Community-owned pub celebrates anniversary

It's two years since the money was handed over to Punch Taverns to enable the community to take over

It's two years since the money was handed over to Punch Taverns to enable the community to take over the King's Arms in Shouldham. Pictured is landlord Ian Skinner. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Villagers who campaigned to buy and save their threatened local are celebrating two years since the money was handed over to a pub chain to take it over.

The Kings Arms at Shouldham, near Downham Market, was rescued in 2013 by a group of 189 people who bought shares to enable its purchase from Punch Taverns, and it was registered as an asset of community value.

The EDP-backed Save Our Kings Arms campaign included quiz nights chaired by editor Nigel Pickover, and Stephen Fry tweeting his support to his 7m-plus Twitter followers.

They also received grants towards the £250,000 needed for the freehold from the Department of Communities and Local Government, Pub is the Hub and the Geoffrey Watling charity.

After the money was handed over, the region's first community-owned pub was given a new colour scheme and work was done inside to move the bar and create more space by removing the stairwell,

A cafe was also introduced and the pub started trading again in 2014, two years after it had closed, under landlord Ian Skinner, who is still in charge.

He said: 'It's turned out better than I hoped, and exceeded expectations. It's been a success story so far.

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'I've been bowled over by the support from the local community, and would like to thank everyone.

'I could not have done it without them, and it would have bene impossible without their help.'

Mr Skinner believes the not-for-profit co-operative model will become more popular in the future.

He added: 'I really hope so. We've seen nothing but benefits. It would not work for every pub or community, but in the fullness of time, I'm sure more will spring up.

'We do get people from across the country ringing up to ask how we did it, how we financed it, etc., and we offer as much advice as we can.

'This January has so far been better than last year. We've only been trading for 18 months so we are still on that upward curve.

'Most people in west Norfolk have probably still not heard of the King's Arms. I'm under no illusion we are in for the long haul, and that it will take years to grow.'

His partner Abbie Panks, who helps run the pub, said on Twitter: 'Two years ago we handed over our money for the King's Arms..what an incredible journey it's been so far.'

The pub is run by a management committee consisting of about half a dozen people, but the day to day running is left to Mr Skinner.

He was persuaded to become the pub's landlord after helping run a previous beer festival at the business, and plans for the fourth beer festival at the pub are already under way.

Mr Skinner added: 'The festival will feature more than 30 real ales and 15 ciders and will be held on The Green opposite the pub. It will run from September 9-11, and there will be three nights of live music and food.'

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