What started off as an office rumour became a reality earlier this year as we opened our inaugural pop up pub at The Anchor Bankside. In this blog, Dan Richards brings you all the action from The Men United Arms, the first of which opened its doors on 28 January this year.
The Anchor Bankside is usually better known for its history, size and outdoor summer drinking area. But back in January it became the first incarnation of The Men United Arms and, over a fortnight, hosted events attracting supporters new and old to come and find out what Men United is all about.
It's a cliché to say men don't go to the doctors. But whether they do or not, we know they go to the football, the rugby, the golf and you tend to find a few in the pub too. Men United goes where men go.
So in November 2014 we met with Mike Tye, who not only supports us as one of our Trustees, he’s also Managing Director of The Spirit Pub Company which was quite handy when looking for a pub to borrow. He quickly identified The Anchor Bankside as one of the biggest pubs the company runs in London. And we quickly identified that made a lot of sense. We were also very lucky to have fantastic support from the landlord of the pub, John Gohery, and the area management, operations and brand teams to allow us to take over the biggest pub in their portfolio.
So we had a pub. Next stop was planning a programme of events to embody the spirit of the latest phase of our campaign: Men United. Keeping friendships alive. The campaign celebrates the uniqueness of male friendship and encourages men, especially, to do something great together to help beat prostate cancer. And everyone loves a pub quiz right?
We also know that many a new friendship has started in a pub. And we know men talk to each other in the pub. And you never know, once in a while, that could lead to a life saving conversation about health.
On the first day we held a media launch to unveil our new TV advert and were delighted to be joined by Timothy West (who plays Stan in EastEnders, a man living with advanced prostate cancer), rock legend Kenney Jones, and our ambassador Errol McKellar who brought along his mate ex Premier League footballer Ade Akinbiyi. Actor David Morrissey popped by too to show his support. And in the evening 24 teams packed into the main bar for a lively, if slightly lengthy, pub quiz raising over £2,300. A decent start.
In the first few days the pub saw a few more famous faces. Every football fan's favourite Saturday afternoon companion, Jeff Stelling, dropped in for a chat and a pint of Men United Ale with landlord John. And later that week former international footballer Matt Holland officially joined up for our London to Amsterdam Challenge from The Men United Arms.
Now when men go to the pub (another general assumption about male behaviour here) they often go there to watch and talk sport. So we asked our partner, talkSPORT, to get involved. They delivered a live broadcast in front of a group of talkSPORT fans from the pub's Terrace bar, featuring a distinguished panel of experts from the world of football. It was hosted by Mark Saggers, and featured Sports business expert Dan Jones and football club CEO Andy Ambler from our partners Deloitte and Millwall FC respectively.
There were also successful music and comedy events and to keep the cause in the minds of our supporters a night of Pub Science. Four experts gave the low-down on everything from medical imaging to immunotherapy, and from surgery to treating advanced disease. They knew the ins and outs of the increased risk of prostate cancer for Black men, and ways of distinguishing between men who might need treatment and men who won't.
The audience hit the team with some tough questions, but our researchers did a great job of answering them seriously, sensitively and without a jot of jargon. The questions jumped from why men aren’t screened for prostate cancer, to the best way to communicate the outcome of clinical trials. They talked about the reality of personalised medicine – finding the right drug for every patient - and about whether drugs we already have for other conditions might work for prostate cancer too. I don't know what you usually chat about down the pub, but this was a pretty long way from my usual ramblings. Towards the end, one of the researchers summed it up perfectly. He said: “It’s not just men who need to unite against prostate cancer, but us scientists too. None of us can do it on our own – and we know it.”
And it’s not just London that’s had a new pub in town. In the north west, Tony Armstrong, the landlord of “Leggies”, The Cricketers Arms, agreed to open his doors as our second Men United Arms. Leggies is just a stone’s throw from the Widnes Vikings stadium, and with the help of the pub and the good people of Widnes Vikings and Wigan Warriors, we held a very special press conference in the build up to the launch of the new Super League season, and the opening clash between the two teams.
As you've probably gathered, I’m proud to say that while in 2014, The Men United Arms was just an idea, in 2015, our pop up pub was overlooking the banks of the river Thames. And it was quickly followed by a second supported by our friends in the North. With several events planned later in the year in Bristol, Exmouth, Ipswich, and Newcastle respectively, The Men United Arms, we hope, will fast become everyone's favourite local.