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Village raises £300K in 3 weeks to save its pub

For immediate release - 18 December 2022 

"We did it!"

Village celebrates raising £300K to buy its pub with pledge to make it a community hub

Celebrating £300K success


Residents of the small village of Bethersden in Kent are celebrating raising an astonishing £300K in just over three weeks to enable them to buy their pub, The George, and reopen it as a community enterprise and village hub.

The exciting news was announced by local Ashford MP Damian Green during a Beer and Carols social evening, organised by the George Community action group, at Bethersden village hall on Saturday night.

While the group had been fundraising in a small way for the last 18 months - through pop-up social events, following the pub's closure - the herculean task of finding £300K to purchase the building became urgent with an impending deadline to claim matched funding of up to £250K through the Government's Community Ownership Scheme, which would come to an end on 31 December.

Local residents, former customers and supporters - some from as far afield as Canada - rallied to the cause and contributed to the fundraising by buying shares in The George through a Community Share Offer which was launched on 20th November. Other supporters donated through a Crowdfunder.

Thanks to the hard work of the action group, which received support and advice from the Plunket Foundation as well as Damian Green, villagers pulled out all the stops to take the share offer over the line in time for Saturday's party.

Damian Green congratulated the village on their achievement and said: "This is hugely important for the village and a real tribute to everyone involved. The fact that they've raised this incredible amount of money, to more than match the money coming from the Government, is a real testament to the pride in their community.

"Villages like Bethersden suffered hugely from the pandemic because people weren't allowed to meet with one another, so one more step back to a normal way of life will be the re-opening of The George."

George Community Chair Robin Draper said that he and the whole steering committee had been overwhelmed by the response. "We knew this was a huge ask from the village right now, but they have demonstrated how important The George is to them and this community. In return for that vote of confidence, our pledge is that The George will not only re-open as a pub but also as a hub - somewhere that will be a true community meeting place and resource for residents going forward."

Following the announcement, villagers toasted their success with glasses of local award winning Chapel Down English sparkling wine, generously donated by the vineyard.

It is hoped that contracts can be exchanged next week with the purchase being completed in the New Year. The task of preparing to reopen The George, in time for St George's day at the end of April, will then begin.

To help raise further funds for vital repairs and necessary refurbishments, the share offer is remaining open. More details can be found on the George Community website:

Members of the public who wish to support the campaign without buying shares, can contribute through The George Community's Crowdfunding account:

Photo caption:A packed village hall toasts the success of the 'Save the George' campaign. Front row (centre to right) - Damian Green MP with members of the George Community Steering Committee: Alex Withington; Joanne Brannan, Robin Draper and Roger Kelly 


For further information please contact:-
Alison Miles -  Mobile: 07900 691116

Notes to editors:-

About The George Community

Following closure of The George pub in Bethersden in 2020, local residents came together to form the "George Community" to purchase, re-open and protect the pub as a village asset.On 11 July 2021 the group applied to the FCA to form the Community Benefit Society and The George Community Limited became a legal entity on 2 August 2021. The group is led by a steering committee comprising local residents and business people: Chair: Robin Draper; Secretary: Alex Withington; Treasurer: Roger Kelly; Marketing Co-ordinator: Joanne Brannan; Events: Michele Sadler