Features BeerFest

Published on September 5, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour

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Beer festival with the community in mind

Charities and social enterprises have constantly to put their minds to creating funds and raising profiles, so a beer festival is an obvious choice, particularly when one of your senior staff is a former bar manager.

Joseph Harrop is now centre manager at Gosforth Civic Theatre – formerly the city council-run Civic Hall – bringing an admirable range of skills to Liberdade Community Development Trust, the social enterprise that operates the arts venue. Its vision is to create a wholly inclusive centre that breaks down misconceptions about learning disability and demonstrates that learning disabled individuals are able, skilled and valuable members of society.

Joseph’s career has included stints at The Cumberland Arms in Byker along with dAtbAr and Bierrex in Newcastle, so organising a beer festival is second nature. However, seeking local investment is a tough call when austerity measures loom at every turn.

“We’re looking at funding which is a big driver at the moment,” says Joseph. “Libraries are shutting – the local one is open only three-and-a-half days – so we have playgroups sessions working with the disabled community in a relaxed, supportive environment.

“We get 35 work-experience placements a week involved in hospitality for people with disabilities and try and fix them up with permanent positions.”

Joseph and his team – including those on work-experience placements – have arranged for 30 cask and keg beers with at least six ciders to sit on the beer festival bars (September 8-10) with supporting street food, music performers, film shows, DJs and family entertainment.

“We’re featuring half local and half national beers,” he says. “The first beer festival we held last year was all local beers but we’re very lucky to have a lot of great pubs around us who serve that market well. We do all we can in that direction, but also acknowledge the national scene.

“One hundred per cent of the beer festival proceeds go straight back to the charity. We’re keen to repeat last year’s family day which was a great success. We’ve got a bubble-ologist coming with a market and craft stalls and a community family cinema on the Saturday.

‘On the Friday night we’re showing Prince’s Sign O’ The Times and Talking Heads and on the Sunday there’s a free half-pint for anybody who comes in with a Great North Run medal.”

Social enterprise Liberdade isn’t content with one beer festival – there’s a full year of events to schedule. Joseph Harrop has been in Edinburgh viewing five performances a day at the Fringe Festival.

“We’ll look at everything from comedy to queer and family entertainment,” he says.

The charity work at Gosforth Civic Theatre is impressive, affecting none other than film director Ken Loach last year on attending a screening of his film, The Spirit of 45. He said: “We are social animals, we need places to meet, to talk, to have a drink, to have a laugh. This looks like a good place where people can be that.”

*Gosforth Civic Theatre, Regent Farm Road, Gosforth, Newcastle NE3 3HD (beside the Regent Centre station on the Tyne & Wear Metro and on major bus routes). Beer Festival September 8-10. Details: 0191 284 3700.


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Alastair Gilmour



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