For the last session of our three day 'apple course' with Plumpton College supported interns, we visited the Elephant and Castle pub on White Hill, Lewes. Huw Jones the landlord is a terrific person for the group to talk to. He's a local business person/employer who has always been keen to support our work.
The fourteen interns began by having lunch in the pub. Then we all headed upstairs to the function room, where Huw began to talk about his job. He used to work for Harvey's Brewery, he explained, and at the Pelham Arms, but has been landlord of the Elephant and Castle ('the Elly') for fifteen years. The Elly is a strong community hub. Lots of groups meet there. the Folk Club, the Headstrong Club, the Boardgamers group, a choir, a dad and baby group. Plus they have big screens for sporting events and are the HQ of Commercial Square Bonfire Society.
He told he used to have his own microbrewery where he made his own beer in the cellar, which was fun, but that all the sterilising before and afterwards became a bit of a chore.
One of the things he told us was that he plans to sell up in the next year. Not because the pub isn't doing well, but almost the opposite of that. He and his wife Hannah (who runs the pub kitchen) have a daughter about to start school. The problem with running a pub is the antisocial hours, he told us. It's not a family-friendly business to be in. It was hard, he explained, for the whole family to spend time together.
The interns asked him lots of interesting questions. Huw talked about when he needs to employ bouncers (for big games and Bonfire), how long his days can be, the different jobs in a pub (bar staff, cleaner, kitchen porter, cook), what they pay, and the qualities he is looking for in his staff (reliability, punctuality, honesty, enthusiasm, good communication skills, basic numeracy).
One intern asked "how has the pub industry changed in the last 15 years?". Huw said it has changed a lot - pubs have become more food-orientated. The price of beer compared to wages has increased a lot, comparatively. He also said, in terms of staff, the advent of smart phones mean that, in quiet periods, his staff might want to be checking Facebook or Twitter. But he has a list of chores that need doing (a cleaning rota or wrapping cutlery for pub meals, for example), and his best staff get on with those jobs when they're not busy serving.
Huw talked about some perks of the job - tasting new beers, you get a meal when you're working a full shift. He talked about managing customers who are difficult or who have drunk too much. Overall, he said, he feels he will miss pub life when he leaves it. Being such a crucial and valued community hub, as the Elly is, means a lot to him.
The interns then showed him their label designs, which were fun, then thanked him for his time. It was a really interesting and stimulating visit.
Best of luck in all you do Huw, you're a legend!
Emma Chaplin, project manager