Pubs minister backs Norwich City of Ale festival

Norwich's first City of Ale Festival will has a 'critical' role in promoting and preserving the city's pubs according to a government minister who has given his backing to the event.

Final preparations are being made for the festival, which takes place from May 26 until June 5 and aims to promote all that is good about beer and brewing in this area.

Organisers invited Bob Neill MP, minister with responsibility for supporting the country's pubs, to help open the event on Thursday.

And Mr Neill has issued a statement of support for the festival and the part it has to play in supporting pubs in Norwich for years to come.

He said: 'Community pubs are extremely important assets for this country. Not only do they contribute to the economy and provide many local jobs, but they are also important sources of social value, providing real local hubs - an aspect which I note is being promoted by the festival - that strengthen community relationships and encourage wider social action.

'We all want to see thriving, community-focused pubs that contribute both economically and socially to the areas they serve and that are 'public houses' in every sense of the word, meeting places where local people can go to relax and socialise over a pint of fine ale or their favourite tipple. The government clearly has a role to play helping achieve this.

'However, it is well run, well publicised events such as Norwich City of Ale that can play such a critical role in promoting local pubs and in making things happen at grass roots level, and ultimately, to ensure that community pubs remain an integral and important part of the British way of life for future generations.'

Most Read

The minister's ringing endorsement of the festival, which fits in with the Evening News's Love Your Local campaign, has thrilled organisers just days before the inaugural event kicks off.

Dawn Leeder, co-chairman of the Norwich City of Ale steering group, said: 'Clearly we're delighted - it's a great endorsement for the festival and has given it a real boost.

'It (the festival) is all about trying to encourage footfall in the pubs and perhaps get people to visit pubs that they wouldn't normally do so and the ale trails are going to encourage people to do that.'

Ms Leeder said it was a shame the minister could not attend the event himself in person, but admitted his statement of support gave it a timely boost.

She said: 'It's nice timing.'

The festival, which has the support of more than 30 pubs and more than 30 breweries, will be launched by Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz at St Gregory's Church, St Gregory's Alley, off Pottergate, Norwich, on Thursday.

Other guests to attend the opening of the festival include Norwich's sheriff and Trafford Arms landlord Chris Higgins.

The festival, which also features a Brewers' Market at the Forum on Saturday, May 28, will finish with a closing ceremony and awards event at Dragon Hall, King Street, on June 5.

A display of pub memorabilia will be housed at the Mustard Shop in the Royal Arcade throughout the 10-day festival.

Anyone with any items which they could lend for the display should contact Patrick Cutter directly at

The festival is being backed by the Evening News and fits in with our Love Your Local campaign which urges people to support their local pubs.

To find out more about the festival log onto



The Evening News launched the Love Your Local campaign on February 3, 2009, and the aim was to help save a great Norwich tradition – the local pub.

Throughout the campaign we have highlighted everything that is good about pubs, including the positive impact they have on the community. We have set out the reasons why pubs are so important to communities and why we need to save them for future generations. Norwich has been renowned for its pubs for centuries and was once famous for having a pub for every day of the year.

In 1905 there were 363 pubs inside the city walls, but there are less than 150 now in the whole of Norwich.

The situation is so bad that there are real fears the traditional pub could soon become a thing of the past.

However, we believe pubs are an integral part of the fabric of our society, can play a vital role in building community spirit and are important to the economy of the city.

To see more stories from the campaign visit www.eveningnews

Have you got a Love Your Local story? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email

To find out more about our latest Pub of the Year finalist, turn to page 17.