A round of applause for the rural community business heroes

Rural communities face their own set of unique challenges. Smaller populations, fewer amenities and transport issues can leave residents of rural towns and villages feeling cut off and isolated with fewer opportunities for social interaction, employment and trade.

These rural areas may be small in population, but they’re big in community power.

Now in its centenary year, the Plunkett Foundation has supported almost 600 rural community businesses to reach trading stage across the UK, bringing with them the development and safeguarding of valuable assets and services to communities up and down the country.

Since 2013, the Rural Community Business Awards have celebrated the achievements of rural community businesses across the UK across seven categories, marking those community businesses that are amongst the most inspiring in the sector. The awards were presented in partnership with Power to Change, sponsored by Hastoe Housing Association.

At the awards ceremony at Burlington House, the Plunkett Foundation announced Halstock Village Shop as its Centenary Community Business, sponsored by Power to Change. Halstock Village Shop opened its doors in 1991 following the loss of facilities in Yeovil. As many other community businesses started out, Halstock Village Shop was the result of a group of residents banding together to provide a community owned shop that would also offer community facilities.

28 years later and the shop is still thriving, with three management staff members and a fleet of up to 20 volunteers. Their new building now features two flats which help to fund the Halstock Village Trust, which changes the lives of residents by giving out grants to local groups and organisations.

 

Halstock Village Shop is named Centenary Community Business. Photo: Plunkett Foundation

Another special announcement was made on the night, as Plunkett named Charlotte Hollins of the Fordhall Community Land Initiative as the Centenary Fellow of the national charity. Charlotte spearheaded the campaign to save her family’s farm – who had managed the farm for more than 300 years – by selling shares to the public.

The farm is now owned by more than 8,000 shareholders across the UK and the world. Fordhall Farm received grants from Power to Change through both the Trade Up programme and Community Business Fund to renovate the farmhouse and secure the future of the farmland for many years to come.

Charlotte Hollins of Fordhall Farm. Photo: Plunkett Foundation

The People’s Choice Award was won by Amanda Spence of Lodsworth Larder for her outstanding contribution to community business.

The Diversifying to Make a Difference Award went to Exelby Green Dragon community pub for embracing diversification and improving its customers’ experience and the lives of people in the local community.

The Connecting the Community Award celebrates the standout community business that tackles isolation and loneliness in rural areas in an accessible and effective way. This was won by Neroche Woodlanders near Somerset for its work in tackling loneliness and isolation in rural areas in an accessible and effective way.

The Investing in Local People Award recognises the efforts of a community business which goes above and beyond for its people, whether they’re volunteers or paid staff, by supporting and investing in them. It was won by North Curry Community Café in Taunton.

New for 2019, the One to Watch Award is for those community businesses that have recently opened their doors for trading and have a great vision for the future. It was won by Gressenhall Community Enterprise which is working to acquire The Swan, the last pub in Gressenhall, and transform it to be at the heart of the community.

The Horace Plunkett Better Business Award, named after the foundation’s founder, celebrates a great example of a rural community business that has found solutions through co-operation and enterprise. The accolade was won by Isle of Canna Community Shop – located on the most remote and secluded of the Small Isles in the Scottish Inner Hebrides.

The Community Story of the Year Award recognises a story that captures how community businesses often go above and beyond when it comes to supporting individuals and community life. This year’s award went to The New Inn, Norton Lindsey, Warwickshire’s first community-owned pub.

It just goes to show it doesn’t matter if your community business is located in a populous area or a sparsely populated one, what does matter is the passion, the drive, and the determination to make a difference in your community, whatever it looks like. Congratulations to all the winners!