My mantra is that all business starts with a conversation and depending on who’s holding the conversation depends on whether it leads to good or bad business.

I was delighted, on the good business front, to learn recently of a conversation between the owners of Newcastle’s Cumberland Arms and Alphabetti Theatre. That conversation led to an application for a Cultural Recovery Fund and on Friday the Cumberland heard that it had been successful in attracting a substabtial grant to help it achieve its vision to be a ‘centre of life’ for the north east.

For me, this is news of significance. The suffering of the hospitality
sector during the pandemic has been well documented and some hospitality venues have been far stricter in applying lockdown rules and guidance than others. The Cumberland Arms has led the way for good behaviour, to keep its customers and staff safe, throughout the pandemic. As a privately owned business, with little ability to innovate because of a lack of catering facilities, and, with what it’s known for (music and performance) forbidden, the pandemic posed a serious threat. The Cumberland is the beating heart of its community, hosting events and enriching lives with the provision of arts, heritage and community events. That conversation between manager Jo Hodson and Ali from Alphabetti made all the difference…

The team started remembering what it achieved over the twenty years of current ownership. It has a national reputation for cultural provision including heritage (eg rapper dancing) music, theatre, comedy and poetry. The Cumberland is very much more than just a pub! A nurturer of talent, it has provided a springboard for many: Artic Monkeys, Maximo Park and Richard Dawson to name just three. On average each year it supports over 900 artists and 90+ community events and hosts a staggering 338 free events including dance.

I mention it as an example because, as Jo Hodson says: “All the messages that we’ve received over the pandemic have shown how much we’re valued in the community. But to have this recognition from central government shows that all our hard work nurturing creative talent and developing The Cumberland as a community resource for local people over the last twenty years hasn’t gone unnoticed.”

Our campaign at NIBE, to make the north east known as a place to do good business in every sense, receives new energy and impetus when we hear stories like this. One of Newcastle’s oldest pubs providing a grass-roots cultural and community venue for 171 years, has been singled out for significant national support because of the good it does as the ‘centre of life’ – the heart of a vibrant community.

Caroline Theobald – Director, NIBE