Alcohol Free is not only a trend. An interview for curious readers

Interview to Laura Willoughby, co-founder with Jussi Tolvi of Club Soda

Which were the main reasons to found the Club Soda? May you tell us the history of this Association?  

When I gave up drinking, over 6 years ago, I was struck by the fact that there was very little online to support you if you wanted to change your drinking. Run a marathon, lose weight, stop smoking – they all have a host of tools and forums, but I drew a blank on drinking.

I did not want to go to AA, for many reasons I felt it was not for me, but I also did not want to go to a health service drop-in – as far as I was concerned that was for people with real problems, and I could not get a picture of what it was they would offer to support me.

A behaviour change approach gave me the power to make a change, and I wanted to build a service to develop the tools that people need to support their journey. As we have developed our mission has expanded. We call ourselves a mindful drinking movement and our aim is to create a world where nobody feels out of place not drinking.

Which kind of activities (workshops, webinars, courses) are you used to organize and promote? Which kind of “clients”?  

Our members have a wide range of drinking habits, some have never drunk alcohol or vert little and they want to find better drinks and have a better experience on a night out. For many, mindful drinking is about moderating their drinking habits. For example choosing lower alcohol drinks, drinking fewer drinks each day, not drinking on weekdays, doing a longer sober sprint, or even going completely alcohol free. People’s motivations are different too. You could have a slimming or fitness goal, want to save money, keep your mind sharp, or just not be up for drinking tonight. When you begin to think about who, where and what you drink and prioritising the times you drink based on experience rather than habit you can save yourself a few headaches.
So we do a bit of everything. We can help you change your drinking habits (whether your goal is to cut down, stop for a bit or quit) through our online courses and workshops.  We run the mindful drinking festivals and mindful pub crawls, and we are just launching the first UK wide online guide for mindful drinkers (clubsodaguide.com). So whether you normally drink very little or are looking to form better habits we have something for you – after all having more choice on how and where to socialise and what to drink when you are there improves the experience for everyone.
Pls introduce us the Mindful Drinking Festival.  

Club Soda’s Mindful Drinking Festival is coming to the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane this January. This is the fifth festival, since launching in 2017, and builds on the success of the summer festivities at Spitalfields Market and Glasgow in October, the first festival to take place outside the capital.

It is run in association with Adnams, and is free to attend, we will help you discover what’s new with low and alcohol-free drinks. The two-day event will feature over 60 drink producers and will give Londoners the opportunity to taste the best low and no-alcohol drinks on the scene including craft beers, wines, spirits, lower-sugar sodas, tonics and infusions – perfect for anyone wanting to drink less or going dry this January.

How the institutions and the “official” world reachted to your activity? Did they support? 
We gave had great support from the bar and restaurant industry. I think they like the way we talk about the issue – we are not preachy and we are very happy to share the voice of the consumer – for us it is about supporting people to go out more often and that is good for everyone. In terms of government, they are beginning to recognise what we do (we were mentioned in the Scottish Alcohol Strategy),but we are keen to be shaped by the individuals that use our services and come to our events rather than build our movement based around Government policy.
Pls tell us something about strategic operations in the next future. 
We are still a small organisation and would love to grow quicker. We are working on a digital coaching tool to help people change their habits as well as growing our events and festivals. Starting something new is hard!
Is it a UK Campaign or could be extended to all the world? Which countries are or could be involved? 
 
We already have members from around the world (and many in Spain). We would love to have country specific communities develop.

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