This is the story of The Locks Inn community pub in Norfolk,
and how they are demonstrating inclusivity within the community

One of the core foundations that any community-owned business is built upon is inclusivity. To be a welcoming place for everyone, where all members of the community can access the friendly and supportive nature a community business has to offer.

The Locks Inn in Geldeston, Norfolk is a community pub near to Joe Mitchell. Joe is a 17yr old young man who has a condition called Fragile X syndrome (FXS), a genetic mutation of the X chromosome which can impact a person’s capacity to communicate and manage social situations. Quite often people with FXS have learning disabilities and a much younger developmental age. One of the results of Joe’s FXS is that he is selective mute and has never spoken in public, including at school, only within the safe environment of home.

In the summer of 2022, with help from his mum Penny, Joe applied for the role of pot washer at the pub. Knowing how difficult it can be for any young person to enter employment at the moment, let alone for someone with additional needs such as Joe, and recognising that Joe is as much a part of the community as anyone else, the pub decided they had a unique opportunity to put into action the #morethan community spirit that community pubs are founded upon, and so they worked to be able to welcome Joe onto the team.

Now, just a few months after Joe started with the pub, thanks to the support of the Locks Inn team and community around them, what initially started out as a pot washer role, has now resulted in Joe taking on more tasks, including helping to clear tables and deliver plates of food to customers, amongst other things. Although his needs are different from other employees, the pub managers Jodie and Frank have allowed him space and time to learn his new role. Under their example, the entire team have embraced Joe wholeheartedly, supporting him and ensuring he is assisted when needed although as his confidence grows, the need for this is getting less and less.

The transformation in Joe has been incredible. He has now started to interact with customers by smiling and has even started talking to his mum in public. He loves it when the customers thank him – something that may seem such a small gesture to many, is a huge boost for Joe and is always followed by a great big hearty smile. 

The difference small gestures such as those shown by The Locks Inn community-owned pub, have on people’s lives, can never be underestimated. The impact the community’s kindness has had on Joe is invaluable – without a doubt, their inclusive community focus has changed a young person’s life. Thanks to his time with The Locks Inn, Joe is now attending a new college where he works in their bistro as part of his course, something that seemed quite impossible just a few months ago.

These words from Joe’s mum, encompass how important the community business has been in their lives…

Not only has the pub helped Joe in so many ways, it’s also shown the public and the beautiful community that even if our genetic makeup is totally different, we can all play a part in the rich tapestry of life, if we are given a chance.

Watch Joe’s story from our 2022 Rural Community Business Awards ‘Young Person’ Award category.

If you’d like to support Plunkett’s work with a donation, to help more communities like Geldeston set-up and run community-owned businesses that support local communities, please click here.

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