Plunkett Foundation names winners of the Rural Community Co-operative Awards

The awards showcase the co-ops that have made a real difference to individuals within their communities

The 2017 winners of the Rural Community Co-operative Awards have been announced by the Plunkett Foundation.

The awards ceremony, held at St Bride Foundation, London on 6 December, were hosted by TV journalist Helen Fospero, with the winners taking away a plaque and certificate.

Now in their fifth year, the awards showcase the co-ops that have made a real difference to individuals within their communities, from helping to overcome social isolation and loneliness, to address specific health issues.

Barkers of Huby in North Yorkshire won the Yorkshire and North East England Award, sponsored by SUMA Wholefoods. Judges commended the group for:

  • Finance – They are a financially savvy group who clearly recognise the value of retaining the Post Office
  • Potential – This group is the start of the sector and will go on to do so much more for the community

Old Crown Co-operative (The Old Crown) in Cumbria won the North West England Award, presented by Prince’s Countryside Fund. Judges praised the group for:

  • Impact – Ability to capture the long-term impact of a co-operative pub. It is applying years of learnings and using these lessons to improve.
  • Shining example – They are the ‘benchmark’ for a co-operative pub and captures why people are passionate and emotional about the sector

Bamford Community Society (The Angler’s Rest) in Derbyshire won the Midlands Award, sponsored by BCRS Business Loans. Judges commended the group for:

  • Employment – They are a ‘powerhouse’ generating 25 jobs and has a tremendous impact on the local economy
  • Services – They have integrated a range of services and is a great asset to the community

Rocklands Community Shop in Norfolk won the East of England Award, presented by Fram Farmers. Judges were particularly impressed with:

  • Volunteers – They create a care network that looks over the whole community. It is ‘rock-solid’.
  • Extra Curriculum – Love the extra-curricular maths classes and reaching out to the community

Ewelme Village Store in Oxfordshire won the South East England Award, sponsored by the Phone Co-op. The judges were particularly impressed with:

  • Surgeries – Surgeries with local police are a great use of community space
  • Creativity – They are constantly being creative and are an outstanding example of what can be achieved through community ownership

Exbourne & Jacobstowe Community Association (The Burrow) in Devon won the South West England Award, sponsored by the Retail Mutual. Feedback from the judges included:

  • They are the glue that holds the village population together – courage in their convictions and setting out to achieve what they wanted
  • Community engagement – The shop plays a strong role in engaging community groups in North Devon and is pushing forward to help other community groups

GlenWyvis Distillery in Dingwall won the Scotland Award, sponsored by the Co-operative Group. The judges commended the group for:

  • Inspiring – Great use of the community co-operative approach and an inspiring example in the sector
  • Social values – Strong social values evident through the business and are refreshingly different

Cletwr Shop in Machynlleth won the Wales Award, presented by Wales Co-operative Centre. Praise from the judges included:

  • Young people focus – They are committed to teaching the younger generation new skills and introducing them to the basics of financial management
  • A striking achievement of reviving a community experiencing dramatic decline in rural services

Raglan Community Development & Renovation Society in Ballymena won the Northern Ireland Award, presented by Co-operative Alternatives. Feedback from the judges included:

  • This is a highly ambitious project and a very commendable thing to be doing for the community
  • The idea is very sound and would like to hear more about the project in coming years

Ronald Thorne from Chittlehamholt Village Shop won the People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Hastoe Housing Association. For this award, we asked co-operatives to nominate an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to their enterprise and therefore their wider community.

Ron Thorne at the opening of the Chittlehamholt Village Shop

When the Post Office in the north Devon village closed in 2008, Mr Thorne led efforts to save the service, leading negotiations which secured a 50-year lease for a site and leading a fundraising committee which brought in £10,000.  Five years later, the Chittlehamholt Community Shop was formally opened.

A statement from the community supporting Mr Thorne’s nomination said the shop offers “a social hub and meeting place for all, particularly the elderly and lonely. It has a coffee machine and table and chairs leading to many happy noisy sessions.

“The shop is much valued and the untiring work of one man, Ron Thorne, has made it all a reality.”

Winners will receive a party pack, sponsored by Power to Change, in the new year to celebrate their achievement with their communities. They were chosen from a shortlist by judges from the award sponsors Hastoe Housing Association, BCRS Business Loans, SUMA Wholefoods, the Phone Co-op, Co-op UK, the Retail Mutual, Fram Farmers, Co-operative & Community Finance, Charity Bank, WBC and the Co-operative College.

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