This is an important month for Otley Pub Club, with [in chronological order] a collaborative event with Otley Word Feast Press on October the 6th; our 2016 Annual General Meeting on October the 13th; the official launch of the second edition of The Historic Otley Ale Trail on October the 14th; and another potential collaboration, this time with one of our major Ale Trail sponsors.autumn-patterns

Also, the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ moves us on towards a winter where we can maybe sit back and re-examine our raison d’être, and I’ll expand on that below. In the meantime, make the most of the last few warm[-ish] days, maybe to sit in a pub garden at the weekend, as John Keats might have been doing when he wrote his ode ‘To Autumn’. [Gotta keep the poetry theme going, as this Thursday is National Poetry Day! We don’t just organise our events at random or throw our newsletters together, you know!]

“While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
  And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
  Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
  Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.”



We’ve had a pretty successful year, with the Ale Trail, the Food and Drink Festival, and the Civil War Battle re-enactment just some of the highlights. But the members of the committee have struggled at times to keep up with the workload and commitment demanded of them, to deliver everything that our members deserve, and that we believe we should be providing. So I thought it was worth setting out why we are here, what we do, and where we might be going in future. All relevant to the upcoming AGM, so although it’s a bit formal, please read on!

Our AIM will always remain the same – to support, promote and protect the pubs of Otley.

The PURPOSE behind that aim is manifold –

  1. To promote and maintain the historic reputation of Otley as a ‘Famous Pub Town’;
  2. To use that reputation as a way of raising the profile of Otley in local, national and international media, of attracting more visitors to the town, and thus of helping local businesses to benefit from the increased potential trade those visitors will bring;
  3. To ensure that the community and social benefits of pubs [which have been well documented elsewhere] are retained in Otley, even as pubs are closing in large numbers throughout the UK.

[The two together can be regarded as our GOALS]

The METHODS that we use to achieve those GOALS are basically twofold –

  1. Creating and increasing an Otley Pub Club membership who are interested in our aim and purpose above, and who can help us to achieve them by spreading the news about Otley’s pubs and Otley Pub Club events through their own friends and communication networks;
  2. Encouraging members, Otley residents, and those further afield to support, identify with and feel some ‘ownership’ of Otley’s pubs as a resource that they can utilise and be proud of.

It is the MEANS of delivering that methodology which are under constant review, and which are subject to the usual problems caused by resource restrictions – bodies, time and funding being the main three. Currently, our delivery relies on –

  1. An Online Presence. The Otley Pub Club website contains full details of current and historic pubs in Otley, a news and events section, and a photographic gallery; New members can also join electronically via the website;
  2. Social media. OPC have a Twitter account and a linked Facebook page, on which immediate and topical items can be posted and discussed, and through which members and others can contact the club officials or raise items of interest themselves;
  3. Electronic communication. Our members receive 2 messages a month – first a newsletter, detailing current OPC activity, events coming up in local pubs, and wider items of interest concerning pubs and what’s happening in Otley and the surrounding area; and second an invitation to that month’s meeting, which often also includes similar content to the newsletter itself. Both the newsletter and the invitation are also copied to the website, where they are publicly available;
  4. Pub-Related Projects. Our prime ongoing project is The Historic Otley Ale Trail, which is a leaflet containing all the details of existing and ‘lost’ pubs in Otley, as well as a map showing their locations. It is incredibly popular, and is available in all Otley’s pubs, as well as in Tourist Information Offices in Otley and further afield throughout West Yorkshire. Other projects have included renaming all the Otley pubs in French, for the day the Tour de France Grand Départ passed through town. That one got Otley mentioned on Russian TV, UK domestic TV and radio, SKY TV, Eurosport, The Washington Post and many other local, national and international media outlets. This year we sponsored a re-enactment of an English Civil War battle, to commemorate Cromwell’s troops drinking the Black Bull pub dry, on their way to the battle of Marston Moor in 1644 [on the anniversary of the event itself]; and there have been many others;
  5. Involvement in Otley Events and Groups. OPC have had a float in Otley carnival; we sponsor a Victorian Alehouse competition during the Victorian Fayre; we had a stall at the Otley Food and Drink Festival; we sponsor a barrel at the Otley Beer Festival; we have collaborated on events with Otley Word Feast Press and with local breweries; and committee members attend the Otley Chamber of Trade and Otley Town Partnership meetings as well as taking part individually in many other official, voluntary and charity groups in town.



So where should we go from here? There are always at least three options in any project, which basically boil down to – do nothing, go for the most radical option, and change some things but not all! Here I think there are [at least] four

DO NOTHING. If we have been successful so far, why change anything? Just stick to the same 5 tried and trusted means of delivery.

RADICAL OPTION 1 – FOLD. If there are not enough bodies, time or money to keep OPC going at even its current level, let alone expanding, then why not just close it down?

RADICAL OPTION 2 – CHARGE FOR MEMBERSHIP. The Roundhead Association Civil War battle re-enactment alone made a substantial loss – despite some commercial sponsorship and great assistance from Otley BID, OTC and LCC. The Historic Otley Ale Trail only gets published with the assistance of commercial sponsors and OTC. As long as OPC is free to join, we will have no money of our own to fund new projects or activities.

COMPROMISE OPTION – Look for ways to keep the baseline OPC activities going, whilst exploring ways of increasing the funds and active participants required to deliver the projects and activities that will best help us achieve our goals.

OK – I’ve probably bored you enough now, so let’s move on to some interesting bits of news. I’ll just say that we would love people to come along to the AGM on the 13th of October, to discuss the future with us – not necessarily in the official business, but maybe over a drink afterwards. We are always keen to meet people with ideas, even if they themselves can’t, or don’t want to, get involved in the running of the club itself. Maybe by then, or before the November meeting, I’ll have put more meat on the bones of my 4 suggested options. Also by then, others might have proposed even more! Hope to see you there. If you can’t make it, or if you’d prefer to let us have your more considered opinions of what we should do in future, and how we should do it, please email one of our contact addresses.



The big gig in Otley this month goes down at The Horse and Farrier on Bridge Street this Thursday from 7pm onwards. Otley Word Feast Press will be launching their new poetry anthology ‘Half Moon: Poems about Pubs’, on National Poetry Day, October 6th.half-moon-cover

The book will be on sale at a reduced price on the night, and from 7:30 onwards poets with poems in the anthology will read out their own works. There will be a break in the readings of 30 minutes at about 8:15, when members of local band Summercross will play, and when the readings end at about 9:30 local musician Jon Palmer will also perform, before the night is handed over to Dr Paul Briscoe for his regular Horse & Farrier open mic night.

The anthology is superb [with an introduction by our very own Otley Pub Club Chairman, Andy FitzGerald], and would make a great [reduced price!] Christmas present for anyone who likes pubs, or poetry, or both, or beer, or all three . . . . And as the website says, “These poems will make you laugh. They’ll make you cry. They’ll make you thirsty. And at least one of them will teach you words for being drunk that you’ve never heard before.” What’s more, each copy on the night will come with a set of specially-produced beermats containing individual poems from the book – before the remaining 800 get distributed to pubs in the area!

Summercross will be playing their lament to England’s lost pubs, and especially to Otley’s Summercross pub – ‘The Last of England’; Jon will be singing his popular sing-along song about enjoying the start of the weekend in Otley’s pubs – ‘Another Friday Night in a Northern Town’; and Otley’s local brewery – Briscoe’s – have produced a beer for the occasion, appropriately called ‘Half Moon’, which will be available on the bar on the night. It should be a cracking night, with Otley Town Poet Matthew Hedley Stoppard being the MC, and it is still (as at midday on Monday the 3rd) the only event anywhere in the Leeds area shown on the National Poetry Day website map! So come on down and join in the fun!

The Dyke Pub and Kitchen in Brighton was recently closed by its owners – allegedly with no communication to staff because they were on zero-hours contracts, or warning to customers – and turned into a furniture shop ‘overnight’. In contrasting statements reported in The Publican’s Morning Advertiser, the chairman of the Save The Brighton Dyke group said they were willing to work with the owners to make the pub a  success for the owners and for the community, whereas the owner said they weren’t the ones “stumping up £5,000 every month for the shortfall” and that he “had broken no planning laws”. And that is exactly the point. Until planning legislation does change, the owner of a pub can rip out the fixtures and fittings and only ACVs or prior local Council intervention give the local community a chance to even comment on such changes.

As CAMRA’s guidance on saving your local pub says –

“Our current planning laws are woefully inadequate when it comes to protecting pubs from unwanted development. Planning permission is not required under planning law to demolish or change a pub into the following uses:

  • a restaurant or cafe
  • an ordinary shop or supermarket
  • offices for financial and professional services e.g. estate agents and building societies

These changes are known as “permitted development rights”. (However) permitted development rights do NOT apply to pubs nominated or registered as Assets of Community Value (ACVs). They can also be withdrawn by means of an Article 4 Direction made by the Council.”brighton-dyke

Although the number of pubs closing every week in the UK has fallen to 21, from 27 just 6 months ago, we have still lost 20% of our pubs in the last decade! [52,750 now, as opposed to 66,177 in 2006, according to CAMRA]. In a bit of a mash-up of non-comparable statistics, CAMRA report a net loss of 231 pubs in rural areas and 317 in suburban areas in the last 6 months. Since December there has been only a net loss of 1 pub per week ‘on the High Street’. At the same time there has been an increase in the number of branded food pubs [like The Stew and Oyster, whose planning application to open in The Old Grammar School has been agreed – subject to certain conditions] and modern-style pubs and bars [presumably like micropubs and craft beer bars].

I assume those latter increases are why the CAMRA figures refer to ‘net’ closures, and I likewise assume they always did. That could be one reason why the High Street loss seems less than the others. Another reason could be the ever-increasing demographic difference between urban and rural areas. As young people continue to be drawn to town and city centres to find available housing and employment opportunities, the residual aging population just can’t support their rural local. Most pensioners don’t have as much disposable income as thirty-somethings, and what they do have they are unlikely to spend mainly on going to the pub. Also, old people don’t have the same capacity – or desire – for alcohol as people half their age, and even those who might want to sink a few halves every day, don’t really like staying out late at night. Finally, the whole social side of going down the pub to meet friends and make new ones is still pretty much an 18-35 pastime, so if they’ve all left the country for the delights of a craft beer bar crawl in town, all you have left are young farmers and the local bowls club.

I’m not being flippant here, by the way. I recognise that there is a real issue around loneliness amongst older people as well, and maybe local rural and suburban pubs should be trying to encourage older individuals and groups to visit during the day and during the week. I know there will be issues around mobility and transport – especially public transport in many rural areas – but there’s no reason why a pub shouldn’t be just as common a meeting place for old people as community or church halls. Bingo, quizzes, pub games – even films, music or dancing – could all attract new [old] customers! As I am now one of those pensioners myself, I have to think about these things!



While landlords up and down the country struggle to make a living and keep a roof over their heads, someone in BT thought it was somehow amusing to advertise their sports channels by offering an award to ‘quiet’ [ie empty] pubs. They even have a fake quote from a former landlord saying “Some days I didn’t even to open'”. Hilarious, eh?



 Another early reminder that our friends Otley RATS will once again be putting on a fine show at Otley Rugby Club – this year on Friday and Saturday the 18th and 19th of November, from midday to 11pm on both days. The Otley Beer Festival has grown steadily each year ever since the first one back in 1997 and this year’s will be even better! It is a fantastic opportunity for you to support the local community, sample a few beers and generally have a great time. You should find all the information you need on the festival website, from sponsoring a barrel to simply finding your way to the venuerats

It only costs £3 to enter, and for that you get a free programme and a special [non-returnable] commemorative glass. You don’t have to worry about buying your ticket in advance either – there aren’t any – just turn up whenever you like and pay on the door. [I’ll probably remind you again before it happens – not just because it’s a great event, but also because the more people that turn up, the more money goes towards the restoration and maintenance of All Saints Parish Church, and to local charities. To date the total sum raised and donated is £77,700.]



We do love it when individual pubs put on their own mini beer festivals, [even though they can’t compete with the ‘proper’ one that is OBF – with over 60 real ales, real cider and perry, and even craft keg for t’young ‘uns!] So here’s a quick mention of Wetherspoon’s British-hopped beer festival from October 12 to 23 [because it’s in Otley]; and Guiseley Lions’ beer festival at Cooper’s in Guiseley on October 14 & 15 [because it’s for charity].



A couple of us went to Halifax last month, and called in at the Brewery Tap at Oates Brewery – only to discover that it was no longer Oates Brewery! Apparently the brewer from The Junction in Baildon is now brewing there. The bar is called The Pallet Bar [as the whole room appears to be made from pallets!] and there were 6 pumps on when we were there. We were made extremely welcome, so if you’re ever at a loose end in Boothtown, you might consider calling in to see them in Ladyship Business Park at the bottom end of Mill Lane. [Friday night is jam session night.]


WHARFEBANKbratislava-wharfebank-21-sept-2016 BREWERY, SOMEWHERE

 You might have become aware recently of some rumours regarding the future of Wharfebank Brewery from Pool in Wharfedale. It certainly seems to be true that all the brewing equipment and furniture has been removed from the premises in Pool, but that doesn’t mean Wharfebank has disappeared for good. MD Martin Kellaway has responded to speculation on Twitter by saying “Moved out – yes. Certainly not the end. Your comments do just that [lead to speculation] When we have announcement we will make it. Gossip is for others.” So there!



  . . . as another plug for the big Otley poetry event coming up; as a reminder that we’re starting the long approach to the end of the year; as a confirmation that those of us in the Autumn of our lives still want to make the most of life (am I feeling old this month?); and even as a nod to the Parish Church Bells [which currently still need another £22,000 to restore them to their former glory – see website]; here is a wonderful love poem by the Victorian poet and designer William Morris from The Earthly Paradise, completed in 1870. It is called, most appropriately – OCTOBER

O love, turn from the unchanging sea, and gaze
Down these grey slopes upon the year grown old,
A-dying mid the autumn-scented haze,
That hangeth o’er the hollow in the wold,
Where the wind-bitten ancient elms infold
Grey church, long barn, orchard, and red-roofed stead,
Wrought in dead days for men a long while dead.autumn-love

…Come down, O love; may not our hands still meet,
Since still we live to-day, forgetting June,
Forgetting May, deeming October sweet–
–O hearken, hearken! through the afternoon,
The grey tower sings a strange old tinkling tune!
Sweet, sweet, and sad, the toiling year’s last breath,
Too satiate of life to strive with death.

…And we too–will it not be soft and kind,
That rest from life, from patience and from pain,
That rest from bliss we know not when we find,
That rest from Love which ne’er the end can gain?–
Hark, how the tune swells, that erewhile did wane!
Look up, love!–ah, cling close and never move!
How can I have enough of life and love?


– – / / – –



It’s obvious from the news above that we won’t be holding our usual monthly meeting on the first Thursday evening! First, that is the date of National Poetry Day, and of our collaborative event with Otley Word Feast Press. Second, this is the month of our AGM, which this year will be on the second Thursday evening of October – the 13th.

It will take place in the tap room of the Horse and Farrier [on the left as you go in, before the bar] and we’ll be there at 7pm for a 7:15 start. It will only last about 90 minutes at the most, and everyone is welcome to attend. We will just report on last year’s activities, confirm committee membership, sign off with a look forward to the next 12 months and then enjoy the open mic night!


Bob Brook

OPC Secretary

03 October 2016

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