Pubs in Suffolk have been in decline for several years. People having less money to spend on relaxing and the low cost of supermarket alcohol many village pubs have had to close their doors. But with some really great community action some Suffolk pubs are adapting to changes and finding a vital new position in rural communities. When the pub in Redgrave, The Keys, closed its doors the residents came together to re-open the pub for the benefit of the whole community. Here at So Very Suffolk we’re keen to promote community action, so we caught up with Sarah and Fiona of the Redgrave Community Society to find out more about the society’s remarkable achievements.
Please can you tell us a little bit about how the campaign started and what you see as the biggest challenge you are facing?
The campaign started as a response to the overall support from Redgrave residents when it was announced that the pub was being put up for sale by the current owner and, because it is registered as an Asset of Community Value, the village was being given just 6 months to raise the funds to purchase it.
6 residents formed a Steering Committee and after a lot of hard work, the share offer opened on 21st August. We need to raise £200,000 in order to be able to get a £50,000 loan and a £50,000 grant from “More Than a Pub” who are administered by the Plunkett Foundation. Our current total is a magnificent £180,000 so we’ve now only got a little way to go but the ACV runs out on 25th October so time really is of the essence.
As for the biggest challenge we are facing, it really is the time scale in which we have had to do this. Fortunately, the village has pulled together, with all the various social groups & clubs showing their support and raising money-it really has been a case of true Dunkirk spirit!
Well done! It sounds like things are moving forward in a positive way. Have there been any unexpected consequences of the campaign?
Yes, last week really was very overwhelming with our 3 fundraising events raising over £3,000 (and mainly from village residents’ support!) The current grand total is at £185,000 and continues to rise.
I don’t know about unexpected consequences but what has been heartwarming to see are all the different people in such a small village coming together for a common cause. There are so many stories in the news of tension & conflict in the world it is so inspiring to see a group of people working as a community, which is what we would love the pub to reflect if we are successful.
Maybe this is unexpected but it has been brilliant to have any doubts we had about what we could achieve quashed so spectacularly!
Which aspect of the campaign do you think the group is most proud of?
The whole journey has been one full of twists and turns; occasional times of frustration and then moments of great excitement, pride and elation.
When we originally embarked upon saving the pub, it was something none of us knew the first thing about. I don’t think we had a clue what we were letting ourselves in for! And none of us had any experience whatsoever of the licensed trade. All we knew was what a good pub should be like, and we wanted one here. In Redgrave. There was no way we could let our one and only pub go without a fight, and that was the motivating factor for all of us.
I guess, if I had to pinpoint any particular moment which filled us with an enormous sense of pride and achievement, it would have to be when we came to an agreement on the purchase of the pub with the vendors. That was such a huge and momentous milestone to have reached! Our window of opportunity for raising the funds had been so small that we had had to throw everything in to making it work.
Having got all the building blocks in place in the first three months – the legal entity set up which would eventually purchase the pub, the new bank account, the business plan worked out, the share offer brochure compiled and printed, relevant tax issues explored, the new website built, etc etc – we eventually launched our share offer on 21st August. We then had until 25th October – just nine weeks – to raise all the necessary funding or the deal would be off. Happily, it was on 24th October that we reached an agreement; one day to spare!
We had a huge sense of achievement that day, and it was such a joy and privilege to be able to pass on the good news to the village and all our other loyal supporters. They, too, had put so much into making this journey a success.