First two pubs supported through £3.62m pub support programme set to open this weekend under community ownership The Centurion in Chester and the Sir Charles Napier in Blackburn are the first two pubs to open under community ownership after receiving support from More Than A Pub: The Community Pub Business Support programme, launched in March by national charity Plunkett Foundation and funded by Department for Communities and Local Government and independent trust Power to Change. On Friday 16th September The Centurion in Chester will officially reopen after the community successfully negotiated an initial 12 month lease with Admiral Taverns, and on Saturday 17th September the Sir Charles Napier in Blackburn will become the UK’s first community-owned rock venue. Locals in Vicars Cross, Chester began rallying when the Centurion potentially faced demolition. They formed a committee and undertook a campaign to successfully argue the vital importance of the pub as a social hub of the community. It will now reopen with a special ceremony attended by funders, supporters and Chester MP Chris Matheson. Once open, the Centurion will offer a range of additional opportunities for the local community, including digital inclusion sessions helping to teach older residents about internet security, an after-school club offering parents a place to have a coffee for £1 and socialise while their children are in the play area, and continue to host regular quizzes and fundraising events, particularly working closely with the local church group who continue to raise funds for local good causes. Trevor Jones, Chair of the committee, said: “We would like to thank Admiral Taverns for their continued co-operation and support throughout this process and also for providing us with the opportunity to take on the tenancy of the Centurion. We hope that the Vicars Cross community will demonstrate their support by returning to the Cenny in numbers on a regular basis. It is a lease for 12 months during which time we hope to negotiate the purchase of the pub.” On Saturday 17th September rock icon Rob Halford from pioneering heavy metal band Judas Priest will officially reopen the Sir Charles Napier in Blackburn to a sell-out crowd of regulars and community members. Following a year-long campaign to save Blackburn’s last rock venue from closure, regulars took on the lease of the building as a large membership Community Interest Company in June 2016 and have since refitted the pub, including installing a purpose-built music venue, plus a kitchen to provide affordable food to locals. Following the reopening, the group will continue to work with Plunkett Foundation to convert from a CIC to a Community Benefit Society (CBS). They will continue to implement their vision for the Napier, which includes offering a mix of paid staff and volunteers offering employment and the chance to learn new skills and gain new experience for local people. They also have plans to further engage the wider community and bring about positive social impact in the area, by working closely with Blackburn College, Young People's Services & Youth Zone, and build on their close ties with other local businesses and non-profits. Both groups have received business advice and support, including a £2,500 bursary, from Plunkett Foundation’s More Than A Pub: The Community Pub Business Support programme, the unique two-year programme established to help support community ownership of pubs in England. Plunkett Foundation’s Nicole Hamilton, Project Manager for More Than A Pub, said: “We’re thrilled to see these two fantastic pubs reopening following hard work and determination from their communities. Both of these pubs are so much more than just a place to buy a drink; they provide really important social spaces and are both central to their communities’ sense of place and identity. Both have long term plans to continue to build on providing even more opportunities for local people, and we wish them every success.” For more information about More Than A Pub: The Community Pub Business Support programme please click here (www.plunkett.co.uk/more-than-a-pub). -ENDS- Media Enquiries please contact:Katherine Darling 07810 832980 / 01993 email@example.com Notes to Editors: More than a pub: The Community Pub Business Support Programme (www.plunkett.co.uk/more-than-a-pub) is a unique two year programme established to help support community ownership of pubs in England. Its value is £3.62 million and is jointly funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Power to Change Trust. This exciting programme will be led by Plunkett Foundation and delivered in collaboration with Co-operative & Community Finance, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), Co-operative Mutual Solutions, Pub is the Hub and Locality. For the first time it will offer the community pub sector access to an end-to-end support programme including capacity building and a finance package made up of loans and grants. Plunkett Foundation (www.plunkett.co.uk) helps communities to take control of their challenges and overcome them together. We support people, predominantly in rural areas, to set up and run life-changing community co-operatives; enterprises that are owned and run democratically by large numbers of people in their community. They help people to tackle a range of issues, from isolation and loneliness to poverty, and come in many forms including shops, cafes, pubs and land-based initiatives, and everything in between. About Power to ChangePower to Change is an independent charitable trust endowed with £150 million from the Big Lottery Fund to grow community business in England. Over ten years, we will provide funding and support to help build many more successful and sustainable local community businesses across England. About the Big Lottery FundThe Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK. We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invest over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes. Since June 2004, we have awarded over £8 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people. Every year we fund 13,000 small local projects tackling big social problems like poor mental health and homelessness.Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £34 billion has been raised and more than 450,000 grants awarded.