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Veronica Gordon

15 years ago, fueled by a passion to make my city of Southampton a better place for my daughter to grow up in, I started volunteering. Then one day, I decided to do more. I set up a mentoring project for young black people in the local area, began contributing to inner city regeneration projects and started hosting a community radio show, championing local marginalised voices. And now I want to hear how others are joining together to support their communities. How one person’s idea to fix a problem in their neighbourhood catches momentum, draws others in along the way, and together, they make huge differences in their local areas.

I’m Veronica Gordon and this is “Then One Day”, the podcast that explores that special moment when communities come together to transform the places in which they live. Throughout this series, we’re going to get to know the people and stories behind some extra-ordinary businesses and talking about organisations founded by and at the heart of communities across the country. And I’m hoping to discover some tips along the way.

What would you do if you saw a part of your community was about to be lost potentially forever? A group in the north of England were faced with this dilemma. So, to find out what they did next, we’re heading to their picture postcard village of Bamford, nestled among the hills of Derbyshire between Manchester and Sheffield.

 

Mark Borden, Anglers Rest 

My name’s Mark Borden and I live in the beautiful village of Bamford, which is set right in the heart of the Peak District in Hope Valley; a very apt name Hope Valley. The beautiful peaks all around us really. We’re right underneath Bamford Edge, sitting alongside at Stanage Edge, which is where we get an influx of people that come out looking to climb, looking to cycle and walk. Bamford’s a very small village in some respects. You know, we’ve still got some shops remaining; we’ve got a dentist and we’ve got a bakery; we’ve got a church. And of course, we’ve had sporadically a pub over the years, which is the nature of this story really, which has been our fight really to maintain a pub in the village.

 

Veronica Gordon

And this crucial part of the community is called the Anglers Rest, or The Anglers, as the locals say,

 

Anglers Rest 

Good evening, everyone. It’s my pleasure and joy to welcome you all here tonight. I’m really glad that you’re here tonight. I’m especially glad that Phil Taylor, the band here, have come down and supported us in this way. So, let’s give a warm welcome. Thank you very much.

 

Veronica Gordon

The Anglers hosts a variety of music nights, including their popular folk evening.

 

Phil Taylor, Anglers Rest 

Thank you. So, I’m going to start with “All around my hands”.

 

Veronica Gordon

But things haven’t always been so idyllic in Bamford. In 2012, this pub came under threat, and there were plans to turn it into expensive housing. Being an active member of my own community in Southampton, I’m always in awe of what communities achieve when they pull together. And this one is quite something. Today, the tale of how a determined group in Derbyshire saved the last pub in their village and reignited the community spirit. Jonathan Lindley runs the folk night and is chair of the association that manages the pub. He’s going to take us on a tour of the place.

 

Jonathan Lindley, Anglers Rest 

It’s a long, thin building, not very deep. You’ve got big bar area and beyond that a small area where we have tables for dining. And then the Snug, which is where I am at the moment, which is kind of big paving slabs, old stone slabs on the floor, beamed ceiling. So that’s all kind of to the left, the left-hand two thirds of the building. There’s a small Post Office area, just kind of beyond the bar to the to the right.

 

Veronica Gordon

Yes, you heard that right, a Post Office in the pub. They also have a café. You see the owners of this pub have been very creative in how they run the place.

 

Jonathan Lindley, Anglers Rest 

You’d have people in here eating; you’d have people in here socialising; you’d have what you might describe as some serious drinking going on. And everybody having a good time, basically. And then once or twice a month, you have the folk night; once a month, you have vinyl night; once a week, we have quiz night; so, lots of stuff going on.

 

Veronica Gordon

But let’s rewind a bit. 20 years ago, when Jonathan was quite new to the village, there were some tell-tale signs that things weren’t looking good for the pub.

 

Jonathan Lindley, Anglers Rest 

Well when we first moved, it was open regularly. I wouldn’t say it was thriving, but it was kind of, it was running. And over the first couple of years, it kind of declined quite a lot. And then it had a whole series of landlords came in, none of whom lasted very long. So, I guess over the period from sort of 2000 to 2010, it gradually fell into, you know, not very many people coming in, a small handful of very regular regulars and that was pretty much it. I didn’t always…I used to come in occasionally, but not very often because it didn’t feel terribly kind of welcoming, to be honest.

 

Veronica Gordon

But in spite of this, it was still a useful part of the village that showed a lot of potential. Meet Bec, Bamford resident, beer brewing fan, and a key voice in today’s story.

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

Yeah, so we moved out here about 12 years ago, bought a house, renovated it, and we used to come up to the pub when we were doing our renovations. It kind of kept us fed and watered, while we didn’t have kitchens and things like that.

 

Veronica Gordon

But, perhaps inevitably, the pub closed its doors in 2012.

 

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. So, it’s a real shame that there wasn’t anything. So, I think there’s a slight sense of sadness. But also, if I’m honest, a sense that it had been coming for a long time, because it had been on this kind of downward trajectory it seems to me for quite a while. Hearing that the plan was to make it into like executive housing that nobody local would be able to afford, I think people were quite cross about that.

 

Mark Borden, Anglers Rest 

When we first heard that the pub was going to close, you know, 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 the disappointment of thinking about what our village would be like without a pub at all; you know, what would it be like, you know, it starts to become a bit of a run through between Manchester and Sheffield. And 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, we can do that. That’s a really good idea”.

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

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. And a small sort of steering group came out of that which I was part of, to then sort of look at what the options were, you know, whether it was realistic whether we could actually do this.

 

Veronica Gordon

But the seed had been planted and the village got to work.

 

Mark Borden, Anglers Rest 

Initially, we had a number of quite small meetings with a number of just enthusiastic people. And after a little while, we thought “Wow, we need to take these ideas to the village.” And of course, when we first spoke about the idea, I think generally people were obviously quite sceptical about how would this actually work? Can you raise that amount of money to actually purchase the pub? How does it work when the community actually owns a pub? I mean, are they in there pulling pints? And that’s when things, I guess, the reality of the whole situation is just about, “What does it really mean for the community to own and run a pub?”

 

Veronica Gordon

Well, they were about to find out. Bec happened to have a background in bid writing, so was able to lead the finance side of things, and the community came up with a plan. Firstly, they protected the building, registering the Anglers Rest as Derbyshire’s first community asset. They then raised a huge £263,000 by selling community shares, meaning members of the community actually bought shares in the pub, investing in the place. That is how much they cared about it. I was particularly intrigued by this.

I know there’s 300 shareholders. How do you convince people or how do you motivate people to put their money in such a dream?

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

Yeah, I mean, dream is the right word, I think. You know, when we started out, none of us really knew whether it was going to be possible. We went through a process of asking people to pledge to begin with. So, we said, you know, don’t give us the money, but tell us whether you would be prepared to invest and, if so, give us an idea of how much. So that gave us the confidence that we could potentially raise the money. In order to convince people, we had public meetings, we answered everybody’s questions. We wrote a business plan; we wrote a share offer document. We also had a bit of an open day because what we hadn’t ever had in the village was a café. And I think trying to show people that a café in a pub, I think that that was kind of a bit of a strange idea to begin with. So, we had a bit of an open day where we managed to open the pub for tea, coffee, cakes. And I think that showed a lot of people that that was possible. I think the other thing that really kind of made the project what it is, was bringing the Post Office into the mix. So, people that wouldn’t necessarily come into the pub, wanted to protect the Post Office and keep the Post Office in the village.

 

Veronica Gordon

Was there a post office in the village previously?

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

Yeah, there was but it was also under threat of closure. The way the post offices were funded was basically changing, which made kind of standalone post offices not really viable anymore. So you know, you’ll probably notice post offices in Spas, in petrol stations in, you know, all sorts of different places now. So, our plan was to bring it into the Anglers.

 

Veronica Gordon

So, the community was now literally invested in the project. But I wondered why they decided to raise community shares, instead of looking for a grant,

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

When we were setting up, you know, organisations like Power to Change didn’t exist. So, I think, you know, with my background in bid writing, one of the first things that I said at the public meeting was, you know, don’t expect to get a grant to make this possible. There wasn’t that sort of funding available to buy a pub, you know. What funder would help a community buy a pub. Luckily, our funders are a bit more enlightened nowadays and they see that that sort of thing is actually a worthwhile investment. But no, it was very much the shares. And then we topped up with a loan from a social bank. So Geodos gave us a loan towards the purchase of the building.

 

Veronica Gordon

But the fight was far from over.

So, when the community found out that you may lose the pub to a housing developer and houses may be built, what did that feel like?

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

The main feeling was of having been cheated really, I think, because we felt like we’d done everything right. You know, we’d followed all the processes. We were so close; we’d raised the money’ we’d kind of won the contract to put the Post Office into the pub. And then obviously, to hear that they’d agree a sale with somebody else was really devastating. And I think, because we’d followed all of those steps, people felt really cheated, as I say, and I think that kind of galvanised people to take action.

There was a huge community effort to write to the MP. We wrote; we phoned; there was even, I think, a plan to organise a minibus and go and sit outside the owner’s building and kind of protest at one point. People took a lot of action. And I think, when we went to see our MP, he said, the thing that had really kind of made him aware of it was the fact that he’d got lots of individual letters from people, in their own words, about why this was so important. So, it wasn’t just a petition; everyone was kind of responding in their own ways. So, some people were very angry; some people were very upset; and I think that that kind of highlighted to him how important it was to kind of step in and help us out.

 

Veronica Gordon

With their MP behind them, the community continued on their mission. They used all the tools they had at their disposal, from social media, to legal advisors, and even took to the national press. Nothing was going to stop them winning back their pub. Eventually, in 2013, the residents were victorious, and were declared owners of the Anglers Rest.

After all that campaigning and getting on to the MP and everything, when you found out that you guys were going to be successful, and you’re going to own the building, tell me how you felt.

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

I think it’s fair to say that there was quite a big party that night in Bamford. We didn’t have the pub at that point, so I do remember one of the steering group members knocking on my door with a crate of beer to let me know that the sale was back on. And then eventually, you know, word kind of filtered round to everybody and I think most people ended up at my house that night. And it was quite a big party. But what we then very quickly realised was that there was also a lot of hard work to be done. So we started thinking about recruiting staff and getting ready for opening.

 

Veronica Gordon

So, after all of that long struggle and it’s finally time to open the doors, what was your opening night like?

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

It was amazing. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. The staff behind the bar were pulling pints as fast as they possibly could, and they still weren’t keeping up with demand.

We had a fantastic band. You know, we had everything from sort of very young babies through to kind of 80, 90-year olds; everyone was just out, celebrating. I think there was a point where people couldn’t actually get in the building it was so busy.

 

Veronica Gordon

After the music finished playing, and the glasses had been cleared away, the community got cracking. They received funding from independent trust, Power to Change, to renovate the pub, added a café into the mix, and even got the planned Post Office up and running.

And I think something beautiful is when you write something on paper, and you see it come to fruition in front of your eyes. When you were writing the initial bid, what now has just totally blown you away?

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

Yeah, I mean, definitely the café, I think. You know, when we wrote the first business plan, we really didn’t have any idea of what the demand would be for a café. You know, genuinely people said, “Yes, we would use it”, but you never quite know whether that’s going to actually translate into real demand. But the café, you know, is a really valued part of the community. We have our exhibitions in there; we use it in the evenings for kind of the launches of our exhibitions. So, you know, local artists get the chance to exhibit their work and sell it as well through the café. I think it’s really interesting as well how, you know, you kind of write something on paper and you think, right that’s how it’s going to be and then when you start actually delivering it in reality, it goes off in 100 different directions. So, people come along and say, “Well, can I set up a vinyl night?”, “Can I set up a folk night?”, “Can I set up a mental health group?” People take the Anglers Rest, and they use it however they want, because they own it.

 

Veronica Gordon

And this is where vinyl record fan Mark comes back in.

 

Mark Borden, Anglers Rest 

Once we got the pub, we thought about lots of different ideas about things that would get a range of different people from the community together. And we came up with a range of different ideas, but the one that I was very keen on was vinyl night.

We thought it would be fantastic to see how many closet vinyl fans there are out there in Bamford. So, we just put some posters around Bamford, set up an old stereo system, an old vinyl player with, you know, some speakers. To our amazement, we had like 20 or 30 people just to sit around, play vinyl, chat, and just share stories really about listening to vinyl and their love of music. So, after that, vinyl night became a thing, really.

So what vinyl night shows about the community, which I really value, is that we get people of all age ranges there, of all musical tastes there but have all got this shared experience of loving putting a needle on a record, listening to a record like, you know, you may have done in the old days where you sit, you look at the record covers, you listen to the music together, and then you tell stories. And we’ve had some wonderful storytelling from people across the village, sharing stories about, you know, some of the people that they put on records and explained how they’re actually on that record, you know, they actually played in that band, or they are connected to the music in some way. And so, the night really isn’t a night of sit down and listening to music, it’s a night actually of storytelling that emerges. And that’s when, you know, I think that the magic of vinyl night really kicks in. And we have different themes every month.

What does the pub mean to me? I mean, the pub now means that I think we’ve got a place where it’s almost like our friendship group has grown. So now, I think we moved into Bamford in the early 2000s – 2003, 2004 – and we knew our sort of immediate neighbours. But now, I can honestly say that I could walk through the village and I would know or feel connected to 99% of the people that we see. Because the pub’s become a bit of a hub for the community. It’s kind of become more than a pub; it’s become more like our friendship group really. So, in that respect, it’s really the heartbeat of the village.

 

Veronica Gordon

The Chair, Jonathan, agrees.

 

Jonathan Lindley, Anglers Rest 

I think what we’ve shown here is that putting an enterprise at the heart of the community and putting something like benefits to the community at least as high as making a profit, is both possible and massively advantageous, and actually commercially a good thing to do as well. It’s a bit of a cliche, but we can do so much more when we work together than we can if we isolate ourselves.

 

Veronica Gordon

And this has become particularly obvious during the pandemic this year. Although the pub had stopped pulling pints for a period, they didn’t stop serving the community in other ways.

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

Bamford was very quick in setting up a mutual aid group. We had the infrastructure of The Anglers – we had a phone number; we had an email mail address. So, we kind of had that already a step ahead, if you like. We had an existing group of volunteers who could go out and deliver leaflets.

 

Veronica Gordon

The impact of having such a community space is clear. In fact, 300 villagers’ vision of what the pub could become was so enticing, they put their own money into it. And with this in mind, I had just one more question for Bec.

For somebody in a different community – so there’s a few residents, and they’re looking at a pub that’s just closed down in their street, or in their neighbourhood. And they’re dreaming, “Oh, I wish one day that could be a community pub?” What tips would you give them?

 

Rebecca McIntyre, Anglers Rest 

I think the key thing is find out what people want. Because the key thing is getting people through the door and if they won’t use it, and if it doesn’t appeal to them, then they won’t come in. You know, you can be sure that there will be another community that’s done something similar. So, talk to them, find out what they’ve done, and then yeah, get on it.

 

Veronica Gordon

It’s been wonderful hearing how the people of Bamford saved the last pub in the village, and it’s made me think about the communities in my city, who don’t have a space to come together. I want to tell them about Bamford, about The Anglers, about how it’s possible to breathe life into that disused building in your neighbourhood and turn it into a place full of love and laughter.

If you, like me, have been inspired by anything you’ve heard in today’s episode, head to www.powertochange.org.ukfor more information. Make sure you join us in two weeks’ time for our bonus episode, where we’ll be sharing some very useful community business tips. “Then One Day” is a Pixiu production. And thanks to independent trust, Power to Change, who bought you this podcast. I’m Veronica Gordon and I’ll leave you now with some final words from Mark and one satisfied Bamford villager.

 

Mark Borden, Anglers Rest 

Along the journey, there’s been some lovely stories that have emerged from the community since we’ve had the pub open. We got a lovely letter from a member of the community in the early stages saying that the pub had given her her confidence back. You know, since she’d lost her husband, she hadn’t really felt the confidence to get out and mix with people. But now, she felt like just down the road, she could go into a café and know that she meets a friendly face. And you know, she wrote a lovely letter, “Thank you for giving me my confidence back”. And it’s those sorts of stories really, I think at the heart of it, you know, beyond the big story about, you know, buying the pub and it being run by the community. It’s those little stories that are the real magic of it, I suppose.