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The village high street in Kirkoswald, Cumbria, was once home to shops including a butcher’s, a greengrocer’s and a shoe shop. Now just one remains: a small convenience store that has became the hub of village life during the pandemic.
After its owner, the local philanthropist David Hodgkiss, died of Covid in March last year, the shop was put up for sale and was destined for closure until residents stepped in. In just six weeks they have raised nearly £200,000 to purchase and run the shop as a community business, and hope the doors could reopen in just a few weeks, staffed by volunteers from the local area.
“This is the final shop. The village is quite thriving and the community feel that we want to keep things going, we don’t want to keep losing things bit by bit,” said Ruth Anderson, the chair of the community benefit society that will run the shop. “We’ve been totally blown away by the strength of feeling about keeping it open and the community spirit.”
She said the shop was essential during Covid lockdowns when people felt unsafe travelling to larger supermarkets; when the village was cut off by floods, it was the only place people could buy food for days until the waters subsided.
Most of the money has been raised through selling shares to people in the village and further afield – there are now more than 350 shareholders from across the country – and the villagers have just £10,000 left to raise by the end of June to reach their final goal. They have also received money from grants and donations, some coming internationally from countries including the US and Cyprus.
“I’ve spoke to so many people who said they’d lost their local shop, it’s gone and they really wish it hadn’t. So people don’t want to see other villages go through that,” Anderson said.
According to the 2021 rural shop report, one in five rural consumers said they depended on their local shop more now than a year ago, and 21% said they felt safer in their local shop than a large supermarket during the pandemic.
The Kirkoswald parish is a large rural area with a number of isolated houses and farms. It has a high proportion of residents aged 65 or over, and 11.2% of them live in single-person households, higher than the national average of 8.1%.
“For many people, particularly in Covid, coming to the village to do their shopping is perhaps the only time they’ve spoken to anybody all day because it’s very rurally isolated,” Anderson said. “It really is a lifeline. There are a number of people who come in every day to the shop, just to buy one or two things, but it keeps them rooted to the village.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘It’s a lifeline’: Cumbrian villagers raise £200,000 to save last shop | Cumbria