A new network is being created to help put more pubs in community hands – and leaders from the growing sector are being invited to help run it.
The Plunkett Foundation, which has been supporting rural communities since 1919, is creating the network, which will be funded by Power to Change, the independent trust supporting community businesses in England.
It will offer bespoke support, advice and resources to help community pubs set up, run sustainably, and increase their local social impact. And it will create more formal opportunities for shared learning on top of Plunkett’s existing advisory services and raise national awareness of the community-owned pub model.
“18 pubs are closing a week, according to CAMRA, and leaving big gaps at the heart of communities,” said Harriet English, head of engagement at Plunkett. “In comparison, community pubs have a 100% survival rate. “We need to act now to put more into community ownership and turn them into more than a pub.”
Jenny Sansom, programme manager of the More than a Pub programme at Power to Change, added: “We’ve already helped 21 community owned pubs open through the More than a Pub programme with Plunkett but there are many more that could be saved.
“Much more than just a place to drink, these are hubs that can bring back the heart to many communities, hollowed out by the loss of local services. And it’s not just funding that communities wanting to save their pub value, it’s also the knowledge they get from connecting with others who have done it before.”
In collaboration with other leading experts in the pubs sector including CAMRA, the British Institute of Innkeeping, the Beer and Pub Association and Co-operative and Community Finance, a suite of specialist resources and training modules will be created to make it even easier for communities to buy and run their local. Regular networking events will bring together the community pub sector, such as the More than a Pub conference in June and visits to existing community-owned pubs.
“Although more pubs would say they have a community atmosphere, they are not necessarily community-owned and shaped,” said Ms Sansom. “Pubs are wonderful spaces for people to gather but it doesn’t have to be around a pint. Community pubs are running vital services local people need including post offices, prescription collection services, training schemes, IT clubs, childcare…and up till now they have not had a formal network to be a part of that meets the complex needs of running a community pub.”
The network will become the ‘go to’ place for all community pub needs, says Plunkett, and will play a key role in helping inspire and enable community pubs to work more collaboratively across the sector to improve their sustainability and viability. A core aim of the network will be to support the day to day management of a community pub, and to help enable greater investment of time and resource into increasing social impact in their locality.
Plunkett is now looking for community pub representatives to join the network’s steering group to help shape the design of the network and the support it delivers. For more information email [email protected]