Plunkett Foundation has announced a new £2.2m round of the More Than a Pub programme, bringing support and finance for communities in England looking to take ownership of their local pub.
Funded by Power to Change and delivered by Plunkett, the support organisation for rural community businesses, it follows the first round of More Than a Pub, which supported 190 communities and saw 28 pubs open their doors under community ownership from 2016 to 2019.
Community pubs are thriving where private enterprise has failed, says Plunkett. Its figures show that almost a quarter of privately owned pubs have shut since 2008, while community pubs have a 100% success rate. Community pubs also play a vital role in reducing loneliness and social isolation, providing a range of community-focused activities and services, as well as being a community space for all.
The programme will be delivered in collaboration with a range of key stakeholders in the community pub sector, and a flexible package of support will be on offer to community groups, including access to an advice line, events, training, workshops, peer-to-peer study visits, and business development advice. It will offer flexible bursary awards to fund very early stage activity, such as community consultation work, and a grant and loan package to help pubs reach the open and trading stage. The programme will support new-start projects and already open pubs, where they advance a charitable purpose to benefit their communities.
One pub that benefited from the first round of More Than a Pub is The Gardeners Rest in Sheffield, which opened in October 2017 with over 400 local residents investing between £100 and £5,000 to become society members – and democratic owners – of the pub. The group has developed The Gardeners Rest into a community hub with services and facilities beyond that of a traditional local.
The pub now undertakes charitable work with vulnerable adults and people with learning difficulties, by providing employment opportunities and meeting space. It also continues to be a music venue with guest performers, as well as an activity centre and a place for local artists and photographers to exhibit their work.
Mark Powell, director of The Gardeners Rest, said: “The programme support made the difference between buying a pub and investing in More Than a Pub – we have stayed focused on our community purpose because of this. It would have been too easy to have done otherwise in the first year of a new commercial venture.”
Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive of Power to Change, said: “Pubs are often the last hub in their community. They are important places where people come together and they provide a diversity of services, including lunch clubs for vulnerable people, training and development, gardening and cooking classes and parenting groups. Community pubs are so valuable to the people who use them.
“The first round of the More than a Pub programme we ran with Plunkett was an enormous success, so it was a natural decision for us to continue to support this thriving and much-loved sector.”
James Alcock, executive director of Plunkett, said: “Plunkett is delighted to be launching the return of More Than a Pub; in its first iteration, this programme significantly increased the number of community-owned pubs open and trading, bringing far-reaching benefits to local people.
“This second round of funding will mean that we can build on the momentum and success of the existing community pub sector and help many more community groups seeking to take ownership of their local pub to save them from closure.
“For many communities, pubs are not just a place to drink; they are central to peoples’ sense of place and identity, they provide an important place for people to meet and help to build community cohesion.”