On Friday 16th September The Centurion in Chester will officially reopen after the community successfully negotiated an initial 12 month lease with Admiral Taverns, and on Saturday 17th September the Sir Charles Napier in Blackburn will become the UK’s first community-owned rock venue.
Locals in Vicars Cross, Chester began rallying when the Centurion potentially faced demolition. They formed a committee and undertook a campaign to successfully argue the vital importance of the pub as a social hub of the community. It will now reopen with a special ceremony attended by funders, supporters and Chester MP Chris Matheson.
Once open, the Centurion will offer a range of additional opportunities for the local community, including digital inclusion sessions helping to teach older residents about internet security, an after-school club offering parents a place to have a coffee for £1 and socialise while their children are in the play area, and continue to host regular quizzes and fundraising events, particularly working closely with the local church group who continue to raise funds for local good causes.
Trevor Jones, Chair of the committee, said: “We would like to thank Admiral Taverns for their continued co-operation and support throughout this process and also for providing us with the opportunity to take on the tenancy of the Centurion. We hope that the Vicars Cross community will demonstrate their support by returning to the Cenny in numbers on a regular basis. It is a lease for 12 months during which time we hope to negotiate the purchase of the pub.”
On Saturday 17th September rock icon Rob Halford from pioneering heavy metal band Judas Priest will officially reopen the Sir Charles Napier in Blackburn to a sell-out crowd of regulars and community members.
Following a year-long campaign to save Blackburn’s last rock venue from closure, regulars took on the lease of the building as a large membership Community Interest Company in June 2016 and have since refitted the pub, including installing a purpose-built music venue, plus a kitchen to provide affordable food to locals. Following the reopening, the group will continue to work with Plunkett Foundation to convert from a CIC to a Community Benefit Society (CBS).
They will continue to implement their vision for the Napier, which includes offering a mix of paid staff and volunteers offering employment and the chance to learn new skills and gain new experience for local people. They also have plans to further engage the wider community and bring about positive social impact in the area, by working closely with Blackburn College, Young People’s Services & Youth Zone, and build on their close ties with other local businesses and non-profits.
Both groups have received business advice and support, including a £2,500 bursary, from Plunkett Foundation’s More Than A Pub: The Community Pub Business Support programme, the unique two-year programme established to help support community ownership of pubs in England.
Plunkett Foundation’s Nicole Hamilton, Project Manager for More Than A Pub, said: “We’re thrilled to see these two fantastic pubs reopening following hard work and determination from their communities. Both of these pubs are so much more than just a place to buy a drink; they provide really important social spaces and are both central to their communities’ sense of place and identity. Both have long term plans to continue to build on providing even more opportunities for local people, and we wish them every success.”