December 5 2013 Latest news:
Sunday, September 22, 2013
A spirited share issue campaign by residents who are trying to buy their village pub and reopen it for the community today enters its final phase, with £95,000 already in the bank.
Villagers at Shouldham started to sell shares in the King’s Arms, which they hope to buy from landlord Punch Taverns, as a way of raising the current £260,000 asking price.
As they go into the final 10 days before the end of the share issue on September 30, the campaign has raised two-thirds of the £150,000 it needs to raise from the public, which they hope will be matched by cash they are applying for through the Social Investment Business.
“I think other community pub campaigns have found that people often delay until the last minute before buying shares,” said John McGourty, chairman of the Save Our King’s Arms (SOKA) campaign. “Hopefully, it will be the same with Shouldham.”
If SOKA organisers raise the money required, Mr McGourty hopes to be able to put an offer in over the winter.
The campaign was officially launched earlier this year after residents said the closure of their final village pub galvanised them into action.
Secretary Phil Harriss explained: “There is a feeling we’ve got to do it – not just for ourselves but future generations too.”
With £70,000 pledged even before the start of the campaign, villagers gathered for what was dubbed the Great Share Launch in August, where Mr McGourty explained the project to them and how they would go about raising the money.
A beer festival and fun walk and run around Shouldham Warren were also held to kick start the campaign and the money starting rolling in, with £10,000 donated in the first weekend.
“It’s been a real joy to see the number of people who have shown an interest, who have got involved and supported us,” said Mr McGourty, who has lived at Shouldham for 15 years.
“The people who have been involved in organising the campaign are both people who have been born here and people who have moved here over the years.”
As well as those who have bought shares, SOKA has received many offers of help in kind, with A-Squared architects in Norwich carrying out a structural assessment of the 17th century building which looks onto the village green and one businessman offering free pest control for a year.
One of its latest donations is from Beeston Brewery, which has created a tasty 4.2pc bottled bitter for use as the official SOKA drink. Its name, appropriately, is ‘Worth the Wait’.
However the help has not just come from within Shouldham – residents in nearby areas such as Marham and Downham Market have shown considerable interest, with Mr McGourty saying: “They have an affinity with Shouldham and are very happy to support what we do.”
There has even been support from faraway places such as Hong Kong, Texas and Canada.
Mr McGourty said the campaign’s success was how it had built on the community spirit that had been in the village for generations.
“People just like the concept of helping communities,” he said. “They like to see communities trying to do something. It is perhaps going back to this localism and co-operative movement that is gaining momentum.”