Former newsagent transformed into community venue
Further to a successful funding bid to Shropshire Council, grant money has been awarded to the Bishop’s Castle & District Community Land Trust, which will help in the creation of an informal drop-in venue at the heart of Bishop’s Castle for the local community.
Community groups across Shropshire have received grant funding totalling more than £140,000 to boost their recovery following the pandemic. The Community Asset Fund is a government funded pilot scheme as part of the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG), which aims to provide funding support in the aftermath of COVID-19.
The former Stars News Shop at 68-70 Church Street has been disused since 2015, but now after more than five years of neglect this building will be able to provide a welcoming meeting place for a wide variety of local groups.
These include the Bishop’s Castle Befriending Circle and in collaboration with Enterprise Southwest Shropshire, this will become a digital learning centre, helping those within the community gain support to access technology. The grant awarded by Shropshire Council, together with match funding, will allow the Trust to build a shopfront with disabled access, provide IT equipment for digital learning, a display area, seating and desks for customers.
The Bishop’s Castle & District Community Land Trust are a community-managed project responsible for renovating and developing this building into an asset for the benefit of the people of Bishop’s Castle and the wider area. The Trusts objective is to create an important base for a wide variety of local groups and services, part of a wellbeing collective that brings the voluntary, community, and social enterprise sectors together.
Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member for culture, leisure and tourism was pleased about the news:
Collectively, we all want our town centres to be thriving and full of community spirit, which is why it is so great to hear about the exciting plans for the former Stars News shop. Transforming a long-standing, unoccupied space into a hub for local community groups will be refreshing for the town, its residents, and visitors. I look forward to the space becoming a venue the whole town can be proud of.
Janet Gamble, volunteer for the Animal Samaritans explained that the space was used last year for a community event.
Animal Samaritans, known locally as The Dog Shop, successfully hosted a fundraising event in the Stars newsagents site last year. The site is situated in a fantastic location and has stood empty for far too long. This project will breathe much-needed new life into Bishop’s Castle.
Once more this former newsagents can play its part at the heart of the Bishop’s Castle community.
Jenny Olivant a member of the Bishop’s Castle Michaelmas fair committee, describes the importance of this venue as follows –
The Bishop’s Castle Michaelmas fair will return on 17 September after a two-year break, in what will be its twenty-fifth year.
The event is a one-day street fair, traditionally held at the end of harvest, which involves a variety of entertainment, music and street traders alongside processions of vintage cars and steam engines.
The event draws people in from across the region and relies upon the good faith of volunteers to make it a success. The newly formed community space is situated in an ideal location to run the event from and will enact as an information point on the day.
This year we are planning to utilise the space behind the venue to set up a food court for visitors to enjoy. We hope to expand the event in future years and the new space on Church Street will play a pivotal in bringing the community together.
Ruth Houghton, a local Shropshire Councillor for Bishop’s Castle said:
This project is really important to Bishop’s Castle. The renovation of this run down property will provide two new units of affordable accommodation for local people, something that the town desperately needs. Bringing this building back into use will also make a huge difference to the appearance of our high street and is very much welcomed by the local community.