The Plunkett Foundation announced the winners of its Rural Community Ownership Awards at a ceremony in London this week.
Finalists included a community-owned farm in Shropshire and a community bakery in Scotland, alongside community pubs and shops in Wales and England.
Plunkett, a support body for rural community business, said there were more than 50 entries this year – a new record – across six categories, and called it “a testament to the growth of the community business sector”.
The ceremony was hosted by Charlie Luxton, an architectural designer, writer and television presenter and is passionate about affordable housing, rural communities and has supported several eco-friendly projects in Oxfordshire.
Slapton Community Shop in Devon won Community Story of the Year, sponsored by The Retail Mutual. This award recognises the stories that capture how community businesses provide a much deeper role in supporting individuals and community life. When the Beast from the East storm struck the UK in March, it washed away the road which connects Slapton to Dartmouth, and members of the shop team drove to Kingsbridge and brought back supplies of essentials, including bottled water, and kept the shop open. The shelves were bare by the time deliveries could resume, but the village had been sustained by the efforts of the volunteers.
Hampstead Norreys Community Shop in Berkshire won Diversifying to Make a Difference, sponsored by BCRS Business Loans. The store has come up with innovative ideas to become plastic-free and is working to make the community more sustainable, involving the whole community in an inter-generational way.
Ashwater Village Shop in Devon won Investing in Local People, sponsored by Suma Wholefoods. During the snowy weather in 2017, the team kept the community together and continued to deliver their customers. They also provide a foodbank service and are excellent at fundraising and giving back to the community.
Dunbar Community Bakery in East Lothian won the Horace Plunkett Better Business Award, supported by the Co-op Group. This award recognises community business longevity and ability to innovative business practices. This bakery has recovered from a long period of losses, with a strong volunteer management committee which set and achieved an objective to turn around the business and generate a surplus.
Talking Shop in Oxfordshire won the The Little Things Award, sponsored by the Phone Coop. In the words of one customer “…you come away from Talking Shop feeling happier than you went in.” This award recognises the incredible work undertaken by rural community businesses to tackle loneliness and isolation. Talking Shop has been set up with the intention of bringing people together. They have taken steps to ensure everyone feels welcome and included, no matter their age, background or circumstance.
Rick Nickerson from Bigton Community Enterprise in Shetland won the People’s Choice, sponsored by Hastoe Housing Association. This award recognises the dedication and commitment of an outstanding individual. When the village store was put on sale seven years ago, Rick Nickerson rallied the community together to investigate a purchase. He is a committed volunteer serving in the shop with tireless dedication, and helps ensure the shop is dementia and autism friendly.
James Alcock, executive director at Plunkett, said: “The winners all represent fantastic examples of community business. The award nominations recognise the dedication within the community business sector to create thriving and resilient rural communities, and celebrate the aspects that make them truly inspirational businesses.”
Gavin Jones, head of external affairs at Hastoe Housing Association, said: “As England’s leading provider of affordable rural homes, we know there is much more to creating communities than just building homes. Community businesses often provide the only opportunity for people living in rural areas to come together. In providing work, volunteering opportunities and much needed services, they create the conditions for communities to thrive.”
Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive of Power To Change, said: “These inspiring individuals truly deserve this accolade and are true ambassadors for what the community business movement is all about. I am delighted to see them win the recognition they deserve with these awards.”