These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

RAISING A GLASS TO VOLUNTEERS

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Stratford Town on Saturday 21st November 2015. We lost 4-2 in front of 261 very cold fans.
It will come as no great surprise to some that I spend far too much time in the pub residents helped to re-open as the first co-op on a housing estate in the UK. However, it isn't all spent gulping down beer, but in meetings, organising events, showing people round, sorting out the garden and being drowned not by beer but by paperwork. As chair of The Bevy committee I don't get paid a penny and I don't get free drinks or food. And neither should I. While we have paid staff, our co-op pub relies on an army of volunteers to keep it going, not just saving money but also because people see it as their pub.
One of the visions we had when we opened was that it would feel like a front room; somewhere you felt immediately welcome when you walked thru the door. Our first ever garden fayre was the perfect example of how we are achieving that. From 3 to 83 years old, people mingled, tasted free nibbles and cake, carved pumpkins and enjoyed the banter. One older resident apologised for arriving early, saying otherwise she would just be sitting at home on her own. The old guys that populate the bar in the day raised nearly £200 through raffles and cake sales to make sure some of our elderly residents would be able to afford Christmas dinner with us. Last Saturday I missed another football match because we were at an awards ceremony where we won best community business in Sussex!
One lad with learning disabilities had a stroke recently and has lost most of his sight. He has been welcomed as part of the last of the summer-wine-club and one of the builders swapped numbers in case he ever needed a lift to the pub. It might not seem much, but those little acts of kindness, strengthen our communities and make them much better places for everyone. He told me at the awards ceremony he would be lost without the Bevy.
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.
We have already shown that we are more than just a pub with 40 groups using the Bevy 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, personal problems. 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.
Getting it and running has been like turning round a tanker, but we reckon we have a blueprint of how we can stop the tide of 29 pubs closing a week by making them more than just pubs. We have spoken to campaigners wanting to re-open their Brighton locals and I have met with other community pub campaigners that are springing up all around the country.
But our model is really no different to the thousands of football clubs up and down the country that rely on the same goodwill and passion to keep their teams ticking over. Come early one Slough Town match-day and you will see just how many people are involved to make sure everything runs smoothly.
So if you are thinking of any New Year resolutions this year, then I would say volunteer.
And if you're looking for an unusual gift for that awkward person then why not buy them a pub for Christmas. Shares in the Bevy are just £10 (tho obviously don't be shy if you can afford more). And while you're at it, why not sign someone up to the Slough Town 500 lottery club and help make your football club more financially stable.
Cheers!

Pre-match Slough perfectly sums up what i'm talking about. Photo by Gary House 

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