Norwich mum to appear on TV, after taking part in new BBC 1 series

Villages across the East of England are set to benefit from a new campaign to help communities buck the trend of rural decline by starting up new community enterprises.

The UK-wide Village SOS Active campaign, launched today by the Big Lottery Fund includes a �5m funding pot that aims to inspire and equip rural communities to tackle local problems and help revive their area.

They might restore and take over the local pub, create local food businesses or arts and heritage facilities to attract visitors, create employment and rejuvenate their villages.

The campaign coincides with the Village SOS TV series that begins on BBC1 tonight – which in the first episode features a Norwich woman who has spent the last year in Wales working on a regeneration project while her husband has commuted to the city to keep their business going.

Anne Hillyer, a trustee of Norwich and Norfolk Community Arts, applied to become a village champion for the project and was chosen to help regenerate the community of Talgarth, at the foothills of the Black Mountains.

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She moved there with husband Sean Laver-Vincent and their daughter, Samantha, seven, but because the couple also run a computer and IT support business in Norwich, he has been commuting from Wales to Norwich for the last year.

In that time she has helped breathe life back into the run-down Welsh community, by turning a derelict water mill back into a working mill, complete with an artisan bakery and stunning riverside caf�.

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The BBC 1 series, Village SOS follows the stories of six villages regenerated with the help of Big Lottery Fund grants.

Mrs Hillyer, 50, a trained agronomist, said: 'It was a big challenge and a big opportunity and it turned out to be a really exciting year. It's been heartwarming, inspiring, fun.

'The most difficult part now is leaving, though I have not decided to return to Norwich yet. We love Norwich but we also love this area. It's a very difficult decision. hatever we do, I do want to be doing more work around rural development in the future.'

Sara Betsworth, Big Lottery Fund Head of Region for East of England said: 'Every year hundreds of local amenities such as shops and pubs close down in rural areas. The effects of this, along with limited transport options, rural isolation and lack of employment opportunities for young people, can all strike at the heart of village life.'

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