Welcome to “Then One Day”, the podcast that explores the special moment when communities come together to transform the places in which they live. I’m Veronica Gordon. In the last episode, I got to know an inspiring community in the Peak District village of Bamford. Their local pub, the Anglers Rest, closed its doors in 2012 and it seemed the place was to become expensive housing. But a passionate group of locals join together to save the very last pub in their area. In case you missed the episode, here’s a little reminder.
Jonathan Lindley, Anglers Rest
It was a kind of sense of it’s a real shame. You know, this is in many ways a honeypot Derbyshire Peak District village where tourists come, and you need to have a place for them to go to get something to eat and drink.
Mark Borden, Anglers Rest
When we first heard that the pub was going to close, the first sort of impression wasn’t to rush to think we can probably, you know, get the community together and save the pub. It was much more just a disappointment of thinking about what our village would be like without a pub at all. You know what it’d be like, you know, if it starts to become a bit of a run through between Manchester and Sheffield. And we obviously we want it to be a place where people stop and, you know, families can come and meet.
Jonathan Lindley, Anglers Rest
Everything put together just created a sense of…actually, when Mark and Bec and others started to talk about saving the Anglers, I think me and many others thought, actually, if we can do that, that’s a really good idea.
A group kind of got together and called a public meeting. I went along and we had quite a good discussion about what we wanted from the pub in the long term and what we could do.
So, the community joined forces and raised a huge £263,000 by selling community shares, meaning members of the community became owners of the place.
In this bonus episode, I want to delve into what community shares are, and investigate how they could help other communities in need. And who better to take us through than Bec McIntyre.
Rebecca McIntyre, Bamford
I was one of the founder members and I’m now on the board of the Bamford Community Society, which owns and operates the Anglers Rest. So, community shares are investments made by members of the community, people like you and I, in order to buy a community asset. So, it’s about raising the capital to buy a building that might be a pub, it might be a shop, it might be a post office, it might be a swimming pool. You know, any kind of community asset that the community wants to buy and take on and run itself.
And generally, people tend to be motivated for reasons other than financial gain for investing. So, it might be that they want to protect local services, or it might be that they want to safeguard jobs. I think, certainly for Bamford, the benefits of going down the community share route was that we were a fairly untried and tested model; we probably wouldn’t have got a bank to invest in us in any way that we could have afforded. So, it really gave us access to finance that meant that we could take the project forward and build a sustainable business. So, in terms of the financial challenges, we needed to raise around about £260,000 very quickly. So, raising that kind of money without grant funding being available to us at that point would have been a huge challenge if it weren’t for community investment; for people putting their hands in their pockets, and essentially saying that they thought this was a worthwhile idea and something that we should really go ahead and try and do.
When you write your share offer document, you really have to be quite pessimistic. So, it’s quite a difficult thing to then convince people to put some money in because, you know, you have to be quite on the kind of negative side in terms of what the potential returns might be. And you certainly don’t want anyone to invest, thinking that they’re going to make lots of money from their investment; then persuading people to to invest can be quite a challenge. But I think what you’re asking for is relatively small amounts from lots of people. So, you know, you try to make it as affordable as possible. One of the ways that we did that was by enabling people to share a share. So, a group of people could club together and buy one share between them if that was the way that it worked for them.
The minimum investment was £250, and the average shareholding bought was £1000 with the maximum possible investment being £20,000.
Rebecca McIntyre, Bamford
So, I think for local residents who want to buy a share, they really get to be part of something bigger than themselves. You know, they get to be part of a community enterprise; they get to have local services and facilities protected. So, you know, we managed to protect the pub, protect the post office, also bring in a cafe. And really, they get to shape the future of the business as well. So, you know, we have an AGM, where shareholders can come along and tell us what they think and tell us what they think that we should do. They get to kind of be involved in as much or as little as they want, really. So, they can come on the board and really be involved in shaping the future of the business or they can just sit back and enjoy the fact that they’ve helped save a pub and a post office and create a cafe.
So, we raised about £250,000 through the share offer and then we topped that up with a loan from a social investor. So, Triodos Bank gave us a social loan for the rest of the money. And we chose to go with Triodos because we felt like their ethics and their ethos matched ours. And they’re a much lower interest rate than a commercial lender, because they lend for social purposes.
In terms of communities that want to do what we’ve done and save their local assets and services, the key place to start really is to find out what people want because, you know, a business without customers is not a business. So, find out what people want, find out what will get them through the doors, and then offer that; that’s really the bottom line. Talk to other communities that have done it already. There’s lots of places where community businesses are succeeding in whatever shape or form, whether that’s pubs; whether it’s, you know, sports facilities, piers.
I mean, it’s a fantastic feeling to know that we’ve safeguarded two assets, essentially. We’ve also created another one. We employ far more people than were ever employed in the Anglers prior to the community owning it. You know, we invest a huge amount of money into the local economy through salaries, but also through local purchasing. So, we’re helping to support other local businesses in our supply chain. So, yeah, I think it’s a fantastic achievement, and I’m very proud to have been involved in it.
Bec McIntyre on saving her local pub through community shares. Hearing from Bec is almost mind blowing how unifying it is for hundreds of people to pool their money and create such an important community space. If you’d like to learn more about anything in this episode, just head to www.powertochange.org.uk. “Then One Day” is a Pixiu production and thanks to independent trust, Power to Change, who brought you this podcast. I’m Veronica Gordon. Join me in a couple of weeks’ time for an intriguing story of how a windmill supplied hundreds of bags of flour for a community in lockdown.