Plunkett Foundation has announced the 2017 winners of the Rural Community Co-operative Awards at its event on Wednesday 6 December at St Bride Foundation, London.

Judges from the award sponsors Hastoe Housing Association, BCRS Business Loans, SUMA Wholefoods, The Phone Co-op, Co-op UK, The Retail Mutual, Fram Farmers, Co-operative & Community Finance, Charity Bank, WBC and The Co-operative College selected the winners from a shortlist with the category winners presented with a plaque and certificate at the ceremony.

The Awards were hosted by Helen Fospero, well-respected TV Journalist and presenter. Every year, Plunkett Foundation celebrates the most outstanding examples of the rural community co-operative sector. Now in their fifth year, the Awards showcase the co-operatives that have made a real difference to individuals within their communities, from helping to overcome social isolation and loneliness, to addressing specific health issues.

Meet the winners

Barkers of Huby in North Yorkshire won the Yorkshire and North East England Award, sponsored by SUMA Wholefoods. Judges commended the group for:

  • Finance – They are a financially savvy group who clearly recognise the value of retaining the Post Office
  • Potential – This group is the start of the sector and will go on to do so much more for the community

Old Crown Co-operative (The Old Crown) in Cumbria won the North West England Award, presented by Prince’s Countryside Fund. Judges praised the group for:

  • Impact – Ability to capture the long term impact of a co-operative pub. It is applying years of learnings and using these lessons to improve.
  • Shining example – They are the ‘bench mark’ for a co-operative pub and captures why people are passionate and emotional about the sector

Bamford Community Society (The Angler’s Rest) in Derbyshire won the Midlands Award, sponsored by BCRS Business Loans. Judges commended the group for:

  • Employment – They are a ‘powerhouse’ generating 25 jobs and has a tremendous impact on the local economy
  • Services – They have integrated a range of services and is a great asset for the community

Rocklands Community Shop in Norfolk won the East of England Award, presented by Fram Farmers. Judges were particularly impressed with:

  • Volunteers – They create a care network that looks over the whole community. It is ‘rock-solid’.
  • Extra Curriculum – Love the extra-curricular maths classes and reaching out into the community

Ewelme Village Store in Oxfordshire won the South East England Award, sponsored by The Phone Co-op. The judges were particularly impressed with:

  • Surgeries – Surgeries with local police are a great use of community space
  • Creativity – They are constantly being creative and are an outstanding example of what can be achieved through community ownership

Exbourne & Jacobstowe Community Association (The Burrow) in Devon won the South West England Award, sponsored by The Retail Mutual. Feedback from the judges included:

  • They are the glue that holds the village population together – courage in their convictions and setting out to achieve what they wanted
  • Community engagement – The shop plays a strong role in engaging community groups in North Devon and is pushing forward to help other community groups

GlenWyvis Distillery in Dingwall won the Scotland Award, sponsored by the Co-operative Group. The judges commended the group for:

  • Inspiring – Great use of the community co-operative approach and an inspiring example in the sector
  • Social values – Strong social values evident through the business and are refreshingly different

Cletwr Shop in Machynlleth won the Wales Award, presented by Wales Co-operative Centre. Praise from the judges included:

  • Young people focus – They are committed to teaching the younger generation new skills and introducing them to the basics of financial management
  • A striking achievement of reviving a community experiencing dramatic decline in rural services

Raglan Community Development & Renovation Society in Ballymena won the Northern Ireland Award, presented by Co-operative Alternatives. Feedback from the judges included:

  • This is a highly ambitious project and a very commendable thing to be doing for the community
  • The idea is very sound and would like to hear more about the project in coming years

Ronald Thorne from Chittlehamholt Village Shop won the People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Hastoe Housing Association. For this award we asked co-operatives to nominate an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to their enterprise and therefore their wider community. The community nominated Ronald with the following statement:

“Ron has been a resident of Chittlehamholt for twenty-eight and has always committed time to the community. When, in 2008, the village Post Office was given notice of closure, Ron called a public meeting in which the majority gave the go ahead to explore possibilities of our own shop. With much perseverance Ron led the negotiations and secured a fifty-year lease on our preferred site. Then, the community had to raise the funds. Ron led the committee tirelessly through this, keeping calm and measured. The committee worked hard with coffee mornings, quiz evenings, very successful Ceilidhs reaching the £10,000 as our contribution to the project. Five years on from the original public meeting, the Chittlehamholt Community Shop was formally opened in 2013. The village now has a social hub and provides a meeting place for all, particularly the elderly and lonely. It has a coffee machine and table and chairs leading to many happy noisy sessions. The shop is much valued and the untiring work of one man, Ron Thorne, has made it all a reality.”

We would also like to celebrate all of our amazing shortlisted groups who narrowly missed out on being crowned Community Co-operative of the Year in their category; Clapham and Lythe Community Shop in Yorkshire & North East England, Centurion Community Action Group in North West England, Bretforton Community Shop in the Midlands, The May Bush Inn and Thurlton Community Shop in the East of England, Village Shop at Beech Hill and The Abingdon Arms in South East England, Gussage CBS and Brockweir & Hewelsfield Village Shop in South West England, Palnackie Village Shop and Barr Community Stores in Scotland, Mary Dennis (Hampstead Norreys Community Shop) and Mark Godfrey (Maybush Inn) in the People’s Choice Award.

Check out our best tweets from the event on our Storify page here. Keep an eye on both our Facebook and Twitter profiles for photos from the event.

Winners will receive a party pack in the new year to celebrate their acheivement with their communities. These packs are kindly sponsored by Power To Change.