I was lucky enough to go to many of the provincial festivals, like Shelford Feast, Red Lion at Histon, the Boot at Dullingham, the Cambridge Blue and also Quy Mill Hotel. I also went to the three biggest and best.

Cambridge gets bigger and better every year and is brilliantly organised. The Great British Festival in Earls Court was every bit as good as ever, and Peterborough was fabulous, and on the trade and press day it was great to see so many Cambridge stalwarts there. The likes of Kevin from the Boot, Jethro and Terri from the Blue, Fil from In & Out Inns, and Chris holed up at the Three Tuns in Abington were all there. I was talking with Pat and Will from the White Horse at Swavesey, our Branch pub of the year, and we were mulling over the problems faced by many publicans. Without doubt the government has no concerns about the pub trade and will sacrifice it just to get money into their depleted coffers due to their mismanagement of the economy.

Will made the very valid point that the large pub companies are now offering incentives to lure people into putting their life savings into what may become a poisoned chalice by taking on tenancies that have failed. There are pubs being offered for no rent in the first year, and then they gradually raise the rent, finally reaching the figure they think they can command. These companies are looking over their shoulders and seeing doom; they only need to see how their shares have collapsed to see the problem.

Many publicans who have been running their pubs for many years are, like the rest, going out of business by the day. Surely these people who make major decisions on rent and the like, even though many were not even born before some publicans started in the trade, should realise that it is such a hard world out there in the pub trade. The answer is to head the problem off at the pass by actually lowering rents, and prices on beer to make sure viable businesses remain so.

The answer is for the likes of Greene King to negotiate rents downwards to avoid killing the goose that lays the golden egg for them. A loyalty bonus scheme should be put in place to ensure that any publican who has done the miles receives a well-earned break and reaps the rewards they so justly have earned in these difficult times.

These actions would make a pub that might well flounder able to survive. In a previous issue of ALE, the Nostradamus in me predicted seven plus a day would be going out of business. It was two days after our publication that official figures were announced confirming my thoughts. I may not be the best crystal ball reader in the world, but in this trade Iím more often right than wrong, so brewer and pub co, PLEASE LISTEN!

Jerry Brown jerrybrown77@hotmail.com