THIS WEEK’S MEETING, Wednesday 04 April

I can’t believe how quickly these meetings come round! A month is not much more than one percent of my life now, and reducing all the time! Anyway – next committee meeting will be in Stew & Oyster on Clapgate, at the usual time of 19:15, followed by a swift social drink there until about 20:45, when we’ll walk for about 30 seconds to the back door of The Bay Horse in Bay Horse Court. Then at 21:30 we’ll make the much longer trek [about 2 whole minutes], to The Bowling Green on Bondgate, until there’s nothing more to debate, or the beer runs out, or we’ve had enough of both! Mebbe see you on the night.




You’ll remember that in the March newsletter I shared some information about money collected for charities in a couple of Otley pubs, and I asked you to let me know of any others. Well I have good news – and I have bad!

First the good news – in the 13 years that Tony Grey has been the tenant of that fine establishment The Junction on Bondgate, they have collected no less than £110,000 for charities, and Tony wants to pass on massive thanks to their customers for that achievement. Even more amazing is that as he approaches retirement he’s actually scaled back their charity efforts! Yet one recent event still raised more than a thousand pounds for St George’s Crypt as well as food, clothing and toiletries, and another raised a further £200+ for the town mayor and little sisters of mercy.

Tony’s final efforts will be in support of Yorkshire Air Ambulance over Tour de Yorkshire weekend via a barbecue, raffle and commemorative t shirts; a barbecue for St Georges Crypt during the town centre cycle races; and he already has a hundred pounds for one of Hannah Cockcrofts charities – after whom the pub will be temporarily re-named on Yorkshire Day. [More details of that later.]  Tony himself will be retiring on July 8th when his son Robert will take the helm, to provide the sort of continuity that’s difficult to find in the pub trade nowadays.


And what of the bad news? Well, when I was in Stew & Oyster for a meeting recently, I asked whether they had any charity collecting boxes for the change from the round – to be told that they did have, but it had been stolen off the bar! Sad times indeed – either because someone is so bereft of feelings that they will steal from those who only want to help the disadvantaged in society; or, possibly even worse, that someone felt they were in such a poor state that their only option to survive was to steal from a charity themselves.



And talking of The Junction and Hannah Cockroft, I hope you all saw the article in The Wharfedale Observer saying that she will be visiting the pub as part of Otley Pub Club’s 2018 Yorkshire Day celebrations! That means Bondgate really is looking like the centre of events so far. Hannah will be at The Junction; Dickie Bird will hopefully be able to make it to The Otley Tavern; and, although Ian McMillan can’t make it to The Rose & Crown himself, there will be a poetry-reading event at the pub on Yorkshire Day to celebrate it being re-named in his honour. Jane Kite from Half Moon Books and Otley town poet Matthew Hedley Stoppard are inviting a number of Yorkshire poets to come and read Yorkshire poems, including of course some by ‘the Bard of Barnsley’ himself. More details nearer the time.

Other possibilities, from these responses to our invitation received so far are:

Sir Gary Verity at The Black Horse Hotel – “I’ve no idea where I will be then at the moment but if I’m in the country I will be there!”

The Brownlee Brothers (agent) at Whitakers – “The lads haven’t looked beyond April (Commonwealth Games) just yet, other than the fact it is their race season which is of course their busiest time. So at this stage there isn’t any commitment but hopefully I may get a better ideal at end April/early May.”

Anita Rani (agent) at Stew & Oyster – “Thank you for the attached invite. What a great idea! I’d love to have a pub in my name. I’ll discuss this with Anita initially. She’s now based in London- would you be able to cover her travel and accommodation if required?” 

Dame Judi Dench CH at The Horse and Farrier – “How absolutely wonderful to have a Yorkshire pub named after me! I could not be more pleased. I will put the date in my diary and keep my fingers crossed that I will be able to get to Otley on August 1, or sometime during that month. Please thank everyone for voting for me. I shall boast about it for ever! With very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, and I hope to see you in August.”



Now, here’s where I go into begging mode again! Despite having written to the agents of all 21 celebrities who will each have an Otley pub named after them, and including the stamped, self-addressed envelopes most of them ‘demanded’, 14 have never even had the courtesy to respond – even to say ‘don’t be so silly!’ Dickie and Hannah will be here because of the personal efforts of the landlords at the Otley Tavern and The junction – Peter Jackson and Tony Grey – and I’m sincerely grateful to them. Sir Gary Verity was also approached personally by our President; Ian McMillan was buttonholed at a performance, by our ex-Chairman; and the others were kind enough to take our invitation seriously and responded directly. But we would still love to get more celebrities here on the day – or at the very least, get them to send an autographed photo or something else to put behind the bar of ‘their’ pub, to acknowledge that they were voted ‘top of their class’ by the townspeople of Otley.

So here’s my latest request – do you know any of the celebrities who haven’t responded so far? Or do you perhaps know someone who does know them, who you could ask to just give them a nudge in our direction? There are still 4 months before Yorkshire Day, and we would be delighted if they could even call in at any other time before or after the date itself! Here’s the full list of the 14 who have never replied. [Or at least their agents haven’t replied – the celebrities themselves might not even be aware that we’ve invited them!] They range from Hollywood actors to international singing stars and to world class sports personalities, but it might just be that you went to school or university with them, or used to live next door, and wouldn’t feel embarrassed about asking!

Nicola Adams OBE                           Red Lion

Corinne Bailey-Rae                          White Swan

Sean Bean                                           Fleece

Alan Bennett                                     Cross Pipes

Jarvis Cocker                                      Manor House

Kadeena Cox MBE                           North Bar Social

Lizzie Deignan                                    Royalty

Dynamo                                               Roebuck

Angela Griffin                                    Bay Horse

Jimi Mistry                                          Old Cock

Michael Palin CBE FRGS                 Bowling Green

John Simm                                          Otley Tap House

Jodie Whittaker                                 Black Bull

Ricky Wilson                                       Yew Tree

They [or you] can contact us via Facebook – Otley Pub Club; Twitter – @OtleyPubClub; Instagram – otley_pub_club; or email secretary@otleypubclub.co.uk And if any of the landlords of the pubs above feel like getting personally involved like Peter and Tony did – we’d be eternally grateful!



A few weeks ago, the President and the Chairman of Otley Rugby Club both asked for volunteers to fill some or all of the 31 vacant posts at the club. Since then, they have shared the very good news that people in the town have stepped up to fill the book-keeper, Secretary and Treasurer roles – and more – as reported in this article from the Wharfedale Observer – but more are still needed

Last week, I was talking to someone from Otley Town Partnership – the volunteers who run the farmers markets, Victorian Fayre, Food and Drink festival and more. He said that he [like me from OPC] would be stepping down later this year, and they would surely need more people to step in and help.

I was also at the latest meeting of the Otley Chamber of Trade, where incoming President Keeley Kear from Doris Dent Estates said that they were always on the lookout for more people to get involved. That could be either directly – in promoting, improving and representing the business interests of Otley, or indirectly – as part of the Town Team Volunteers [in co-operation with Otley BID and Otley Town Partnership] at all the mainly volunteer led events in town, such as the Otley Show, Carnival, Folk Festival, Cycle Race and more!

There are many, many other voluntary groups in town who either provide direct support to the community, like Otley Action for Older People, or who provide entertainment for residents and incoming visitors alike. The Otley Film Society, The Buttercross Belles, the Otley Ukulele Orchestra and dozens more get involved for no other reward than socialising, enjoying themselves, and providing the ‘glue’ that keeps the community together. [There are an unbelievable 50 on this Otley Town Council page alone – and that doesn’t include any sports clubs!] One of the great benefits of living in Otley is the sheer number of groups and societies and sports and social opportunities that are available to anyone who wants to take advantage of them. That’s exactly why developers – both of older people’s housing and large estates full of family homes – want to build here, and why people from elsewhere are so keen to move into the town.

We don’t have a railway station; we have problems with traffic gridlocking the town at times; we have a bus service that suffers because of traffic blackspots in Leeds messing up the timetable. But we also have a proper range of local shops alongside our supermarkets and charity shops; we have rugby and football and cricket teams and more; we have bellringers and morris dancers and mummers and a bellman and musicians; we have 21 beautiful old [and new] pubs; we have people who care about and care for, each other; and we have dozens of volunteers who keep the community ticking over. You might not have heard of people like Lawrence Ross, or Peter Heald, or Steph Lee, or Dave Robson, or Tim Wilkinson, or Alex Leggat, or Ruth Blackwell and dozens more – but they all give their own time and energy to the town.


The trouble is of course that none of us is getting any younger, and there will eventually come a time in all of our volunteering ‘careers’ where we either want to have a rest, or perhaps just can’t carry on doing the work we have been doing for years. So there always needs to be a number of people filtering in to all organisations who can take up the baton and run with it. So this is my hope for those who are moving in to the David Wilson Garnett Wharfe development, and into the Persimmon homes to the East of town, and all the other new builds and conversions. That they will not only appreciate the value of the community resources they have in Otley, but will also play their part to keep them going. Whether that’s mums and dads supporting the sports facilities available for themselves and their families, or the fit older incumdens helping to provide social and entertainment support for their peers. Come on everyone – give Otley a hand!



Not everyone likes Sam Smith’s beer [for reasons I personally can’t comprehend] but it seems CAMRA adores their pub regeneration designs. The Fitzroy Tavern, a Sam Smith’s pub and former coffee house [until 1897!] in the heart of London’s Fitzrovia has won a major national pub design award in recognition of its recent transformation back to its original Victorian splendour. An article on theguardian.com website describes how ‘polished mahogany partitions with acid-etched glass were installed downstairs to recreate the original “snugs” – divided along class lines – while wrought-iron pub signs in keeping with the originals were erected outside.’ Another winner was the Grade II-listed Greenwood Hotel in Northolt, Middlesex, which picked up the conservation award for sensitive refurbishment – showing yet again that the JDWetherspoons chain do a good job of saving and refurbishing old buildings that might otherwise be lost.



You can read about the rest of the winners in the article, so the picture shows the only one outside London – the Bowland Beer Hall in Clitheroe. It received the conversion to pub use award for its regeneration from a former textile mill by local architect Charles Stanton and now boasts the longest bar in Britain. But [despite that person holding a tape measure and grinning] we all know that size doesn’t matter, don’t we?




As the months race past (and each becomes an even smaller percentage of my life) Otley’s month of events to celebrate the birth of its most famous son – Thomas Chippendale – 300 years ago gets ever closer. The first event, a birthday party at Stew & Oyster, is now only 2 months away! The Chippendale Trail map of the town, highlighting buildings that were here when Thomas was a lad, is now available free at various pubs and at the Tourist Information Centre in Otley library. You can follow it round town yourself and look out for the Chippendale 300 stickers in the buildings’ windows. Chippend’Ale made another appearance as well, as the test batches near perfection – this time in The Horse & Farrier. We believe the first coachload of American tourists will be in town this Thursday, April 5th [and no, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke – it’s true!] We’re hoping for many more tourists during the year.




According to another article in theguardian.com scientists in California have discovered a way to make beer taste of hops without using any hops in the process! By using DNA-editing software to splice in genes from mint and basil plants into the yeast used in brewing, researchers have boosted the production of flavours normally provided by adding hops during the brewing process. Of course, we all know that hops come from the same family of plants as marijuana, and that they’re genetically related. So maybe if you miss out the hops from the brewing process you also miss out the soothing, soporific effects that a few pints of real ale can produce! The impetus of this research in California seems to have come from the fact that the growth of hops is water-intensive, and the state has suffered lately from a shortage of the wet stuff for all its crops. So maybe they’ll find that taste isn’t everything [craft brewers take note!] Tradition and resultant satisfaction might be much more important.



Look at these stats from the BBC, which show that gin and craft beer are becoming more popular [as if we didn’t know!] Other self-evident results of their research include – pubs are closing; people aren’t drinking as much nowadays; and more beer is bought in shops than pubs. However, if the article had appeared on April Fool’s Day, I certainly wouldn’t have believed that people in Scotland drink the least often of anywhere in Great Britain! [Maybe I should move back up there and try to reverse that particular trend!!]



 . . . blah, blah, making more millions; blah, blah taking over the world . . . read about their latest corporate capitalist ‘punk’ adventures for yourself as they take over the Draft House chain.



 If you’re a fan of the live escape games that have become popular across the world over the last few years, you might be glad to know that one of the biggest global providers has opened its first UK venue in Leeds. Escape Hunt is already in 50 locations in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia, and although the Leeds centre is opening with only one game – a World War 2 counter-intelligence mission – more will follow.


If you’ve never heard of escape games, your team of up to 6 players gets locked in a room for up to 60 minutes. You have to find clues amongst the objects in the room and answer puzzles that will eventually help you to find out how to escape. If you work it out within the hour you can celebrate your victory in the on-site bar. If not, you can always come back and try again [although at £25 per person per hour, perhaps not TOO many times!] Another thing you might not know if you’re not familiar with these games is that this will be no less than the eighth escape room to open in the city! Full details are in this LeedsList article.



Bob Brook

OPC Secretary

01 April 2018

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