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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 the UK have closed since the 1970s and thousands more have fallen victim to Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions. Now leading British filmmakers have drawn inspiration from the near-loss of their own community pubs to produce a feature film they describe as “a love letter to family, community, real ale and Britain’s forgotten rural traditions”.

Writers and directors Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft – who made it Fisherman’s friendsone of the highest-grossing British independent films of the last decade – are about to start filming on an uplifting tale that also tackles serious issues, from the dying pub industry to mental health.

Titled mother’s prideIt’s a comedy-drama about a failing pub, a fractured community and a grieving family whose lives have been transformed by brewing real ale and attending the Great British Beer Awards.

Moorcroft said: “Pubs are really important to communities and bringing people together, which is particularly relevant in Covid as they combat loneliness and social isolation. But during our location scouting, we visited pubs that have been empty for two years – and will never become pubs again. Each one is full of history and memories. It’s really sad. “

Leonard said the losses are “particularly resonant when we all lack human connection” because of Covid: “That’s why it feels important to do our film now.”

Filming will begin in May in a Somerset village pub. James Spring, the film’s producer, said: “Somebody tried very bravely to direct it for a number of years and then when Covid and lockdown came along that was the moment to call it quits.”

Fisherman’s Friends, the warm-hearted 2019 film directed by the team behind Mother’s Pride. Photo: Rob Youngson

Noting that some of the lost pubs had survived for hundreds of years until recently, he added: “With lockdown, for many of them this was the final nail in the coffin for a business that was already struggling.”

The filmmakers have experience in their respective communities of pub closures and locals coming together to save those pubs.

Leonard recalled her childhood memories of the Shoemakers Arms in Brecon Beacons National Park, an 18th-century cottage once occupied by a shoemaker before becoming a tavern, and where she recalls horses being tethered outside were “to avoid drinking and driving”.

“I grew up in a farming community in the mountains of Mid Wales, very rural and remote. That one pub was very important as a pub. There was no other place for people to meet unless it was a chapel. The mental health of the community is promoted by allowing people to come together. This was a lifeline. When it was about to close the community got together and bought the pub,” she said.

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

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

Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) chief executive Tom Stainer said pubs were crying out for government support and their loss to communities was “immeasurable”. “Being a local can increase your friend count, your well-being, your happiness and your sanity. As soon as a pub closes, you lose all of that. There are big housing estates that don’t have a common room at all,” they said.

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

The filmmakers have an impressive track record. Fisherman’s friendsbased on the true story of Cornish singing fishermen who signed a record deal, found worldwide success and inspired a sequel, Fisherman’s Friends: One and All, which hits theaters this year. Her other hits include Find your feet, a romantic comedy that inspired a French remake. The same filmmakers are also in the process of producing a biopic about Levi Roots, who rose to fame and fortune after securing an investment in his reggae reggae sauce at Dragons’ Den.

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