei Publican Partnerships

Front Line Support Winner

The Golden Lion Inn, Redruth (Cornwall) 

The Golden Lion Inn gave away 2,500 free meals

In lockdown The Golden Lion Inn placed a bank of fridges on its forecourt stocked with nutritious, easily reheated pub kitchen meals for NHS staff, to ensure they had free time without the worry of going to the shops or cooking. The free service was advertised to nurses and paramedics, and opened up to other frontline workers, such as carers and the police. More than 2,500 free meals were given away in total, with some also delivered to staff and residents at Blackrock Nursing Care home in Troon. 

Sponsored by Coca Cola European Partners

Keeping the Community Entertained

The Swan, Clewer, Windsor

The Swan delivered numerous online events to its community, including bingo, book club, bedtime stories and "Dancing through the Decades" Credit: The Swan

The Swan Clewer Community Interest Company formed in 2018 to renovate a derelict Victorian coaching inn and create a community pub. It shares its space with sixth form students of The Green Room, for young people who struggle with mainstream education. During lockdown, the pub's events moved online and were made freely available to combat isolation, with a Monday night book club and sewing group meeting via Zoom, making bunting to decorate the courtyard. The Swan also ran bingo, quizzes and ‘Dancing Through the Decades’ at Sunday teatime with a local singing duo via a series of Facebook Live gigs. Its Youtube channel launched ‘Rachel Reads’, in which volunteers recorded bedtime stories to help frazzled parents. Attendees were asked to make a voluntary donation of the cost of a drink, split between the pub’s kitchen refurbishment fund and a nominated local charity. 

Sponsored by Sky

Pub Shop Winner

Spread Eagle, Bromley Cross (near Bolton)

The Spread Eagle became a community shop and came up with new initiatives to deliver to its regulars Credit: The Spread Eagle

The Spread Eagle quickly pivoted to reopen as a community shop run by volunteers, sourcing daily fresh fruit and veg, dairy and meat, setting up a free delivery service for those shielding in the village seven days a week. It also sold takeaway food including Sunday lunches and fish and chips, afternoon teas with Prosecco and cheese and wine boards, reaching up to 100 covers a day. A balloon bouquet and sweet box hamper was created for teens missing their last day of school and their proms. 

Sponsored by Booker Makro

Sheltering the Community Winner

The Crown Inn, Gayton (East Anglia)

The Crown Inn offered its rooms to NHS staff on the frontline Credit: The Crown Inn

During lockdown, The Crown Inn country pub near the Sandringham Estate offered all three of its rooms to the coronavirus ward staff at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn - staff who had to move out of their homes in a bid to protect their families. While staying, they received free room and laundry service for over three months. A website was developed to help more hospital staff find accommodation in West Norfolk, drumming up support and rooms from fellow hospitality businesses and enabling 30 NHS staff to move into, ensuring they were closer to the hospital where they could help more coronavirus patients.

Staff Welfare Winner

The Bowgie Inn, Newquay

The Bowgie Inn's Sally Pickles did all she could to take care of her staff and keep their team culture alive Credit: The Bowgie Inn

A team of 29 were furloughed during The Bowgie’s temporary closure from March, but owner Sally Pickles endeavoured to support the team’s mental and physical wellbeing with online group chats, virtual team yoga and video calls with every staff member to check in, boosting morale via social media and through remote activities such as stargazing via an app. “Socialising is a huge aspect of life at The Bowgie and I did everything I could to recreate our culture online,” she says.

Sponsored by Booker Makro

Admiral Taverns Pub Hero of the Year

The Clifton Arms, Blackburn 

The Clifton Arms Credit: The Clifton Arms

According to the Great British Pub Awards, Clifton Arms publican Carole Davis is a “superb example of a licensee who has put everything into caring for her local community during the coronavirus pandemic.” Over Easter, the pub provided free lunches to the vulnerable in the community, partnering with charity Benefit Mankind to prepare meals for those in need. Davis also prepared lunchboxes for postmen, donated Easter eggs to the teachers and children of key workers to keep their spirits up, and raised money through the pub’s social channels to send fruit boxes to hospital workers. 

Ei Publican Partnerships Pub Hero Winner

Mowden Hotel, Darlington 

The Mowden Hotel in Darlington delivered over 10,200 free meals  Credit: The Mowden Hotel

Simon and Rachel Leadbetter and their children Mia, Jude and Blake cooked and delivered over 10,200 free meals for the most vulnerable residents in their community in lockdown with the help of volunteers, using surplus food and raising £9,500 in donations crowdfunded via a JustGiving page.

Greene King Pub Hero 

The Fountain, Aberfeldy (Perthshire) 

The Fountain has raised £130,000 and delivered close to 40,000 free meals Credit: The Fountain

On 19 March, The Fountain prepped a free evening meal for the isolated residents to use up stock. It soon grew into a free food delivery service “Feldy-Roo”, delivering to over 100 homes by the end of the week. By April it had expanded to cover a 25 mile radius delivering food and newspapers to 200 homes, twice a day. The residents also received a free newspaper. The project has received grants from The National Lottery, SSE, NHS Tayside and Foundation Scotland. To date, it has raised £130,000 and delivered close to 40,000 free meals.

Punch Pubs & Co Hero of the Year

The Victoria, Newton Le Willows (near Warrington)

The Victoria's Kath O'Neil and local volunteer group ‘Newton Helping Hands’ have been supporting the community through the crisis Credit: The Victoria

The Victoria’s Kath O’Neil is lauded for turning a difficult pub into a well-loved traditional pub. She set up a food bank at the pub in April, making food hampers each morning to deliver to each house with the help of volunteers. Together with local volunteer group ‘Newton Helping Hands’, she and the team have delivered to 150 houses a week through the lockdown period; at Easter, she raised more than £1000 to buy 2500 Easter eggs - for every primary school child in Newton le Willows.

Stars Pubs & Bars Hero 

Hare and Hounds, West Ardsley (near Wakefield) 

Licensee Jackie Fairburn and her partner Patrick McElroy supported shielding local residents throughout lockdown Credit: The Hare and Hounds

Licensee Jackie Fairburn and her partner Patrick McElroy supported 30 vulnerable and shielding local residents throughout lockdown. As well as calling for a weekly chat, the couple did shopping and undertook errands. “The need was phenomenal. Loneliness was a major issue for those living on their own. We were delighted to be able to help,” says Jackie. During lockdown the pub also ran a food takeaway and delivery service, serving an average of 100 people a day; profits have been invested into the pub’s garden, adding a bar and a covered area seating 180 socially distant covers.