About a month ago, CAMRA published the results of a survey carried out in association with Pub Aid which here.
showed that pubs raised more than £106 million for charities last year. Despite the ongoing recession, this is a significant increase on previous years. I doubt that most regular pub goers would be too surprised by this news; I certainly wasn't, as you see it all the time in pubs. As Mike Benner of CAMRA said, “It is time British pubs got the recognition for the amazing funds they raise for numerous charities across Britain. Pubs can get unfairly blamed for a lot of anti-social behaviour but often the alcohol that has led to these problems has not been drunk in pubs.” More details
Over the years I've been asked to play at quite a few fundraisers, and our band, the Lunchtime Legends, have organised perhaps 20 ourselves for various good causes. Listening to a Radio 4 programme today about the RSPCA brought to mind a fundraiser we arranged a few years ago in the Falstaff pub in Southport for the NAS (National Autistic Society). The radio programme, Face The Facts, described how the RSPCA is rather too keen to prosecute vulnerable people, such as the elderly, people with mental health issues or mobility problems, rather than advising them or helping them to look after their pets better. It's not the first time I've heard suggestions that they carry out high profile raids and prosecutions to keep them in the news and thereby encourage more donations.
So what's all this to do with the Falstaff pub and the NAS? On the night of our fundraiser, a collector from the RSPCA entered during the first interval; she is a familiar sight around Southport pubs with her collection box and a teddy bear hand puppet. I approached her and said that she had walked into a fundraising night for the NAS - the clear implication being "don't collect here tonight". "Oh really?" she replied airily and proceeded to wander around the pub collecting. I wasn't happy, but as I don't own the pub, I couldn't do much about it. When we went round a bit later with our collection boxes, people were saying, "It's okay; we've already given". When we pointed out that the RSPCA woman had gate-crashed our charity evening, they quite reasonably replied, sorry but they'd given her the donations intended for us. When we counted the takings, they were lower than any other charity night we'd done - in fact, that total is still our lowest - and we ended up doing an additional night to try to make up the shortfall of what we had hoped to raise.
I was very annoyed about this at the time, and for a while afterwards my friends probably became fed up of hearing the story whenever the RSPCA woman appeared in our local pub. I originally assumed that it was just her being completely selfish concerning her favourite charity, but after hearing that radio programme, I'm now wondering whether her behaviour indicates that the hard-nosed national ethos of the charity has inculcated a sense of entitlement even in the local volunteers.
Last time I was so taken aback by her nerve that I didn't think to ask the licensee to sort it out, but I would if it happens again.