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Village Innovation Beats Recession Closures

Last winter Mersham’s village pub, The Farriers Arms was facing permanent closure. A large chain of over 8,300 pubs had appeared to become another victim of the recession and were forced to sell. Rural communities struggle to hold onto their facilities even in good economic times. This village, however, was not going to give up without a fight.

Kent resident, Richard Bishop came up with an innovative scheme to save the pub by making it a community project. Richard created a limited company and asked residents to buy shares in the pub. Incredibly, he managed to achieve this within one week and now boasts 88 shareholders. Shareholders are diverse in their ages (18-90) and professions; willingly sharing their skills, which include anything from plumbing to accountancy. 30-40 shareholders regularly demonstrate their support and enthusiasm by volunteering their time and skills to get The Farriers Arms back in shape for opening, hopefully in late November. The community spirit is high and the enthusiasm is clear from the buzz of volunteers at the site. Instead of complaining about noise, Richard says that the neighbours have been keen to join the project! It is hoped that The Farriers Arms will become an attraction and community meeting point, which will bring people into the area.

This type of scheme is on the increase and smaller groups have already discussed doing similar projects in other villages. There are possibilities of applying this technique to save other village facilities which face closure. The government is committed to Rural Proofing, to ensure that all policy takes into account rural circumstances and needs. The Public Sector should look to support rural communities when they act to help themselves in innovative manners.

For more information please see:

• The Farriers Arms Facebook group (which anyone is free to join).
• The Guardian's article ‘Common Ground’, for other examples of community ownership.
• Defra’s page on
Rural Proofing.
• Directions to
The Farriers Arms.

-C Matthews
-With special thanks to Richard Bishop. Richard would like to express his thanks to The Small Company Enterprise Centre for there help with the EIS and Ashford Borough Council for their help and advice.

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