Rural communities in Northern Ireland are being offered grants of up to £50,000 to start up community business ventures that will breathe new life into their areas. The news comes today as Cloughmills Community Action Team in Ballymoney, is offered a grant of over £29,000 to help develop a micro brewery and run training courses in horticulture and traditional activities such as weaving, wood cutting, bread baking and arts and crafts.
The money comes from Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS scheme, which aims to inspire a rural revival across the UK and support rural communities that may be struggling with issues such as isolation, ageing populations, and the closure of local amenities.
Grants of between £10,000 and £50,000 are now available to help rural communities with less than 3,000 people develop plans for enterprising projects that will answer a local need or improve services for local people. Projects could be anything from community-run shops and pubs to energy or transport schemes, craft or food projects.
People can register at www.villagesos.org.uk where they will find more information and advice about community enterprises, including an online support network.
Cloughmills Community Action Team is being offered its grant of £29,680 through the first round of the Village SOS funding scheme, which launched last year.
The organisation plans to use the funding to create the first micro brewery of its kind in Ireland and run lifestyle training courses in their rural village. They hope this will be the first stage in the development of a traditional arts and culture centre located in the village’s old mill, encouraging local people and tourists to visit the area.
The organisation will run courses in beer brewing where people can learn how to brew, bottle and label their own beer, and they also offer courses covering local skills such as growing fresh food, building wooden items with waste timber, baking and weaving.
“We hope the activities we are planning will be the first stage in the development of a traditional arts and culture venue in the old mill in Cloughmills village,” explained Chairperson Patrick Frew.
“We are currently carrying out improvements to the mill and the area around it and we’ll now be able to try out some traditional activities in the grounds and see how they work out as business ventures.
“Local people will get the chance to take part in the courses where they can find about growing their own fresh fruit and veg as well learning the traditional skills of the area, while tourists who visit will get the chance to try out local traditional and cultural activities.
“This area has so much culture and history and we want to create a business venture that reflects the rich traditions of our village. We will employ people from the local area to run the courses and beer brewing so we’ll also be creating jobs and the money we make will go back into supporting the local community and developing this village as a centre of culture that will hopefully attract people from across the world.”
Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “We are delighted to announce this funding for Cloughmills Community Action Team’s innovative project which is testament to the strength and creativity that exists in this rural community. I would urge other communities across Northern Ireland to explore this unique opportunity to get funding and support to start up a community run enterprise which will revive their local area and help buck the trend of rural decline.”