Windsor Castle pub

Recent pub writings

We have been busy with the launch of Club Soda Guide, our listings site for the best licensed venues for mindful drinkers. A post at NudgingPubs tells the story in terms of innovation for and behaviour change with pubs.

Windsor Castle pubOver at the Guide website, I put together suggestions for pub crawls in the City and Hackney in three blog posts: Shoreditch and Old Street pub crawl routes, Dalston and Stoke Newington pub crawl routes, and City of London pub crawl routes. There is still a couple of these to follow in the next few weeks.


Guest blog on “Behaviour change for pubs and bars”

I was asked to write something for the Society for the Study of Addiction about our Nudging Pubs work in changing the behaviour of pubs and bars.

My guest post was on the two theoretical foundations of our project: a taxonomy of behaviour change tools, and a typology of nudges. The first is a UCL-led project, the second is from Cambridge University’s Behaviour and Health Research Unit.

Read the post at SSA’s website.

Beers, low and no (alcohol)

It’s been a bit beery recently. First, I wrote for the Club Soda blog about the low and no alcohol beers available in Finland. Things have moved on while I’ve been away, and the choice is really rather good these days, and the taste (mostly) very pleasing too.

And last week, for Nudging Pubs, I had a quick look at the number of lower alcohol beers on offer at the Great British Beer Festival, CAMRA’s annual real ale and cider celebration. In this case, I wasn’t very impressed…

Nudging Pubs

Nudging Pubs is the final title to a little project that Club Soda completed last year (it was called “the Dalston Burst” at the start). The final report (pdf) from the project is now out, along with a brand new website.

The aim of the project was to answer this question:

How can we encourage pubs and bars to be more welcoming to customers who want to drink less alcohol or none at all?

The report has the findings from our research and experiments, along with recommendations and key messages. And the great news is that Hackney council are funding a second year of this project, for which Club Soda has partnered with Blenheim CDP. We’ll use the Nudging Pubs website for regular updates on the project, but I’ll probably do something occasionally on this blog as well.


Forgot to mention this earlier, but the Club Soda team (Laura, Cassie, me) wrote a little e-Book: “How to go dry this January (and make it stick)”. It is based on some free booklets we wrote and gave away to Club Soda members during (dry) January, with some extra material thrown in. The only drawback is that the book is only available for Kindle from Amazon at the moment. But we’re working on an expanded book which we’ll share more widely.

In other news, I’ve also been writing an eight-week email-based behaviour change course for people wanting to cut down or quit drinking: 8 Weeks to Change Your Drinking. The first customers are on day 23 now, and I’m looking forward to the first proper feedback from them next week.

Alcohol units, risk, communication – and a whole load of nonsense

The UK Department of Health released their long-awaited updated guidelines on safe levels of alcohol consumption last week. The headline news was a small reduction on what is recommended as “safe” drinking for men, and that the limits are now the same for women and men. The predictable consequence was an avalanche of moaning. Pick any newspaper from that week and you will find a column inviting “the nanny state government” to come and take the poor oppressed journalist’s last bottle of wine, but only from their cold, dead hands. Yes, there was also some intelligent commentary on the findings and methodology of the review behind the new guidelines (David SpiegelhalterThe Stats Guy), but mostly it was all predictably sad, confused, and badly informed.

The reasons are not at all mysterious. (1) Alcohol is a touchy subject; most people in the UK drink, and any talk about the harms is taken as an accusation of their personal choices. (2) Risks are difficult to understand (and in this case they are also very difficult to estimate – the medical evidence itself is still far from settled). And as a consequence, (3) Risk information is difficult to communicate well.

There is not much that can be done about the first two. Which means that the third issue becomes even more important. I’m not sure how much better the publicity for this particular announcement could have been, but surely it can’t have come as a surprise that it was so badly received.

And for every journalist and pub commentator saying that their drinking never did them any harm, why not take a moment to consider the bigger picture. A small change in cancer risk might be acceptable to you personally, but from a public health perspective, looking at 50 million people in the UK, even a small reduction in alcohol consumption and therefore the number of future cancer cases will mean enormous savings for the health care system. That’s what the guidelines are all about.