Big Lottery Fund
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What does your village need to survive? Slice of £5m could answer your SOS call

Villages across the UK have one month left to apply for a share of £5 million Lottery cash to create exciting community enterprises that will help to revitalise their area and meet the needs of local people.

Projects have until 5pm on Thursday October 20 2011 to apply for up to £30,000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS Active competition, which follows hot on the heels of the primetime BBC One series, Village SOS.

Anyone living in a rural village of less than 3,000 people, with an enterprising idea should register at www.villagesos.org.uk where they will find more details as well as an online support network. All they need to do is outline their idea in a quick and easy online form and the best ideas will be chosen to complete a full application for a grant of between £10,000 and £30,000. Extra support for those interested in applying is available via a telephone advice line - 0845 434 9123 - with experts giving practical tips on how to develop their ideas and make their village business a success.

The funding pot is part of a wider BIG campaign which is offering a range of tools and resources to help communities reverse rural decline and revive village life. From business plan templates to an expert advice line and regional learning events, the campaign aims to help communities rejuvenate their villages and start up new business ventures that will help people tackle local problems such as the closure of vital amenities and services, or a lack of training and employment opportunities.

The BBC Village SOS TV series, broadcast over the last few weeks, followed the journey of six UK villages as they each used a Big Lottery Fund grant to set up a new community business, including a Peak District community starting up a new local food project and cookery school, a Welsh village reviving their old water mill, and the creation of a country park complete with eco-centre, angling lakes and music festival near Nottingham.

Other examples of community enterprises that have used small amounts of money to get the ball rolling in their villages include community food shops and coffee shops, cycle schemes, pubs run by a co-operative of local people, community farms, bakeries and local people taking over the running of their village post office.

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the Big Lottery Fund, said: “The Village SOS TV series has been a tremendous success, showing what can be achieved when communities come together. But we don’t want the interest and inspiration to end with the series. We want this £5m to help people in other rural areas to pull together and develop their own ideas for a new businesses or enterprise that will really make a difference to their local community.

“Every year hundreds of local amenities such as shops and pubs close down in rural areas. The effects of this, along with limited transport options, rural isolation and lack of employment opportunities for young people, can be dire. We want this funding and the support provided through the Village SOS website to inspire community action and help people buck this trend.”

Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation, rural community enterprise experts who are running the Village SOS telephone advice line, said: “An estimated 400 village shops and 700 rural pubs closed in 2010; broadband provision in rural areas is still a long way behind urban areas, and soaring house prices due to second-home owners are leaving villages across the UK in a worrying state.

“But an increasing number of rural communities are fighting back against such closures by setting up and running their own enterprises. There are now 260 community-owned shops across the UK which have a 97% business success rate. Through Village SOS Active, we hope to continue to enthuse and inspire villages to build on this success and use the power of community-ownership to deliver long-term benefits to their community, by setting up and running anything from community cafes, shops, and pubs to library services, swimming pools or healthcare services.”

Further Information

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours contact: 07867 500 572
Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030                           
Textphone: 0845 6021 659

Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
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@BigLotteryFund #BIGlf and @VillageSOS, #VillageSOS

Notes to Editors

  • BIG has joined forces with a range of expert organisations and networks in the development and delivery of Village SOS Active.
  • Supporting the provision of the Village SOS national advice line and UK learning events is a partnership led by The Plunkett Foundation, along with; ACRE; Locality and Co-operatives UK.
  • SiftGroups, a digital agency specialising in community engagement, has supported the creation of the Village SOS Active online community network for people to share their experiences and support one another and others inspired to create their own rural social enterprises.
  • The Team, a Loewy Group design communications agency, is delivering content, design and online resources for Village SOS Active.
  • The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) Sheffield Hallam University is conducting an evaluation to determine how effective the ten projects funded through Village SOS have been in reviving rural communities and meeting the outcomes of the Village SOS programme.
  • BBC Learning is also offering a range of resources to help ensure that the Village SOS series makes an impact beyond the six villages that are featured on TV. It includes top tips, toolkits and 4 minute films from the Village SOS projects sharing their advice, information and experience of how to make a social enterprise sustainable.
  • The Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 46% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since June 2004. The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £26 billion has now been raised and more than 330,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.
  • For more information about the BBC TV Series Village SOS, click here