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Monday, June 27, 2022

New film is ‘a love letter’ to British pubs, an institution under threat | Pubs

They are the lifeblood of many communities, but tens of thousands of pubs and breweries across Britain have closed down since the 1970s, with thousands more falling victim to Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions. Now, leading British film-makers have taken inspiration from the near loss of their own community pubs to produce a feature film that they describe as “a love-letter to family, community, real ale and Britain’s forgotten rural traditions”.

Writer-directors Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft – who made Fisherman’s Friends, one of the most successful British independent films of the past decade – are about to start shooting the uplifting story, which also explores serious issues, from the dying trade of pubs to mental health.

Titled Mother’s Pride, it is a comedy drama about a failing pub, a divided community and a grieving family whose lives are changed by brewing real ale and entering the Great British beer awards.

Moorcroft said: “Pubs are really important for communities, bringing people together, which is especially pertinent with Covid as they tackle loneliness and social isolation. But on our location scouting, we were visiting pubs that have been empty for two years – and will never become pubs again. Each is filled with history and memories. It’s really sad.”

Leonard said the losses were “particularly resonant when we’re all lacking human connection” because of Covid: “That’s why our film feels important to make now.”

Filming begins in May in a Somerset village pub. James Spring, the film’s producer, said: “Somebody very valiantly tried to run it for a number of years and then, when Covid and lockdown came, that was the moment to call it a day.”

A still from the 2019 film Fisherman’s Friends.
Fisherman’s Friends, the warm-hearted 2019 film made by the team behind Mother’s Pride. Photograph: Rob Youngson

Noting that some of the lost pubs had survived for hundreds of years until recently, he added: “With the lockdown, for a business that was tough anyway, that’s been the final nail in the coffin for a lot of them.”

The film-makers have experience in their respective communities of pub closures and local people coming together to save those pubs.

Leonard recalled her childhood memories of the Shoemakers Arms in the Brecon Beacons national park, an 1800s cottage once occupied by a shoemaker before becoming a tavern, and where she remembers horses tethered outside “to get round drink-driving”.

“I grew up in a farming community in the mountains in mid-Wales, very rural and remote. This one pub was very important as a watering hole. There wasn’t anywhere else for people to meet, unless it was chapel. The mental health of the community is serviced by people being able to get together. This was a lifeline. When it was faced with closure, the community clubbed together and bought the pub,” she said.

Moorcroft grew up in rural Essex where one of the local pubs was the Compasses, Littley Green, whose future was secured after it was bought back from a pub chain by members of a brewing family who had once owned it.

Industry figures vary, but more than 11,000 pubs closed between 2012 and 2021, according to AlixPartners CGA Market Recovery Monitor.

Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said pubs were crying out for government support and that their loss to communities was “immeasurable”. “A local can increase your number of friends, your wellbeing, your happiness and your mental health. Once a pub closes down, you lose all of that. There are big housing estates that have no communal space at all,” he said.

Moorcroft said: “This is an industry under serious threat. The government needs to help them. The film is a call to arms.”

The film-makers have an impressive track record. Fisherman’s Friends, based on the true story of singing Cornish fishermen who signed a record deal, had success worldwide and inspired a sequel, Fisherman’s Friends: One and All, to be released in cinemas this year. Their other hits include Finding Your Feet, a romantic comedy that has inspired a French remake. The same film-makers are also about to produce a biopic about Levi Roots, who found fame and fortune after securing an investment for his Reggae Reggae sauce on Dragons’ Den.

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