Sunday, 7 December 2014

Culture shift

Over the years, I’ve sometimes listed a change in ethnic make-up as a cause of pub decline in inner-urban working-class areas. Now Tory peer Lord Hodgson has acknowledged this trend, but has rather inevitably been accused of “scapegoating Muslims”.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, who was previously a director at one of Britain's biggest brewers, said that the "tides of history" have led to large numbers of Muslims in Britain's cities who do not drink.

He said that "socioeconomic change" is more responsible for the decline of pubs than "rapacious" pub chains.

He said: "I identify three fundamental features behind this. The first is the rapid rate of socioeconomic change in Britain. Twenty-five years ago, the company of which I was a director would have operated probably a dozen pubs in Kidderminster, the home of the carpet trade.

"The carpet trade has gone and there are three pubs left. In areas of Nottingham, Leicester, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham the increase in the Muslim population, who do not drink, leads to many pub closures. It is exceptionally hard for a publican who has put 10 years of his life into trying to build up a business to accept the inevitabilities of these tides of history."

But surely it’s simply stating a fact of life, not a case of “look at these bloody Muslims coming over here and shutting our pubs”. If an area becomes largely populated by people who for cultural reasons do not drink alcohol, then inevitably the potential customer base for its pubs will reduce. It’s not a uniform nationwide effect, but it is very obvious that this factor has led to large inner-urban areas of places like Oldham, Rochdale, Blackburn and Bradford losing most, if not all, of their pubs. In the comments to my blogpost, Simon Cooke says:
In sunny Bradford - and I suspect some other areas too - there's a further factor. Bradford's working class is now overwhelmingly Muslim and they don't drink (or rather they don't drink in pubs - almost all the Asians I know drink).
It has also been mentioned in relation to the Gateway in East Didsbury, where it’s not so much Muslims but middle-class Hindus moving in locally.

I wonder which bright spark will be the first to come up with the idea that pubs need to “broaden their appeal” by stopping selling alcohol. And it’s interesting that comments have been disabled on the news article.


  1. We seem to have become a society where someone can say something perceptive and inoffensive that touches on race or faith and either the professionally offended try to make out the comment is racist or indeed the comment attracts the racists as an aegis for their own prejudices.

    It would seem a fair logical statement of fact that a community with a large Muslim population would have a lower requirement for pubs than a community with a mainly Christian one. It's not an attack on a minority to recognize parts of our society have different requirements to others.

    In and around most cities there are predominantly Muslim areas, but anyone would notice the shut boarded up pubs in that part of town would serve that community better as something else.

  2. Absolutely, Cookie. I thought when writing this "someone will say it is racist", but clearly IMV it isn't, just a reflection of changing society.

    Sadly, we are too much inclined to pussyfoot around such issues.

  3. It is no more racist than pointing out the dearth of pork butchers in the Jewish areas of Leeds and Manchester. Or of used car dealers in Amish communities

  4. Maybe it's class snobbery to suggest the parts of town with a large young professional childless population would support a wide range of fashionable bars selling £6 thirds of craft beer but the flat roof pub on the council estate with 80-90% unemployment might struggle if the lager goes too far north of £2 a pint.

  5. Didn't I see Pete Brown make some rather damnino remarks about Lord Hodgson?

    You and Cookie are obviously correct. In fact there are several Oldham pubs that are now mosques or schools or madrasseers.

    Changing demographics and all that.

  6. It would be interest if Pete Brown commented on this blog. I gather he’s disinclined to think Tories have any valid points, so maybe that informs his view.

    The narrative of pub closures is one of laying blame. Blame on smoking bans, supermarkets or even pub co’s. Suggesting cause becomes laying blame, though the peer was not blaming Muslims. Maybe those seeking for pubs to be more popular need to move away from blame and understand the shift in consumer behaviour and the lack of relevance of pubs to many peoples lives. Maybe from that they may figure out how to make the pub a desirable place to visit.

    I long held the view that the Lords should be elected, like the dual houses of other democracies. The more I follow politics the more I appreciate that there are people in the Lords that can say things that elected politicians would fear. People from backgrounds either like this chap in commercial enterprise or others that have experience of how the economy actually functions in creating wealth and jobs. I think they filter out a lot of the knee jerk idiocy elected politicians can come up with. Even if they are a bunch of old duffers.

  7. Professor Pie-Tin9 December 2014 at 07:47

    Have you recovered from your Bermondsey sojourn ?

  8. I liked that Prof, good spot, it showed the fun of pub going rather than the dry procedural joyless beer ticking a lot of beer blogs show.

    Made me think beer enthusiasts and CAMRA are probably the wrong lot to task with saving the Great British Pub as they don't actually get what the main function of pubs are and seem to think they are about the beer.

    A laugh with your mates over something cold and wet that relaxes you is more of a reason to visit a pub than because it has 12 hand pumps you might not have tried and written in your note book.

    Some cultures prefer breaking bread to drinking, some prefer wine to beer, some like stewed tea or muddy coffee. We should celebrate the cultural importance of a skin full of Stella and a kebab and a fumble behind the Wetherpoons bins and place it on a level of national respect rather than denigrate it.

  9. Professor Pie-Tin9 December 2014 at 17:37

    I'm in complete agreement,old cock.
    I have to say that since I was alerted to the blog by a post from Boak and Bailey I've found the two lads to be refreshingly funny and good writers.
    It brings back good memories of heading out into the night with a pocketful of drinking vouchers,some roll-up baccy and papers and endless optimism about the japes and tomfoolery ahead.
    It's how I remember guilt-free binge drinking before all those warnings about your penis dropping off if you have more than two pints of 6X.
    These days it seems like you can only get properly pissed without risking the wrath of total strangers at rugby and cricket matches

  10. The same point has now been made by a Liberal Democrat minister.

    Will all those who cried racism before be so quick to condemn?


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