Community businesses were celebrating with the announcement of this year’s community winners of the Plunkett Foundation’s National Rural Community Ownership Awards at a ceremony in London on Wednesday 5 December

The Awards recognise the efforts of rural communities all across the UK that have rallied together to save and run vital assets, such as their local shop or village pub. As well as community pubs and shops from Wales and England, a community-owned farm in Shropshire and a community bakery in Scotland featured amongst the award finalists.

Hosted by the Plunkett Foundation, the national experts in setting up and running rural community businesses, the Rural Community Ownership Awards are an annual celebration of the contribution community businesses make to creating resilient, thriving and inclusive rural communities. With communities truly at the heart of these enterprises, the awards celebrate both their social impact that leads to the improved wellbeing of people in rural communities, as well as their sustainable business acumen.

The Awards Ceremony was hosted by Charlie Luxton, an architectural designer, writer and television presenter and is passionate about affordable housing, rural communities and has supported several eco-friendly projects in Oxfordshire.

The awards received a record number of over 50 entries this year across six categories which is a testament to the growth of the community business sector. The six award categories celebrated the unique elements of community business and the impact they have in creating thriving rural communities. Headline sponsored by Hastoe Housing Association, the awards were also made possible through the continued support of Power to Change and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation as key supporters and sponsors.

This year’s winning community businesses by category were as follows:

  • Slapton Community Shop in Devon won the ‘Community Story of the Year’ Award sponsored by The Retail Mutual. This award recognises the stories that capture how community businesses provide a much deeper role in supporting individuals and community life. One story in particular really stood out in Slapton’s application and this was their response when the Beast from the East arrived earlier this year. Not only did it bring snow, but it washed away the road along the sea which connects Slapton to Dartmouth. Members of the shop team with Land Rovers drove to Kingsbridge and brought back supplies of essentials, including bottled water and the shop stayed open. The shelves were bare by the time deliveries could resume, but the village had been sustained by the efforts of the volunteers.
  • Hampstead Norreys Community Shop in Berkshire won the ‘Diversifying to Make a Difference’ Award sponsored by BCRS Business Loans. This award celebrates community businesses who have embraced diversification to strengthen their business and improve the experience of their customers alongside the lives of the people in the local community. Having come up with such innovative ideas in their drive to become ‘plastic-free’, they are aiming to make the community become more sustainable. Hampstead Norreys Community Shop deliberately aim to involve the whole community across and be truly inter-generational.
  • Ashwater Village Shop in Devon won the ‘Investing in Local People’ Award sponsored by Suma Wholefoods. This award recognises the efforts of community businesses which go above and beyond to support and invest in their staff, volunteers and service users. During the snowy weather in 2017, the team at Ashwater Village Shop kept the community together and continued to deliver their customers. They also provide a foodbank service and are excellent at fundraising and giving back to the community. Ashwater Village Shop always go the extra-mile for their customers and it is clear the shop is a vital resource for the community.
  • Dunbar Community Bakery in East Lothian won the Horace Plunkett ‘Better Business’ Award supported by The Co-op. This award seeks to celebrate a community business longevity and ability to demonstrate innovative business practices to enable it to thrive and succeed. This community bakery is now able to celebrate longevity and resilience after a long period of hard times and loss making. With a strong volunteer management committee, they have both set and achieved their objective to turnaround the business and start generating surplus.
  • Talking Shop in Oxfordshire won the ‘The Little Things’ Award sponsored by The Phone Coop. In the words of one customer “…you come away from Talking Shop feeling happier than you went in.” This award recognises the incredible work undertaken by rural community businesses to tackle loneliness and isolation. Talking Shop has been set up with the intention of bringing people together. They have taken steps to ensure everyone feels welcome and included, no matter their age, background or circumstance. 
  • Rick Nickerson from Bigton Community Enterprise in Shetland won the ‘People’s Choice’ Award sponsored by Hastoe Housing Association. This award recognises the dedication and commitment of an outstanding individual who has gone above and beyond in their contribution to their community business. Rick Nickerson truly rallied the community together to investigate the shop project, when it came up for sale seven years ago. Rick is a committed volunteer serving in the shop with tireless dedication. He also helps ensure the shop is dementia and autism friendly.

Images from the Awards Ceremony can be found on our Facebook page here

James Alcock, Executive Director at Plunkett Foundation, said: “The winners of the Rural Community Ownership Awards all represent fantastic examples of community business. The award nominations recognise the dedication within the community business sector to create thriving and resilient rural communities, and celebrate the aspects that make them truly inspirational businesses. We would like to thank all the community businesses who applied and we are very grateful for the support of our sponsors. We wish our winners a very happy time celebrating their success with all of their members, customers, staff and supporters.”

Gavin Jones, Head of External Affairs at Hastoe Housing Association, said: “As England’s leading provider of affordable rural homes, we know there is much more to creating communities than just building homes. Community businesses often provide the only opportunity for people living in rural areas to come together. In providing work, volunteering opportunities and much needed services, they create the conditions for communities to thrive. These Awards play a vital role in recognising many of the great projects, businesses and people who continue to make a positive difference in their community. Hastoe is extremely proud to sponsor the People’s Choice Award.”

Vidhya Alakeson, Power To Change Chief Executive said: “These inspiring individuals truly deserve this accolade and are true ambassadors for what the community business movement is all about. I am delighted to see them win the recognition they deserve with these awards.”