LAST Saturday I found myself not at my usual windswept non league football ground but at the theatre.
My excuse was that The Bevy had been nominated for “Best community Business” at The Argus’s Community Stars awards at the Theatre Royal.
A motley crew of staff, committee members and customers went along and were chuffed to win.
As we swarmed the stage one of our regulars spoke to The Argus about how The Bevy has been a lifeline for him.
Born with a disability and hearing problems he recently had a stroke and has lost most of his sight, and with it his job.
He has been welcomed as part of our stalwart day-time retired drinking club and one of the builders swapped numbers in case he ever needed a lift to The Bevy.
It might not seem much, but those little acts of kindness strengthen our communities and make them much better places for everyone.
The old timers at the bar have spoken how since The Bevy re-opened they feel like they are back in the human race, have somewhere friendly to go and have met more of their neighbours.
A simple hello in the morning makes all the difference.
They have been pivotal in helping us organise our first garden festival, kids’ Hallowe’en party and the children’s Christmas party.
They helped raise the money for a defibrillator that will now be available outside the pub 24/7 and have raised money for elderly residents who come to our Friday lunch club so they can all afford a Christmas dinner.
We live in a society that is increasingly isolated, where old people are left to rot and people live in fear of crime.
We know that what we do will be needed more and more as community spaces are lost to property vultures, greedy pubcos and a tsunami of council cuts that will decimate services for the needy and vulnerable.
Against this backdrop, one of our visions we had when we campaigned for nearly five years to open The Bevy was that it would feel like a front room; somewhere you felt immediately welcome when you walked through the door.
We have already shown that we are more than just a pub with 40 groups using us since we opened last December – everything from felt making to history groups to health MOTs, WI knit and natter, our monthly repair cafe, weekly senior tea club, community choir, running club, Spiral disability group, men and women darts teams, the list goes on.
We’ve also held our first wedding where at one point there were 11 vicars in the house.
It’s not all been plain sailing, like any new business we have suffered from cash flow problems, building problems, personnel problems.
We have the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy students coming in to cook Christmas dinner for older residents on the estate.
We also have Spiral, the disability group here every Wednesday and Lee Sullivan, who runs his own building firm, is buying their members a three course Christmas meal.
It is these sorts of events which put The Bevy at the heart of the community.
There is a great mix of people who come here.
When we do get it wrong we get it in the ear, but we have a suggestions box, and actually most of the people complaining do so because they want The Bevy to work as well.
It’s their pub.
Our co-operative model isn’t new.
There are already 35 co-op pubs across the country and hundreds more co-operatively owned shops, but the majority of these are in villages.
What The Bevy has done is break the mould and become the first one on a housing estate, with we hope, a blueprint of how to stem the tide of 29 pubs closing a week by making them more than just pubs.
We have spoken to campaigners wanting to re-open the The Rosehill, The Cuthbert and Lecturn pubs as community spaces.
We aren’t out of the woods yet and still want people to become shareholders for as little as £10, or more if you can afford it – it would be the perfect Christmas present for the person who has everything.
We understand not everyone has money to spare.
But you can also support us just by popping in for a pint or a coffee, booking your company Christmas meal or using us for meetings and parties.
When you boil it all down, its about knowing your neighbours and creating jobs, wealth and opportunities that will make Moulsecoomb and Bevendean better places for us all to live and work.
Warren Carter is chairman of the Bevy.