Campaigners in Dorset who saved a valued local threatened with closure, have been presented with the first CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Pub Saving Award.
The Drovers Inn in Gussage All Saints faced sudden closure in late 2014, but after a huge amount of support re-opened its doors under community ownership just 20 months later. CAMRA was particularly impressed with how the ‘Save the Drovers’ utilised every tool available to save the pub.
Sally Marlow, secretary of the ‘Save the Drovers’ campaign said, “When the Drovers Inn, our only pub, suddenly closed we faced losing the heart and soul of our village and local community. What happened after is a testament to the drive and determination of a dedicated group of people from all backgrounds working together for a common cause. We are a close knit village and voted unanimously at a village meeting to fight to Save the Drovers Inn. The project brought our whole community even closer together.”
The campaigners got the pub listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) and persuaded the council to refuse a planning application to change its use by submitting over 200 local objections.
The group then put together a viable business plan and ran a series of fundraising events, eventually securing initial grant funding by working with the Plunkett Foundation, the national charity supporting communities to take on and run community owned businesses. Once they were able to raise funds towards the purchase and refurbishment of the pub, an army of volunteers got to work to bring the pub back to life and it re-opened on the 9 July 2016. It now offers five real ales on tap and locally sourced food prepared from scratch.
The Pub Saving Award was launched by CAMRA this year to recognise communities who have successfully rescued local pubs from closure.
Paul Ainsworth, Chair of CAMRA’s Pub Campaigns Group said, “We are losing pubs at a frightening rate of 21 a week. However, those rates of closure would be much higher without campaigners like the ‘Save the Drovers’ group, who are willing to pull out all the stops to save their local. We launched this new award to recognise and celebrate those fantastic achievements and hopefully inspire other communities across England to fight to save their pub from closure.”
Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of Plunkett Foundation, added, “When communities like Gussage come together to save what’s important to them, it has a transformative effect on the people who live in the area. Co-operative pubs like The Drovers are so much more than a place to buy a drink; they provide really important social spaces and are central to their communities’ sense of place and identity. Congratulations to everyone involved in saving The Drovers, and in being awarded this well-deserved accolade.”