Posted by: the3rdi | May 18, 2010


Six enterprising UK rural villages have won Big Lottery Fund investment to revive their communities through new business ventures.  Their journeys will be documented by the BBC for a major new prime-time series.

From Fife to Wiltshire, the projects have each been awarded Lottery grants of around £400,000 to realise their dream ventures, which include taking ownership of the village pub, developing a new food brand and restoring a mill to produce green energy.  All are winners of Village SOS – an initiative by Big Lottery
Fund and the BBC to inspire UK rural revival.

Village SOS is responding to the plight of rural villages across the UK, supporting new community-led business ventures that will breathe new life into their areas, create new jobs and improve the quality of life for local people. All of the villagers applied to the scheme last summer and fought off stiff competition from a wide range of different village enterprise ideas, all wanting to protect their villages from further decline due to the loss of local amenities.

Sir Clive Booth, Chair of the Big Lottery Fund, said: “The Village SOS funding announced today will empower these villages to help secure the future of their communities and protect them from decline and the loss of local amenities. We also hope that they will become examples that inspire others and help to kick-
start a rural revival across the UK.”

Each village will draw on the expertise of their own ‘Village Champion’, a
business expert who will live in the village for a year, using their experience
to help get the local enterprise up and running.

The Village Champions have been selected from a pool of experts following a nationwide search by the BBC and Enterprise UK. They were matched with the villages at a match-making conference in November and since have been working with their village to develop their ideas into a standout business proposal.

BBC One will document the villages’ journeys for a six-part series to be aired next year which promises to be gripping entertainment for viewers as they follow the highs and lows of the new village business, from start up to trading.

The winning six enterprises are:
Taste Tideswell, Peak District
Known in the Middle Ages as ‘the King’s larder’ Taste Tideswell aims to capitalise on the village’s history of producing quality food and plans to increase sales, attract more visitors, create new jobs and protect the village from further decline. With its grant of £432,334 the project will comprise of four elements – ‘Grow it, Cook it, Make it and Sell it’. It will include a community nursery, kitchen garden and professional kitchen for community use. It will also be used as a training kitchen for local school children and as a venue
for cookery courses for adults. Small quantities of ‘Tideswell Tipple’ beer will be made and all of the home-grown produce will be sold under the Taste Tideswell brand. Their ‘Village Champion’ is top UK consumer brand expert Tim Nicol, who as worked for Mars and launched popular pasta-sauce brand Dolmio in the UK.

Barge Inn, Wiltshire
With 13 rural pubs in Britain closing each week*, the Honeystreet villagers have won a Big Lottery Fund grant of £273,840 to buck the trend and save their local, the Barge Inn, which was at risk of closure.  The villagers will to purchase the Barge Inn’s lease and operate it as a social enterprise, securing its future at
the heart of the local community. The venture will also help to support tourism in Honeystreet, which is well known for the local crop circle phenomena and popular canal system, which runs right by the 200-year-old inn. Complementary enterprises such as a village shop and craft and drama workshops will also operate within the pub, and employment and learning opportunities for local people will be created. Their Village Champion is Sandra Bhatia, a talented project manager with a background in music events

Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre, Lincolnshire
Awarded a grant of £433,840 Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre project will use Village SOS funding to breathe new life into a former Methodist chapel building in the historic rural village of Caistor. The project will create a hub for a range of arts and heritage activities. Local artists will have a space in which
to make, sell and exhibit their varied works while visitors can browse through a shop selling local produce and souvenirs, or visit a cafe for refreshments. Their Village Champion is Charlotte Hastings who will support the project by using her skills in marketing and project management having worked for the
British Fashion Council to organise London Fashion Week.

Future Newstead, Nottinghamshire
Future Newstead is based in the former mining village of Newstead in Nottinghamshire and is awarded a grant of £433,140. With young people in mind, organisers behind the project plan to transform the wild lakes on the old colliery tips into designated angling zones, working closely with the CAST project which uses angling as a way to engage with disadvantaged young people. A sustainable resource centre complete with visitor centre, classrooms and workshop space will be created on the site and plans are afoot to host a music
festival, building on the existing community festival that has run for the last 10 years.  London-based husband and wife team Anthony and Julia Thistleton-Smith will act as the Village Champion for Future Newstead and will offer their experience of environmentally sustainable architecture and PR.

West Wemyss, Fife
Villagers in West Wemyss, Fife, Scotland is awarded funding of £374,977. They will use the money turn a disused pub into a community hub with the potential to house a licensed bistro, a village shop selling local produce, meeting rooms and holiday accommodation. The group also want to create small allotments and a
woodland burial site, while they are also considering the installation of wind turbines. Their Village Champion is Allison Hammett who has extensive experience in supporting social enterprises and sustainable communities.

Talgarth Mill, Powys
The villagers of Talgarth near Bronllys, Powys, will use £433,840 to run the Talgarth Mill project. The community will renovate the village’s mill cottage to create a sustainable education and renewable technologies centre, with space for local enterprise and a gallery. An eco-cafe will also be established in the
education centre and the old mill will be reinstated as a working flour mill, where bakery products will be produced and then sold in the local area. Their ‘Village Champion’ is Ann Hillyer whose experience lies in business start-ups starting both in the UK and abroad and supporting young entrepreneurs.

Alongside the Village SOS series, there will be a major learning campaign to help other villages use the learning and enthusiasm from the programme to take a bold step towards starting a new business that will regenerate their own communities.

Due to the high quality of business proposals the Big Lottery Fund has decided to award a further four grants of around £400,000 as Village SOS Learning Awards to projects, which will continue to work with their Village Champions but will not feature in the BBC One series.  It is hoped that they will inspire other
rural villages in the UK that are facing decline.  Projects to be awarded Village SOS Learning Awards today are:

Ballygally Community Development
Association in Northern Ireland awarded £405,840;

Ashfield Community Enterprise
Limited in Wales awarded £433,840;

Ty Talcen in Wales awarded £433,840 and

Assynt Community Association in Scotland also awarded £433,840.


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