The Eagle and Child pub serves up a bright future for young people in Ramsbottom
This is no ordinary village pub. As well as serving delicious Lancashire produce it is also giving hope to long term unemployed youngsters. Emma Mayoh reports <br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
With dozens of pubs closing every week, it is only the bravest of landlords who decide to open somewhere new. But Glen Duckett, the new resident at the Eagle and Child in Ramsbottom, has taken on more than most.
On the face of it, the Whalley Road venue is like any other quality pub. Local ales available behind the bar, local produce cooked by a team of chefs and paraphernalia on the walls celebrating the virtues of the Red Rose county. But the 33-year-old, originally from Clayton-le-Moors, who reopened the business after it had lain empty for 18 months, is putting pioneering ideas into practice.
As well as running the Eagle and Child as a normal pub, Glen is also operating it as a social enterprise, EAT Pennines, for under 25s who have been in long term unemployment. Students from Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale, Bury College and also young people referred through the charity Nacro, which helps youngsters either involved in or drifting into a life of crime.
Glen said: ‘I wanted to create a family dining pub in a building that had been empty for quite a while and to bring it back into community use. But I also wanted to provide training and employment opportunities for young 25people who aren’t in education, employment or training.
‘It’s something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while and it came to the point where I knew I just had to go for it. The idea is that as well as getting back into employment, it’s also giving these young people qualifications and helping them to move on to careers in the industry.’
As well as ploughing all his life savings into the project, Glen is also using his experience in the catering industry as a teenager – he helped Delia Smith set up her brasserie at Norwich City Football Club – as well as his training in horticulture and his work with young people in deprived areas like Bradford.
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As well as passing on his own expertise, all the trainees are paired with experienced staff such as former Masterchef the Professionals entrant Simon Salt, who is helping set up the kitchen and who trained at Northcote, head chef Eve Worsick, a former senior head chef for Paul Heathcote and front of house manager Rosie Hollis, who has worked at top establishments across the county.
The trainees are regularly assessed at the pub and at their college and will leave the scheme with a qualification.
The idea has been a lifeline for several of the trainees including 24-year-old Lee Robinson, who had been unemployed for 18 months. The former IT worker wanted a change of career into mechanics. But months of knockbacks left him downhearted and his self-esteem plummeted.
‘It got to the point where I had to go and see a doctor about my problems,’ said Lee, from Brandlesholme. ‘It was a very difficult time for me. I really wanted a job but despite trying for months, nothing was happening.
‘But then I heard about what Glen was doing here. My family had suggesting the catering industry to me so I thought I would give it a go. It’s been quite a radical change for me and has meant that I have been able to get back on my feet. As well as being in work I’m getting qualifications too which is just fantastic. What Glen is doing and the way he has helped me is just wonderful.’
It is a similar story for 18-year-old Chris Butterworth from Radcliffe, who has been able to regain his pride after losing his previous job in a pub. He said: ‘Being laid off was awful and I just felt ashamed. It was embarrassing for me and I didn’t really know what to do next.
‘Coming here has been a real help. You get support rather than being shouted at and I’m spoken to like an adult. It’s made me excited about the possibilities I have for my future career.’
Glen, who is clearly passionate about tackling youth unemployment, now plans to contact David Cameron with his ideas.
He said: ‘The government is faffing around because they don’t know how to deal with youth unemployment; they seem totally baffled by it. It can’t hurt for the Prime Minister to know what is being done. He needs to understand that if something isn’t done, in years to come there will be even more pressure on budgets as there will be more people claiming benefits.
‘I thought it was time for us to do something positive for ourselves. It’s about supporting local people, the local economy and supporting the local community. Once that is sorted then maybe I can look to other areas.‘I want to get properly established in the Pennines but if it works, I would love to do something on a national scale.’
An acre of scrub land at the side of the pub is also due to be converted into a community garden with the help of Ramsbottom group Incredible Edible.
Glen said: ‘I don’t just want it to be a beer garden with a few seats and a children’s playground. I want us to be able to grow our own fruit and vegetables and to keep chickens and for adults and children to be able to learn more about where food comes from. I want people to feel like it is a space for them too.
‘I also want to hold workshops on how to grow your own and I’m hoping that local schoolchildren will also be interested in having a plot on the garden too. The pub is a public place so why shouldn’t the garden be a place for the community too?
‘What I am trying to achieve isn’t going to just happen overnight but I’m confident it will be worth it in the end. What we’re doing has been really well received by the local community and I’m really hoping that this support will just grow and grow.’
If you would like to get involved with the Eagle and Child project contact Glen on 01706 557 181.
And if you know of an inspirational community story, drop us a line. Write to email@example.com.
The print version of this article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
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