The pandemic has made pub ownership difficult. Irrespective of whether it’s in a Town – Marlborough, or in a rural village where it is well regarded and used (when permitted) and a centre of the community, pubs are and have long been places where people come together, be it for a meal, game of darts, to socialise or just a quick drink.
The pandemic has kept the doors shut for many. Some offer a takeaway food service, others a central point for local residents to pick up groceries but running costs are – even when doors are shut – high.
But this won’t last forever, covid vaccines are becoming widely jabbed into all of our arms and at some point, likely sooner than later lockdown restrictions will be eased and pubs can then start to emerge again as the hearts of each and every community.
One casualty of the pandemic has been the ‘Silks on the Downs’ in Ogbourne St Andrew. The doors closed last March, but the local community is looking to keep the pub alive by enabling locals, customers and anyone else interested to buy ‘community shares’.
Organised by Stuart Williamson, chair of the Ogbourne Community Pub Society, the #SaveTheSilks campaign will aim to save the pub and enable it to to become a major community hub, providing a warm and welcoming space to meet as well as a valuable lifeline to the community during what continues to be a challenging time for everyone.
The share offer will launch on Wednesday 10 February. It will:
- Offer the Ogbourne community and beyond a chance to purchase shares in the closed village pub
- Enable shareholders to become members and to support an important community asset
- To raise a minimum of £100,000 with a target of £240,000 and a maximum of £500,000
Members of the local community and public will, between Wednesday 10 February to 31 May 2021, be offered the chance to part own the pub by purchasing community shares in the pub starting from £200.
Those who purchase community shares in the pub will also become members of the Society and will collectively help to steer how the pub is run for the benefit of all.
This share issue, along with other sources of funding, will not only help secure the pub but also enable it to undergo a significant transformation, creating a vibrant and welcoming venue where friends and families from near and far can come together.
The aim is to also offer additional services to provide benefit to the community, particularly those addressing isolation and loneliness. Under consideration are regular community lunches, a parcel pick up and drop off service and a community defibrillator. The group envisage local clubs and societies will be able to book space for meetings and in the daytime we hope a café will create a social and workplace hub for locals and businesses.
Championing the physical and mental wellbeing benefits of exploring the great outdoors will also be a focus, by positioning the pub as a ‘gateway’ to the spectacular surroundings in which it sits – the Marlborough Downs. Located in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty the pub will actively highlight the many outdoor activities that are accessible from its doorstep including the Ridgeway National Trail and National Cycle Trail as well as network of walking, running and mountain biking routes via public footpaths and bridleways.
Stuart Williamson, chair of the Ogbourne Community Pub Society, said: “The Silks on the Downs is so much more than a pub. It’s been bringing people from near and far together for well over 100 years and we’d like to keep it that way. But we really can’t do this alone. Having carefully evaluated the project over the last six months with the support of the Plunkett Foundation we’re in touching distance of creating something lasting and special for everyone to enjoy. We are inviting as many people as possible to support our cause by buying shares and helping us to create a thriving community hub for the benefit of all.”
Danny Kruger, Conservative MP for Devizes Constituency said: “I passionately believe in the power of communities coming together to achieve things they could not do alone. The campaign to save and buy the Silks on the Downs in Ogbourne St Andrew is a great example of this. The Ogbourne Community Pub Society have done a fantastic job and they’re within reach of saving the pub and creating a community hub that will make a difference in so many ways. I encourage anyone who can to get involved in any way they can and show their support.”
For more information, members of the public are encouraged to read the Community Share Offer, which provides much more detail and is available at our website www.savethesilks.org, as from Wednesday 10 Feb.