The main purpose of this newsletter is to invite you to the Annual General Meeting of Otley Pub Club this Thursday, October 4th, beginning at 19:15 [and arriving earlier than that if you want to get a drink in first!] The meeting will be held in the upstairs room of The Horse & Farrier on Bridge Street, only 5 minutes’ walk out of Otley town centre, heading down to the river. When you go in through the front door of the pub, the stairs are on your right opposite the bar.

I’ve included last year’s AGM minutes at the foot of this letter so you can see what we talk about. The meeting should only last about an hour, which leaves the rest of the night for people to chat about the last 12 months, and come up with suggestions about the direction we should be taking over the next 12. I do hope some of you can make it. I’ve also added the [very] long version of my last report before my resignation as Secretary and Membership Secretary. I’ll be presenting a shorter version at the meeting though, if you want to wait til then! The Chairman’s report will be presented at the meeting, as will the detailed cash balance sheet and accompanying financial statement. It might be overstating it to say that Otley Pub Club is at a crisis point, but the next few months will certainly be pivotal in deciding whether or not we can continue to exist in the same way that we have done for the last 10 years.






I’m sorry I haven’t given you more notice about the meeting on Thursday, in case you want to come along. I’ve been that sort of last-minute Secretary for the past 5 years I’m afraid, so maybe someone will take over who always gets things done in plenty of time!



[This is an absolutely word-for-word copy of the same item from last year’s invitation!! I’m hoping it will get a more positive response this year.]

“Although we do have 11 named committee members, they don’t always find it easy to attend the monthly meetings, and of course we are all volunteers and have other commitments and priorities. Consequently the active participation in delivering projects and managing the ongoing administration of the Club tends to fall on the shoulders of a much smaller number.”

“You’ll be familiar with the sort of things we do now, after seeing a few years of newsletters; banners outside pubs; food and drink festival and Victorian Fayre projects; and bigger events like a Civil War battle and a [televised] Yorkshire celebrities/Yorkshire Day celebration. Otley Pub Club was set up to protect and support all the pubs in Otley, and we think we’ve done that pretty successfully, with 21 pubs now open and trading in town. We certainly still do support the pubs, but the protection activity has turned more towards promotion. Often, that involves helping to promote Otley itself, so that more visitors will come to town and spend their money in the huge choice of pubs that we can offer.”

“That promotion work can be very satisfying but is obviously time-consuming, and if we can get more pairs of hands to help, we can deliver more projects – including an Otley Pub Passport; an Otley pub calendar/Christmas cards; OPC T-shirt/sweatshirt marketing; possibly some sort of crowdfunding for OPC; and even a CD of songs about Otley and its pubs. The list is endless, and only needs your support to help deliver it – and your ideas! It would be especially useful if we could get some younger committee members. Not necessarily teens/twenties [although that would indeed be fantastic!] but who are at least below retirement age [and yes, there are some on the committee already!] That would give us a more rounded view of what the community wants from its pubs, and how best we could help the pubs to deliver it.”


The AGM is possibly the best meeting of the year to come to if you just want to see who we are and what we do. You can just sit in the background and watch, then if you do fancy joining the committee and/or helping out, you can speak to any of us afterwards. You can ask any questions you like, then decide at leisure, without putting yourself in the spotlight at the meeting itself.


Bob Brook

OPC Secretary

30 September 2018





TIME – 19:00 FOR 19:15 START, Approx. 20:30 FINISH




Andy FitzGerald, Andrew McKeon, Bob McLaughlin, Bob Brook, Matt Hardin, Phil Greaves, Emma FitzGerald, Greg Mulholland, Jane FitzGerald, Brett Booth.


Barry Tomlinson


Members of the committee introduced themselves. 2016 AGM minutes accepted



  • Andy said it was his last meeting as Chairman and that he had enjoyed his time in the chair, but was confident that whoever took over would make at least as good a job of it as he had, and that he was looking forward to having a rest as an ordinary committee member.
  • Part of the reason for choosing The Yew Tree for the AGM was so that we could bid farewell to landlord Brett Booth, thank him for his time here, and wish him well in his future career.
  • The pub scene in Otley is still growing. Not all the pubs are always thriving, but Otley Pub Club will continue to support them the best we can.

OPC Business

  • Sponsored barrel at Otley beer festival 2016
  • Victorian Fayre – Whitakers were worthy winners of Elise Brumfitt award, and as usual it was a fantastic effort by all participating pubs.
  • Otley Walking Festival – Featured 2 OPC walks. The week started with the classic 4 pubs walk, but in reverse order. 45 walkers had a fabulous day out. It ended with a ‘Road to Marston Moor’ walk. Again almost 50 walkers took part, and enjoyed a recreation of the battle of Marston Moor, involving 6 participants, in the car park of The Royalty!
  • Otley Food Festival – An OPC stall in the market square gave away free samples of Ilkley Brewery beers. There was not only interest in the Ale Trail and in OPC itself, but also 2 separate enquiries about taking over the Bay Horse!
  • Yorkshire Day – Stage 1 of the Celebrity pub re-naming project was a great success in The Black Horse. 21 Celebrity names chosen by online survey were paired with the pubs. It was well-attended, with Wayzgoose Morris side dancing at the end, and on live television.

Pub News –

  • It’s been a tumultuous year again for the pubs in Otley, with changes at individual and corporate business level.
  • Stew & Oyster – opened in late 2016 and always keen to get involved with the community;
  • Fleece – Had its troubles, and was closed for a short while, but is now up and running again;
  • Bay Horse – Was closed for a long time, then re-opened with 2 managers in quick succession. Trade not looking to have recovered yet, and we might need to try to support it somehow.
  • Black Bull – Iconic, and should be the cornerstone of the pub trade in the centre of town. Long-term landladies Sue & Audrey left and the pub was refurbished – but not in time for the Marston Moor walk in the Walking Festival.
  • Whitakers – Also had a double change of landlord, but did manage to get involved with the Otley Folk Festival again
  • White Swan – Had a change of manager when the occupants moved on to take over from Audrey and Sue at The Black Bull! Previous manager Chris is back in charge.
  • Horse & Farrier – yet another pub with a change of manager. Trying to put the emphasis on good beer, with the welcome addition of a monthly comedy night.

Chairman thanked –

  • All committee members for their hard work during the year;
  • Andrew McKeon for his work on version 3 of The Historic Otley Ale Trail. Version 3 contains all 21 pubs now that Stew & Oyster is included. We’ll be distributing far and wide to continue to raise awareness of Otley as a ‘Famous Pub Town’.
  • Barry Tomlinson for maintaining financial records and for the upkeep of the website;
  • Bob Brook for maintaining membership records, producing newsletters, and delivering the first stage of the 2-year Yorkshire Day celebrities project; and
  • A special vote of thanks to our President Greg Mulholland. The organisation was his idea and his creation. Courtesy of a Prime Ministerial whim Greg lost his job in June. Irrespective of anyone’s political beliefs Greg was thanked for his past present and future support for the Pub Club, and the whole committee wished him success in whatever he chose to do next.


Everyone thanked Andy FitzGerald for his hard work managing the committee and the business of the club throughout the year. They are looking forward to having him back as an ‘ordinary’ committee member following his retirement from the Chair.



Bob thanked to the Chairman for describing our achievements during the last 12 months and went on to describe the Pub Club’s plans for next year. Despite the success of the sponsored Civil War battle re-creation in 2016, and the requests from all sides to do it again, that won’t be happening in the next 12 months. It left the Pub Club in debt, and some of its committee members exhausted after its planning and delivery. These usual annual events will however continue –

  • We’ll run the Victorian Alehouse competition again during the Victorian Fayre, and hope that some of the newer landlords take part as enthusiastically as last year’s winners, who have now sadly moved on from Whitakers.
  • We also hope to have a stall at the Food and Drink Festival again in July, giving away free beer!
  • We intend to sponsor a walk or two during the Walking Festival again at the end of June.
  • As usual, we’ll be sponsoring a barrel at the Beer Festival in November, as well as helping to promote a second beer festival that Otley Rugby Club are hoping to organise themselves next April or May.

We also have more exciting events planned in 2018 –

  • We have arranged for the shire horses and dray from Thwaites Brewery to take part in the Otley carnival parade in June.
  • We’ll be taking an active part in the town celebrations throughout June next year to mark the 300th anniversary of Thomas Chippendale’s birth in Otley.
  • We’ve agreed with Otley brewer Paul Briscoe, that he will brew a special beer called [not surprisingly] Chippend’Ale, which will be available in June, only in Otley pubs.
  • As Chippendale is thought to have attended Prince Henry’s Grammar School, we’re in negotiations with Stew and Oyster to put on a Chippendale birthday party in the Old Grammar School itself.
  • Our most ambitious project is stage 2 of our Yorkshire Day pub re-naming. We’re trying to contact all 21 celebrities or their agents, to ask them all to come to Otley and visit their named pub on the 1st of August 2018. We’re also asking that if they can’t come, could they at least send an item of memorabilia for display in the pub.

So those are the hoped-for achievements over the next year, but Bob repeated the plea for more support from anyone who would like to join the current committee. The publicity officer resigned last year, and has never been successfully replaced, and the minutes secretary has now left because of other commitments. The other celebration taking place in June 2018 is Bob’s 70th birthday, and he’s already decided to stand down as Secretary, Membership Secretary, Newsletter Author, social media manager and projects manager at next year’s AGM. So that’s 12 months’ notice starting now!

Otley Pub Club currently has almost 450 members on the books; almost 200 Facebook likes and over 1,750 followers on Twitter. There must be one or two people out there who would enjoy helping us promote the pubs, put on some enjoyable events, and possibly have a sociable drink or two along the way! A recruitment campaign will start immediately!


TREASURER’S REPORT – Separate detailed balance sheet and financial statement were presented and accepted.



  • Chairman – Matt Hardin
  • Secretary – Bob Brook
  • Membership Secretary – Bob Brook
  • Treasurer – Barry Tomlinson
  • Webmaster – Barry Tomlinson
  • Social Media –Emma FitzGerald

There were no other nominations or volunteers for any other position on the committee.



  • The Chairman suggested that one of the main objectives for the next 12 months should be to examine ways of raising funds – both to pay off existing debts and to create a project fund for future activities.


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The Chairman’s report will describe how we delivered an immense amount during the last 12 months, in the way of general monthly communication with members; individual Pub Club projects; and taking part in other town celebrations. So as I’m retiring from the position of Secretary, I’d just like to talk briefly about how Otley Pub Club has evolved over the 5 years that I’ve been in this position, and whether it can continue to develop, and to support the town over the next 5. [I’ll be delivering a shorter version of this report at the AGM itself.]

Otley Pub Club was initially created to protect and support all of Otley’s pubs. Following the unwarranted closure of The Summercross pub in 2007, and individuals fighting the closure for months afterwards, the club was created in 2009 to make sure that a similar fate wouldn’t happen to the remaining pubs in town. Initially there was just a small committee made up of pub landlords and other concerned volunteers, but by the time I took over as membership secretary in 2013, they had gathered a membership of around 300 who were interested in supporting Otley’s remaining pubs.

Over the last 5 years we have increased the membership to over 500 and created social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which are all increasing the number of our followers month on month. The committee size has also increased, and now has nominally 11 members. But because of work and other commitments the vast majority of the month to month operation is carried out by just 3 or 4 of us, which is why we desperately need new active committee members. Unfortunately there are no longer any landlords on the committee either, so we have no direct working link with licensees. At times that might make it seem as though we are trying to impose our decisions and our projects on them – especially as they already have to put in so much time and effort every single day just to earn a living. The last thing they probably want is someone coming round asking them questions about their pub every month, and trying to get them involved in additional work on town-wide projects.

Nevertheless, they have been very supportive of our major projects that have involved all the pubs in town. Renaming all the pubs in French for the Tour de France in 2014 was a huge success that gained national and international media coverage for Otley and its pubs. This year’s similar renaming project for Yorkshire Day built on that success by actually convincing celebrities either to visit their pub, or to send us items or personal greetings that could be displayed in the pubs throughout August. Many of the pubs also take part in our Victorian Alehouse competition – but again we recognise that it involves additional work and expenditure that they can ill afford. So before I go any further, I would like to personally thank all the landlords and staff I have met and worked with over the last 5 years. Without those people who are willing to work to keep the individual pubs open, Otley Pub Club could achieve nothing at all.

As I said, the Pub Club was created to protect and support Otley’s pubs, and in 2015 we took a massive step to protect them when we managed to get every pub [except The Roebuck which is in North Yorkshire] protected as assets of community value. Following that success, national changes to planning legislation have been made, thanks in great part to the constant pressure of Otley Pub Club’s President, Greg Mulholland when he was an MP. Those changes have introduced additional safeguards which will hopefully mean that when the current Assets of Community Value designations expire in 2020, we won’t necessarily have to repeat them all.

We’ve also been victims of our own success in a way because, although The Yeoman, The Woolpack and The Bridge have all closed since Otley Pub Club was formed, The Royalty has re-opened after years of closure, and The Old Cock, North Bar Social, The Otley Tap House and Stew & Oyster have all opened in the centre of town. It shows people recognise Otley as a famous pub town, but the additional outlets also put extra financial pressure on the existing historic pubs of Otley, as there are only so many customers, and so much cash, to go round. Nevertheless, we do support all those latest pubs to exactly the same extent as we do all the others.

And it’s the limited number of customers per pub that we have been trying to address with our more recent projects, which we hope will attract more visitors to Otley. The most ambitious was the Civil War battle re-creation that we sponsored in 2016. It was also the most expensive, and we are still substantially in debt because of it, but it was a huge success. We still get requests both from local residents and from the participants themselves, who loved staying in Otley, to do it again. But huge events like that not only need lots of active committee members and willing helpers for months in advance, they also need lots of money. So we’ve at last started to examine ways in which the Pub Club can not only promote the pubs and the town, but can also make some money while doing it.

The first venture was a public debate in The Black Horse about the EU referendum in 2016. It was 2 years later that we tried again with the beer tasting masterclass in The Horse & Farrier. Both events just about broke even, but at the beer tasting we also launched our Premier membership card scheme – which has actually started to bring some hard cash into the bank account, [which can be seen on the financial report at the AGM]. We’re hoping that’s just going to be the first of many projects which can bring in money while still fulfilling one of our objectives, which is to promote Otley’s pubs. Others in the pipeline are producing a charity CD with local artists singing songs about Otley and pubs; selling Otley Pub Club merchandise; and a pub passport that people will get stamped as they buy a drink in each pub they visit.

We’ll run the Victorian Alehouse competition again during the Victorian Fayre, and hope that some of the newer landlords take part as enthusiastically as last year’s winners, who have now sadly moved on from The Red Lion. We’ll also hope to have a stall at the Food and Drink Festival again in July, giving away free beer, and to sponsor a walk or two during the Walking Festival at the end of June. As usual, we’ll be sponsoring a barrel at Otley Beer Festival in November, as well as promoting Otley Pub Club, our Premier card and merchandise ideas.

As for media coverage, our Yorkshire Day project and the BBC’s experience of broadcasting live from Stew & Oyster have persuaded them to involve Otley Pub Club in their Children in Need event this November. They’ve asked us to arrange a pub quiz in at least half a dozen pubs, with the rounds taking place simultaneously in each, and a presenter moving from pub to pub to take part in the quiz live on BBC Radio Leeds.

So that’s what we’re hoping to achieve over the next year, but I will just repeat my plea for more support from anyone who would like to join the current committee. We’re entering the new year without a secretary, a publicity officer or a membership secretary, and we really need more Pub Liaison Officers if we are to continue to keep in close contact with all 21 pubs. I started asking [if not begging!] for additional volunteers in March, and although we have had some help on the social media front since then, we really need someone to take overall control of that area of promotion as well.

So what direction will the Pub Club take over the next 5 years? The first thing is that some of us are already past retirement age, so some new and younger faces are urgently needed on the committee as well as the new ideas they bring with them. Just look at the number of vacancies – you could come en masse and take over! Believe me, we are not afraid of change, and neither will we dig our heels in to preserve existing ways of delivering the aims of protecting, supporting and promoting Otley’s pubs!

My personal view is that we should try to promote more integration between the Pub Club and other town-wide organisations that also seek to support and promote the town – like Otley Town Council, Otley Town Partnership, Otley Chamber of Trade and Otley BID [assuming they win the vote to continue for another 5 years themselves!] That way, they could support us directly, rather than us having to go cap-in-hand for sponsorship every time we put on an event. It wouldn’t mean that we couldn’t still come up with ideas that put the pubs first, but that we might have the additional human and financial resources to deliver them. Likewise, we would be able to make sure that the pubs benefitted from being an integral part of any other town event – the obvious one being the food and drink festival. There, the increasing sale of alcohol from stalls is currently taking business away from the pubs, rather than increasing it!

The month of Chippendale 300 celebrations in June was a great example of different organisations working together, and could be a template for further major projects. It would be great to see a major Yorkshire Day project that involved the whole town next year, to build on the success of our celebrity one this year. 2019 is Otley Pub Club’s 10th anniversary year, and we will be looking to celebrate that in an appropriate fashion throughout the whole twelve months. At the same time, we will be considering how to develop the club and take it forward through the next decade.

We still obviously need to put pubs at the forefront of everything we do. The Civil War battle re-creation for example might not seem to be directly related to pubs, but it was prompted by the history of The Black Bull and Cromwell’s troops. It also brought hundreds of thirsty re-enactors into town for the weekend, as well as visitors from out of town wanting to see the spectacular event. The walks we sponsor as part of Otley Walking Festival always visit pubs on the way, or finish at a pub, or both. And even when we support Otley Beer Festival, we hand out membership forms for the Pub Club to get more people interested in coming back to the town and its pubs afterwards. But we still need to actively promote the pubs during other town events, like the town centre bike races and the carnival. The 2019 UCI World Road Cycling Championships are centred on Harrogate for 8 days, with the men’s and women’s elite road races both coming through Otley. The event is bound to attract visitors from all over the world, and with Harrogate being only a few miles away we’re bound to see plenty of additional visitors next September. It’s surely an opportunity for Otley Pub Club to again work closely with other organisations in town to see how we can best exploit the additional business opportunities.

So my purely personal view of the future of the Pub Club is this. If we put too much pressure on the people we have now – and being a member of the committee becomes a chore rather than an enjoyable pastime – they’re likely to follow me into giving up their positions. We therefore need to look at absolutely every activity we undertake now, and decide whether to continue doing it in exactly the same way; to change the way we do it; or to give it up altogether. The electronic newsletter for instance is very popular, and I can continue to produce that for the time being, but maybe it will have to be monthly rather than every two weeks in future.

Collecting information on site from all 21 pubs every month is also time-consuming, but can be immensely frustrating as well if nothing is available on the first visit, and you have to keep going back. So maybe we’ll have to rely on landlords sending us the information by email in future, and if they don’t then their news just doesn’t get published. Perhaps we need a completely different relationship with landlords, where they tell us what they want us to do, rather than us deciding on projects ourselves. If landlords do want us to continue being proactive, perhaps we could ask them for a small amount of financial support to allow us to put on more events without fear of going deeper into debt.

Even the basic idea of committee and social meetings visiting 3 different pubs every month puts a commitment on committee members that is almost meaningless when no ordinary Pub Club members turn up – which is virtually every single month! The original idea was that it would be a way of introducing members to pubs they might not usually go to, and it would bring more business to every pub in town on at least one night in every 7 months! But we have even been criticised in the past by the third pub we visited one night because we brought so few people with us!

We already have ideas for further projects in the future, as I said earlier, but they too might have to be abandoned if there just aren’t enough people with the time and the energy to deliver them. In the end the current committee might just have to ask who they are doing everything for, and why they are putting themselves under pressure. Maybe it would be more realistic to just give up trying to maintain a high profile, abandon all proactive products and events, and just wait to react to the next threat that faces one or more of Otley’s pubs. As ever, we’d be delighted to hear from anyone who has any views on what we should be doing – even if they don’t want to join the committee. This is the last secretary’s report from me at an AGM, so thanks for reading through all that, and thank you for your past and future support.


Bob Brook

OPC Secretary

30 September 2018


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