Don't call time...put on a panto!

Essex County Standard: Don't call time...put on a panto! Don't call time...put on a panto!

OH yes they did! Pub staff looking for a way to beat the January blues put on a pantomime.

The novel idea was one way they tried to keep customers coming into the Foresters Arms, in Castle Road, Colchester.

As well as panto Good King Wenceslas, they also held quiz nights, music jam sessions and guest chef nights.

Impressed by the pub’s efforts, Camra – the Campaign for Real Ale – has featured the Foresters in its national Pubs and the Economy campaign.

It aims to promote the benefits of pubs to the British economy and encourage more people to use their local this month.

The pub will feature in posters used as part of the campaign, which will be put up in pubs around the country.

Camra says pubs and the beer industry isworth £19billion a year to the UK economy, with pubs employing more than 500,000 people nationwide.

But the annual January lull of trade could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for struggling pubs up and down the UK – with an average of 26 pubs a week closing.

Louise Parkin, chef at the Foresters Arms, said: “One of our customers who lives around the corner e-mailed and said Camra were doing this and we saw it as an opportunity for promotion.

“I took a picture of our barman Steve Doublefield in the cellar and they agreed to use it.

“Any sort of promotion is good in January for pubs because it is very quiet.

“I think it is because everybody spends all their money at Christmas and have now got bills to pay, so they don’t want to go out in the wet and windy weather. We are trying to entice them in.”

The panto was one of those ideas used at the pub for the first time to draw those punters in.

Mrs Parkin, who played Buxom Bertha in their colourful panto, said: “It was an idea that was come up with by regular Rob Brown, who is the writer and creative director.

“I was sitting outside with him in August when he dreamt it up. It has just grown from there and has become this enormous monster.”

As word spread, customers said they wanted to take part and regulars put together the production using their own unwanted junk for the set, sourcing costumes from charity shops to keep costs down.

In all, the panto featured nine characters, including four pub workers.

Mrs Parkin said: “Our neighbours and regulars are all involved in the production. We are raising money for the RNLI.

Everybody just said it was a great idea.”

Seats sold out for the first performance last Friday, so a second one was staged last night.

Audiences were asked to make a donation to the charity.

Mrs Parkin, 46, of nearby Roman Road, was herself a Foresters Arms regular before a job came up there 11 months ago.

She added: “It keeps people coming in. As long as we can keep our pub as a community venue, we are happy.”

The panto was supported by retired landlady Barbara Kingston and her son, landlord Jimmy Kingston.

Mike Benner, CAMRA Chief Executive, added: “Pubs play an important part in the UK economy and need to be protected and supported. This support could play an important role in saving many British pubs.”

The campaign also calls on the Government to freeze beer duty in the 2014 Budget. Last year there was a 1p cut and the duty escalator, which added 2 per cent above inflation to beer

Comments (1)

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4:30pm Tue 14 Jan 14

Jess Jephcott says...

Brilliant story Gazette. Keep it up please.
Brilliant story Gazette. Keep it up please. Jess Jephcott
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