West Norfolk village hopes Stephen Fry tweet will boost pub campaign

Residents of Shouldham are in the process of buying the King's Arms Pub - From left, John McGorty and Jim Ross with the...

Residents of Shouldham are in the process of buying the King's Arms Pub - From left, John McGorty and Jim Ross with the beer-o-meter. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Residents trying to raise money to buy their last remaining village pub are hoping a supportive tweet from celebrity Stephen Fry will help them reach their final target.

As Shouldham's Save Our King's Arms (SOKA) campaign enters the final few days of a share sale where people can buy stakes in the 17th-century pub, Mr Fry – who lives in Norfolk – tweeted last night: 'Good luck selling the remaining shares.'

SOKA is just £8,000 away from reaching its £150,000 fundraising target, having sold shares to supporters across the county and beyond over the past few weeks.

It hopes that whatever is raised will be matched by a grant from the Social Investment Business (SIB), which would, it is hoped, give them enough to buy the venue from landlord Punch Taverns and have enough money left over for refurbishment.

The final deadline for buying shares is midnight on Monday.

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SOKA secretary Phil Harriss said: 'We've not far to go.'

With Mr Fry's tweet, Mr Harriss said it is expected the remaining shares will sell fast.

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'We are keen that our supporters and their friends and families are first to buy the shares, so if there's anyone still considering investing or increasing their holding, now's the time,' he said.

He reminded people that taxpayers will be able to claim back half of their investment in the the form of a tax relief as part of the government's Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme.

'Support has come from all over,' Mr Harriss said. 'The great majority of shares have been bought by people in our village and the surrounding area, which is as it should be, but we also have investors from across Norfolk, from Shouldham 'exiles' across the world, and from kind-hearted folk who have heard about our campaign on the internet.'

He added that people living in Italy, Hong Kong, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand and Canada had all claimed a share in the venture.

Shouldham residents said they were galvanised into action by the closure of The King's Arms last year, when its previous tenants were unable to keep up with the rent.

The village once boasted six pubs but they have all shut over the years, meaning that Shouldham is without a meeting place which residents find so vital.

Mr Harriss explained: 'There is a feeling we've got to do it – not just for ourselves but future generations too.'

Offers of help have come in all forms, with A Squared Architects in Norwich carrying out a free structural assessment of the building.

SOKA chairman John McGourty explained: 'People just like the concept of helping communities. They like to see communities trying to do something.'

Anyone interested in buying shares should visit http://kingsarmsshouldham.co.uk and click on the link for the Microgenius site.

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