elephant and castle

Juicy! Final session of our 2017 apple course with Plumpton supported interns

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

Plumpton Supported Interns - Day Three of our Apple Course - Pub & (Sea)Cidery visits

5 December 2016 When we met up last week for the last part of Flourish's work with them on our apple-themed course, it was clear that the two groups of Plumpton College supported interns had all been working very hard since we last saw them at the Fruit Factory in October.

Here's a video we made at that time.

After they'd taken their bottles of pasteurised juice made from apples picked at Ringmer Community Orchard back to college, they had a talk by the Plumpton marketing lecturer about how they might best come up with way to promote, market and sell it, as well as a talk from a visiting graphic designer. With the support of their own lecturers, they then began generating ideas, thinking of possible names and creating label designs for marketing the juice.

So, for the last part of our work with the interns, we arranged visits for them to two local businesses, whose work relates to apples in some way - Huw from the Elephant and Castle pub in Lewes and Matt from Seacider in Ditchling - both of whom were also kind enough to comment on the label and name ideas.

Both groups had prepared some label/ideas boards and a short presentation for these trips.

Visit 1, Elephant and Castle

After the Plumpton group came in from a very cold day and bought themselves lunch at the pub - we all went upstairs to the meeting room where landlord Huw Jones helpfully answered lots of questions put by the group about his job - what's great (the sociable aspects) and what's hard (late nights, long days).

He told them what his job entails (employing and managing staff, doing a lot of admin, banking, sorting rotas, social media, making sure the place is clean and well-stocked). He also talked about the Elly's busiest night of the year - Bonfire.

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Huw sells Owlet's apple juice, so he talked a bit about that. We discussed the recent rebranding of Harvey's brewery, general pricing of products he sells and what different staff roles there are in a pub, how the shift patterns work and who gets paid what.

He tried the juice the interns had brought along and pronounced it "truly amazing".

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The interns gave their group juice presentation to him, one by one, including explaining that they'd decided to call their juice Liquid Sunshine.

Huw liked the name, the vivid, eye-catching designs, how creative everyone had been, the fact that the main variety of apple they'd picked (Ashmead's Kernal) is mentioned.

He really liked the 3D design work, but wondered if it might be hard to make into a flat label - but thought it might work as a special edition label that could be hung around the bottleneck.

He left the interns with a lot to think about.

Flourish project manager Emma explained that Ringmer Community Orchard would like to adapt and use one of the designs for their own juice, if possible.

Trip 2, Seacider

Matt at Seacider

Matt at Seacider

On a sunny but also very chilly day, the second group took their own blend of apple juice (made from different apple varieties than the first group - Red Falstaff, for example) to an industrial estate near Ditchling for a visit to Seacider, a fascinating and relatively new cider-making business run by Mark and Matt.

Mark had to dash off delivering cider, so Matt talked to the group about what they do. He explained that they used to make beer, as Goldstones brewery, but got into trying to make cider - and within five months went from being the smallest 'cidery' (which the cider version of 'brewery') in Sussex to one of the largest!

Matt told us about his own background, and the fact that his route to doing what he now loves hadn't been an academic one, because he'd struggled at school. He went and lived/ worked for some small cideries in the West country for a few months. He talked about his working day and the need for flexibility - if you're starting up your own business, it's a lot of hard work. He went into a lot of interesting detail about the manufacturing process, mentioned that fact that they make their cider out of apples rejected by supermarkets for not being perfect (see below).

Then he told us how their funky branding had come about. "We're not really interested in the kind of labels that feature an old man under an apple tree - we wanted something different and modern". His girlfriend Lauren Bartlett came up with the distinctive Mexican skull design, which includes images of apples, seed, leaves and Brighton Pavilion. "We're very much Brighton-based".

Fantastic logo

Fantastic logo

He talked to the interns about how you want your branding to both fit in, yet stand out - you need to think about your target audience - and it needs to entice people into buying it.

The group did their presentation to Matt, then he tasted their juice, which they've called Sweet Sussex, "it's really good", and commented on their designs.

All in all, both groups had two great visits and learnt a lot. Many thanks to Seacider and the Elephant and Castle for their time and hospitality.

Emma Chaplin

Useful links

Interested in becoming a member of Ringmer Community Orchard? More info HERE

Want to know more about the Plumpton Supported Internship programme? HERE

For more about Flourish, HERE, and Common Cause Co-op HERE

And here are links to the Elephant and Castle and  Seacider websites.