VILLAGE SOS: BIG AND BBC Join Forces to Inspire Rural Revival (1/6/09)
01 June 2009
A NEW Big Lottery Fund (BIG) scheme to help regenerate a Northern Ireland rural village is launching today in partnership with BBC One.
The local village will be one of six villages across the UK that will receive a grant of up to £400,000 under the Village SOS initiative to support the development of a new business venture.
The search is also on for six enterprising and visionary individuals to become ‘Village Champions’ and work with the villages to help achieve their ambitions of starting a successful rural business. BBC One will be documenting the journey of the six villages and their Village Champions for a major prime time series in winter 2010.
Village SOS will challenge villages to come up with brilliant ideas for new businesses to help revive their communities, many of which are seeing rural life eroded by economic pressures and the closure of local amenities.
Local rural communities with lots of enthusiasm and a great business idea -from retailing to manufacturing, the arts to leisure – will be able to apply for Lottery funding to help breathe new life into their area, create new jobs and improve the quality of life for local people.
Eighteen villages will be shortlisted to receive a development grant of up to £10,000, and will choose a ‘Village Champion’ to work with to advance their ideas. In May 2010 six projects will be awarded Lottery funding of up to £400,000 and their respective Village Champions will move into the villages for a year to help them turn their business idea into a reality.
Breidge Gadd, the Big Lottery Fund’s NI Chair, said: “While rural village life is in decline we believe that many villages are sitting on a range of untapped potential that, with the strength of the community behind them, can be turned into thriving businesses.”
Breidge added: “Village SOS will leave a genuine legacy for each of the villages involved and ultimately, we hope, will inspire other villages, showing them what can be achieved when communities work together.”
Michael Hughes, Chief Executive of the Rural Community Network said: “In an era where the sustainability of rural communities is constantly challenged, this innovative programme gives one rural community an opportunity to demonstrate its resilience in sustaining its future.
“In providing a local community with support and professional advice Village SOS can play an important part in a project which uses all community assets for the well-being of the area. This is a programme challenging rural communities to maximise the contribution of everyone to realise its potential and can be a showcase for development support into the future.”
BBC Wales will follow the stories of the six new rural enterprises from start up to trading for a major BBC One series in Winter 2010. The six-part series promises to be gripping entertainment for viewers as they follow the ups and downs as the Champion moves into their chosen village, and starts work on the business.
The Village Champions will be recruited through a nationwide search run by the BBC and Make Your Mark, part of the charity Enterprise Insight. Champions could be anyone with a successful track record in business - banker, baker or builder - as long as they have the drive and charisma to launch a new venture, and the desire to live and work in a rural village for a year.
The BIG scheme aims to fund three awards in England and one each in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in villages with a population of up to 3,000.
Alongside the series will be a major learning campaign to help other villages use the learning and enthusiasm from the programme to take a bold step towards starting a new business that will regenerate their own communities.
Both the BIG grant application process and the BBC search for Village Champions launch on Monday 1 June 2009 and close on 14 August 2009. Info on how to apply can be found at bbc.co.uk/villagesos
Photos and examples of community businesses are available. For more information please contact the BIG Press Office on 028 90551472.
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk