National campaign promotes positive impact of community business through inaugural open doors weekend
Community businesses are owned and run by the community with the aim of helping to bring people together to improve their local area, boost the local economy and quality of life of local residents.
Those taking part in Community Business Weekend are varied and span the country. Participants include a football development association in East Lancashire; The Bevy community pub in Brighton; a railway preservation society in South Tynedale, Derbyshire; Granby Four Streets regeneration project in Liverpool and Fordhall Farm in Shropshire, one of the most high profile community businesses in recent years.
This year Power to Change, the organisation launched by the Big Lottery Fund to support and help grow community businesses in England, is driving forward this campaign to raise awareness of how local people can get involved to address the needs of the local community.
“Many people haven’t heard of community business, but it’s easy to get involved in one and make a difference to your local area.” said Marie Staunton, Interim Chief Executive of Power to Change. “They help local people reconnect with each other, provide services that the community really needs, and communities take control and help their local areas thrive.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of Fordhall Farm, a landmark community initiative which made headlines around the world. Britain’s first community-owned farm was established after a David and Goliath-style battle by a brother-and-sister team to raise £800,000 to buy the tenancy. Charlotte and Ben Hollins launched a campaign to save their late father’s legacy at Fordhall Farm in Shropshire. Now 10 years on they are so grateful to the thousands of shareholders and volunteers who supported their cause. They are key supporters of the drive to grow community businesses across the UK.
The farm, which has proved a massive success story with a new farm shop and cafe added to the facilities during the last decade, will be open for the July weekend. Charlotte Hollins said: “We certainly hope this weekend will show people what can be achieved and that each contribution no matter how small makes a massive difference and can improve life for all. If there is a further contribution that we can make as part of our legacy it is to encourage more communities to believe they can save and launch businesses together in their local area and take ownership of them to have a say in their own future.”
Another community business taking part is Burton Street Foundation in Hillsborough. It provides a range of activities for the local community from what used to be an abandoned school, including sessions specifically for adults and children with learning difficulties. During Community Business Weekend, Burton Street will give visitors guided tours, run a host of activities for people of all ages including those with disabilities, share information on their services and hold a local history exhibition.
“We are a thriving community hub but often looked upon as a hidden gem, because people often don’t know what we do and when they find out, they are blown away.” said Clare Mappin, Managing Director of Burton Street Foundation. “Community Business Weekend is a great chance for businesses within the community to open their doors and showcase everything that they can offer to everyone in the local area.”
Richard Harries, Director of the Power to Change Research Institute said almost 170,000 people have volunteered in a community business over the past year, in a sector which is consistently growing and thriving. “These businesses return control to the community and can have long-lasting benefits for health and wellbeing, as well as economic prosperity,” he added. “What is even more encouraging is we have seen real growth in this sector with more community businesses being established adding up to £1.4billion worth of assets across England. This is why it is important now to let people see what is being done in terms of social cohesion and inspiring pride in an area and a sense of purpose.”
Find out more about Community Business Weekend and how to get involved at www.thepowertochange.org.uk
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