For seven happy, fun filled, crazy years the community of Stoke Canon in Devon has run their village pub. It stood sad, abandoned and alone for four years when it went out of business. Then, a germ of an idea started to grow in the village "why can't we lease the pub and run it ourselves?" The doors reopened on 17 July 2011 and since then a crack team of volunteer pint pullers, cleaners and gardeners have put the heart back into the village.
Now a dark cloud is forming. The owner wants to sell and the community is of one mind that saving it for the future is critical. I suppose you think a pub is just a boozer with a pub grub menu. For many it is, but here at the Stoke Canon Inn we are much more than a pub. We offer a raft of community focussed activities designed to promote social inclusion and combat loneliness. That word "loneliness" is a hot topic in today's social and political debate and is considered a new and serious health threat to the western world. Even our government is on the case with a dedicated minister. Now, they think we should go to cookery classes, join a choir or learn to dance. Great if you didn't learn to cook years ago, can't sing or have two left feet.
But, what if you're not a joiner and you just want some company? What if you're that bit older, on your own, your family is many miles away and you just need a bit of human contact? What if you're at home with a disabled child and you need a friendly ear? What if you are suffering a bereavement or you're feeling a bit down? We know our community and anyone going through difficult times gets a great big community hug all thanks to the pub.
18 pubs a week are closing. Put out of business by greedy pub companies or simply struggling to survive in today's world. Up and down the Exe Valley, where we are, pubs are closing or going up for sale with very little evidence that they will reopen. This bodes badly for the Eve Valley Darts League as, at this rate, our darts team will be playing with themselves. We know a pint of lager is cheaper if you get it from a supermarket but we've yet to find one where everyone knows your name.
So, back to business. We have to raise an eye-watering £300,000 to buy our pub. Some of this is being raised through a share issue and we've raise £80,000 so far. All the details can be found at www.savethestokecanoninn.com and if you want to find out more about what we do there's more information on www.stokecanoninn.com
The Exe Valley in Devon has an ageing demographic with over a quarter of the population aged 65 and older. Increased age brings a greater need for local amenities which provide a community space. In fact, The Royal Society for Public Health refers to pubs as an essential "third space" in the prevention of loneliness.
Another interesting part of our local demography is that we have twice the national average of self employed. Being self employed can impose a different loneliness. We have discovered that the pub has become a great networking place for the skilled trades and rural workers.
We are the community of the Stoke Canon Inn and we believe that community activism rocks!! If you can find it in your heart to help us save this quintessential village inn that does so much for our community we would be eternally grateful.