Parents of a Child With Spina Bifida Bought a Pub. This Is What They Did With It.

a cozy pub with wooden tableI subscribe to a podcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) called Ouch. It features BBC journalists with disabilities who bring their personal experiences to the table, and it can be downright charming to hear them talk about disability in their lovely British and Irish accents. It’s intriguing, too, to hear how British and Irish laws regarding disability sometimes differ from ours here in the United States.

I was all ears last week when BBC reporter Emma Tracey interviewed Kerry Mathie, whose 12-year-old son has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. “Ben is absolutely fanatical about live music, he loves concerts and things,” said Mathie, adding that venues in England are often upstairs. “We struggle to go to concerts with him being in a wheelchair.”

Many venues won’t allow a 12-year-old inside, either, but local pubs are different. Ben has been going to a neighborhood pub with his parents and brothers and sisters to hear live music for years now, but when that pub went up for sale, plans were in the works to destroy it. “It was our local pub anyway, but it was being sold to building executives and they were going to knock it down and build whatever, flats and things,” Kerry told the BBC, noting that they’d never owned a business like that before. “We didn’t want Ben to miss out. It’s his passion, we’ve been going to this pub ever since he was about six or seven to listen to the live music and we just wanted to carry it on, so when we were given the opportunity to take on the pub ourselves, we jumped at it.”

You read that right. Ben’s parents bought the pub.

The Harrow Inn Free House is located in Boughton in Nottinghamshire, and Ben works there as the pub’s entertainment manager. “It’s something he’s going to do when he’s older, too,” his mom said.

Journalist Emma Tracy got Ben on the phone and when she asked him what an entertainment manager does, I swear, you could hear the 12-year-old shrug. “Sorts out what we have every weekend.” When she asked whether he uses social media to learn about new bands, Ben’s mother piped up. “Yeah, he goes on to mine or his dad’s Facebook, because he’s too young to have social media, and he will have a look and see local bands.” Kerry’s mum took over for a bit then, directing the next questions to her son. “Don’t you? You listen to them?”

Again, you can hear the shrug in his answer. “Just watch them on Facebook and that,” he says. “I message them.”

The lilt in Kerry’s voice during the podcast tells me that (outside of his job at the pub) she regards her son’s attitude as that of a typical 12-year-old. “It’s not just for Ben, it’s for the rest of our children as well, and for families in the area,” she says, crediting simple things they do to make the pub welcoming to all.

“Making sure that there’s plenty of room to get round tables, making sure that they can get to the bar, and just the general persona. You know, you just treat everybody the same,” she says. “It’s getting round word of mouth, not only are we wheelchair friendly, but we are accessible to everybody. Everybody is welcome, it’s as simple as that.”


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