A SADDLEWORTH band club is in the running to be named the best on the country after reaching the final four in a prestigious award.
The venue in Dobcross has walked away with the Greater Manchester recognition from the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) for the first time.
But the Platt Lane establishment could go one better as it is on the shortlist for the national honour, competing with ones in Cheltenham, Kent and Cheshire.
“It’s overwhelming really,” said Dobcross Band and Social Club steward John Holden, who finds out in January whether they, Cheltenham Motor Club, Marden Village Club or Barnton Cricket Club will win.
“To be announced in the last four at a gala dinner in Leicester, where the 14 regional winners were honoured, was wonderful.
“We’ve won the Oldham, Bury and Rochdale award for the last four or five years but this year we won the Greater Manchester award for the first time.
“Obviously, this is the first time we’ve been shortlisted for the national award too.
“We look after the beers an keep them top quality but there are three of four brass bands based here and it’s community-used too.
“We have monthly coffee mornings, exercise classes and a theatre workshop group uses us too. It’s well used.
“And being part of the community is as important. It’s amazing how things have progressed – the more we’re used by the community, the more people want to join us.
“People have told me the beer’s absolutely superb – keeping it so well is making sure you’re on top of the cleaning.
“It’s been said in the past, ‘You can clean your lines every two or three weeks.’ That’s not possible. As soon as I see a haze forming, the lines get cleaned.”
The nomination from CAMRA says Dobcross Band and Social Club: “Features enjoyable views of the hills of the Saddleworth moors.
“The present wooden building was erected in 1967 and is set out to provide facilities for the members of its various sections, including bands, bowlers, snooker and darts players.”
An unannounced inspection or two is expected between now and Christmas as judges decide on a winner.
But John is prepared – and his staff and management committee will be too.
He added: “If someone’s working with me, they’ll probably ask them about the beers and where they come from. They won’t want the answer, ‘John deals with all that.’
“It’ll be the same with the committee when asked, ‘What does this club offer?’ The answer isn’t, ‘We’ve got a snooker table, darts and bowls and some brass band things.’”
Dobcross’ nomination comes against a backdrop of spiralling financial commitments – an electricity bill of £27,000 for 2023 left people facing harsh choices.
Get more money in or the club’s future may be under threat.
Its management committee has met to discuss options and it is thought the bill is now under £20,000 after they were examined.
A panel, though, is looking at possibly installing solar panels, while a charge on hiring the concert room is also going to be introduced.
Other options include replacing the bowling green lights with more efficient, energy saving bulbs.
But even though there are tough times ahead, the club is confident it can get through them.
John added: “The energy companies are just playing on people to get what they can.
“It‘s gone up drastically and they had to take action. Now the management committee has to take action.
“They’re having to increase the hire charge. In the past it was a case of become a member and the room’s free.
“Now we’re having to introduce a charge for private functions.”
CAMRA’s National Club of the Year co-ordinator, Phil Greggs, said: “All of these clubs should be very proud of themselves for reaching this stage in the competition.
“It is a huge honour to be considered one of the top four clubs across the country.
“While each of these clubs offers something unique to their visitors, they all share the foundation of what makes a great club – a warm and welcoming atmosphere, excellent service and a fantastic range of beers.”