Calling a village meeting is a nerve-wracking affair. You put posters up, leaflet as widely as you can, share it on Facebook and organise the essential tea and biscuits. You then open the door, sit… and hope people come. Happily, come they did. By the time Cliff Anderson stood to open the last public meeting the place was pretty much full, and there was a buzz of anticipation – and maybe even hope. We even had Liz Truss, MP as a bit of celebrity bling. Not quite Kim Kardashian, but impressive for a Friday night in Norfolk.
Mark Vanderstay then gave a presentation on the story so far – pretty much what I described in the last edition but with a passion that I think moved many. Having a pub in the village IS important. Even more important is having points of community, places where we can gather at various times of the day to do nothing very much other than meet and enjoy each other’s company… well, maybe a good pie and a pint too on occasion! Mark painted that vision clearly, and the challenges ahead, and shared honestly the challenges in the present. I think most people now know what they mainly are.
He finished with a call to action. He wasn’t quite Bob Geldof at LiveAid, but the message was just as clear. “Give us your money!” The bottom line is, nobody is coming to our rescue, but people will help if we help ourselves. We need to give what we can to own a slice of village life and maintain it for the future. The fantastic news is that the response to the request for people to pledge money has resulted in over £44,000 already being promised.
That’s a fantastic start, and a real sign to the Borough Council of the seriousness of our intent. And to possible funding partners, who can gain tax benefits and a feel-good factor by adding to and matching our fund raising.
Abbie Panks, from The Kings Arms in Shouldham – a pub that is already operating as a community venture and busy every night, has very kindly agreed to be a member of the steering group and lend her vast business experience to the project. Her talk really highlighted the potential, and the benefits that await us at the end of the hard graft. It sounded worth the effort to me.
Finally, our MP Liz Truss rose to speak. I’ve never met a politician. Well, Margaret Thatcher waved at me once, but that doesn’t count. Thinking about it, I still haven’t, but I have now heard one speak. Liz talked of her previous support for similar community initiatives, and put her full support behind this one. A common theme throughout was the puzzlement at the refusal by the Borough Council to support our previous application for the ACV (Asset of Community Value). Something tells me our latest is going to go better.
With pledge letters stuffed in their pockets, the villagers departed into the night, replete with tea, biscuits, and, I hope, a desire to see this vision for a revitalised Northwold realised. It felt like a good start has been made.
Over the coming months we’ll be asking for your money, or your time to help with fund-raising activities. If everyone gave a little of either, we could really do this.
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