The George Community

The George Community
The Street
Bethersden, Kent TN26 3AG
United Kingdom

19 December 2022
Celebrating £300K success
"We did it!" Village celebrates raising £300K to buy its pub with pledge to make it a community hub

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

21 November 2022
‘A month to save heart of our village’
Community needs to raise £300,000 by Christmas to buy village pub

The residents of Bethersden, near Tenterden, are hoping Christmas will come early this year as they try to raise £300,000 in the next four weeks to help buy their historic and popular pub, The George, and re-open it as a community enterprise*.

Leading the fundraising challenge is a Community Share Offer, devised by local action group The George Community, which started its campaign to save the pub almost 18 months ago after the 17th century Free House - described by residents as ‘the heart of the village’ - closed during the pandemic and the building was put up for sale.

The new urgency is driven by the fact that a valuable Community Ownership matched-funding grant from the Government is only available until the end of the year. The race is therefore on to find the necessary cash before Christmas so that contracts can be exchanged on the sale.

Local residents, former customers and anyone who wants to support the survival of pubs as valuable community assets or who might have dreamed of part-owning a pub but without the full financial responsibility, are being invited to buy single or multiple shares in The George.

The scheme requires a minimum investment is £500, which is the nominal value of one share, up to a maximum purchase of 80 shares. There will, however, be a ‘one member, one vote’ approach to ensure that all shareholders have an equal and democratic say in the running of the pub.

Share investment will not only attract 30 per cent tax relief under the Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) scheme** but will also earn future interest of up to 5% or 2% above base rate, ideally paid in the form of a till tab to help encourage continued custom at the pub. Net profits will be ploughed back into the pub to fund its further development for the benefit of the whole community.

The share certificates will also have their own unique value as they have been personally designed and drawn by celebrated actress, artist and Bethersden resident Anna Calder-Marshall.

The share offer was launched on 20 November to a packed meeting in Bethersden Village Hall, where there was standing room only to hear members of The George Community founding executive team outline their fully audited business plan.

The business plan for The George has the backing of the Plunkett Foundation (which supports community enterprises), Ashford Borough Council, Bethersden Parish Council, the Bethersden Charitable Trust and Ashford MP Damian Green who has personally supported the initiative from the start. Co-operatives UK, which provided vital start-up grant funding last year, has already committed to make an actual investment of £25,000.

“We know this is a huge challenge – particularly at the present time,” said Robin Draper, Chairman of The George Community, “but this is our one and only shot to save the heart of our village and ensure it can play a full part in maintaining the community spirit and community care that Bethersden has always been known for.”

George Community Secretary Alex Withington added: “We’ve been extremely heartened by the ongoing support we’ve experienced so far - not only as we worked towards securing an agreement to purchase the pub but at all the pop-up pub events that we’ve been organising every few months to keep The George front of mind with the community. If that support translates into share purchases then there’s no question that we can get there. Then our next goal will be completing necessary repairs and refurbishments so that we can re-open the pub – even if that’s in a very limited way to begin with – before St George’s Day 2023.”
A professional and audited prospectus has been published which gives full details of the share scheme and business plan, including a five-year financial plan for the pub once it has reopened. Together with an application form, this is available to download from the George Community website -

Printed copies of the prospectus and application form are also available at Bethersden Post Office and in Marchants on the village high street.

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 for Sunday’s launch of the George Community share offer with members of the Steering Committee in the foreground: (left to right) Alex Withington, Joanne Brannan, Roger Kelly, Robin Draper, Michele Sadler. Photo credit Alison Miles

9th November 2021
Community group wins £250,000 in bid to save historic Kent pub
A village community group formed to save a historic Kent pub has won a significant funding pledge from the Government’s new Community Ownership Fund.

The George Community has been awarded £250,000 in matched funding to help them purchase, refurbish and reopen The George, located at the heart of the village of Bethersden, near Tenterden.

Bethersden was recently named as the best village in the South East by the Times newspaper but its 17th century free house recently closed after the long-standing tenant gave up the lease at the end of 2020 – the first time in its history that the pub has closed for any length of time.

When residents and loyal customers realised that it would not reopen and had been put up for sale, they formed an action group to save the popular local as a vital village asset, with the aim of running it as a community pub. This formula has proved very successful for other at-risk UK pubs. Although still a relatively new concept, according to CAMRA there are approximately 150 community-owned pubs in the UK; so far these pubs have one of the best business survival rates anywhere in the world with only one UK closure recorded.

With the Government’s pledge, the group is now on a mission to raise at least an equivalent sum in order to purchase and reopen the pub. A community share offer is due to be launched in just a few weeks’ time, and the results of further grant applications are also awaited.

“The timing of this win couldn’t be better,” said the George Community’s campaign secretary, Alex Withington. “Of course, we need to raise at least the same amount ourselves to receive the full pledge, and realistically we need more than that as the pub needs significant refurbishment, but it’s a big boost.”

The group’s steering committee of four local residents and business people is in regular contact with the pub’s current owner who is supportive of the plan, allowing them to hold a number of pop-up events in the pub’s beer garden over the Summer to generate support and raise some initial seed funding. Village residents and supporters are being kept informed of campaign progress through the group’s website, social media and regular e-newsletters.

The project has the support of the Plunket Foundation, Ashford Borough Council, Bethersden parish council and Ashford MP Damian Green.

“The George has been at the centre of our community for hundreds of years – a welcoming place for residents to meet, connect and celebrate in equal measure,” said George Community Chair Robin Draper, who has lived in Bethersden for the last 35 years.

“Our vision for reopening as a community pub will not only ensure that this role and atmosphere is restored but is also strengthened to provide expanded services for the village and future profits being redirected back into our community over the long term”.

In advance of the share offer launch, the Group has set up a crowdfunding page to raise funds to help cover costs associated with the pub purchase:

A fundraising family-friendly Christmas event is also being planned for 17 December at Bethersden’s village hall with carols, entertainment, mulled wine and local beers. For more information please see future posts on the website or follow The George on Facebook.

Photo: Members of the steering committee of The George Community outside the historic 17th century free house (left to right) - Robin Draper (Chair), Joanne Brannan (Marketing Co-ordinator), Alex Withington (Secretary), Roger Kelly (Treasurer)

The George Community
Joanne Brannan
The Street
Bethersden Kent TN26 3AG
United Kingdom

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