Hinterland - 9 December 2019

In Hinterland this week - a village pub in need of rescuing, a household name in need of support, rural through the lens of the election and a justification for the development of a Christmas hangover. Read on...

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The remote Northumberland village that asked the world to help save its beloved pub

An inspirational story of a community enterprise campaign. This article tells us:

Having lost its post office, shop, petrol station and garage, the beautifully remote Northumberland village of Ridsdale has a paid a price for the isolation that comes with such sweeping views. But now the community is following a national trend and banding together to save the one thing it has left: the pub.

Determined to prevent the Gun Inn from closing after its owners decided to sell up, Ridsdale locals have formed a group with the goal of achieving a community buyout and offering people the chance to become shareholders in the venture.

The problem is that the villagers need to raise a large sum of money by a planning deadline of 22 December – and there aren’t very many of them.

“Momentum is building, but we’re only 80 houses here and we need to raise £200,000 very quickly,” said John Bassett, 74, who chairs the group and has lived in Ridsdale for decades.

So far the village is a long way short of this target, but if it is hopeful of its chances, it is perhaps because the phenomenon of the community pub is growing.

There are about 95 across the UK, according to the Plunkett Foundation, which specialises in helping community businesses, and that number grew by 13% in 2018. The foundation says there is currently a 100% survival rate for the community pubs it knows of, with not a single one ceasing to trade – in stark contrast to the high numbers of conventional pubs closing every year.

Shares in the Gun are being offered at £1 each, with a minimum purchase of £500. The project was given a welcome boost when the crime writer Ann Cleeves retweeted the campaign and the locals suddenly received donations from as far afield as New York, Kansas and Michigan.


HMV faces the music in Christmas crunch test

This really interesting article profiles the sort of “white knuckle” ride traditional high street names (those few still remaining) face. I really hope HMV does survive and I think I might just nip out now and buy some “pressies” from our local store in Lincoln! This article tells us:

Since Doug Putman rescued UK music retailer HMV in February, he has thrown himself wholeheartedly into running a transatlantic retail empire. The Canadian businessman has found himself jetting back and forth between his Ontario-based Sunrise Records chain and his newer acquisition.

On average, he spends one week a month in the UK. "I must do about 500,000 air miles a year," he says.

Now he faces his latest challenge, the all-important Christmas period.

"That's crunch time," he says. "All the hard work you do for 10 months of the year, that period is when you see it come to fruition and you see how good a job you did."

A lot is riding on the chain's performance over the festive season. HMV has twice fallen into administration, in 2013 and 2018, and Mr Putman acknowledges that many people didn't expect his relaunch to last six months.

After all, there have been plenty of casualties in the sector. At the start of the 21st Century, there were a number of other big retailers selling records and CDs, including Virgin, Our Price, Tower and Fopp.

But now, although many local independent shops are still in robust health, HMV is the only national chain standing, with Fopp as its wholly-owned subsidiary.

Poor Christmas sales have capsized many a High Street retailer in recent years, but Mr Putman is pinning his hopes on the chain's "loyal fan base" and the changes he has been making.


General election 2019: Labour says NHS figures show decline in GP services

If we ignore the “political football” aspect this article highlights some of the challenges relating to the delivery of GP appointments. We know this is an acute challenge in rural England where the stock of GPs is declining significantly and the pipeline is not running efficiently. It tells us:

The latest data from NHS Digital show that 2.45 million patients waited between 15 and 21 days in October to see a GP or other practice clinician, which was 8.3% of the total number of appointments, compared with 8% in October 2018.

Another 1.69 million waited between 22 and 28 days for a GP appointment while 1.66 million waited more than 28 days.

In both cases there was an increase in the percentage of patients affected compared to October last year.

The overall number of appointments increased to 30.8 million in October 2019 from 29.7 million in the same month the year before.


Private firms handed £15bn in NHS contracts over past five years

There is a rural context here. We know the most acute trusts represent a significantly disproportionate amount of debt in the system. This is due to the challenges, in part at least, of recruiting and retaining staff. The response is to have to buy more services from the private sector. This story tells us:

Private firms have been handed almost £15bn in NHS contracts over the past five years, figures show.

The value of contracts given to non-NHS providers, mainly profit-driven firms but also including some social enterprises, has soared by 89% since 2015, from £1.9bn to £3.6bn a year.


Fox hunting and Labour’s animal rights agenda misrepresents the key rural issues at this general election – Sarah Lee

This article profiles a range of activities promoted by the Countryside Alliance which are relevant to whichever political party finally achieves power. I am very pleased by the amount of debate rural issues have achieved in this election – this is just one very positive example. The article tells us:

The day the election was called, the Countryside Alliance went to No 10 Downing Street to present our manifesto asks. In No 10 we called for the next manifesto to include commitments to fight rural crime, that all wildlife management laws are based on sound science and evidence, enforce mandatory food labelling to promote British farmers, to rural-proof government departments and roll-out superfast broadband in rural communities.

Collectively each manifesto has taken what the Countryside Alliance has been calling for on board. The Conservative manifesto commits to roll-our gigabit broadband by 2025 and tackle rural crime. The Labour manifesto makes the commitment to rural-proof government departments and the Liberal Democrats make a commitment to improve access to rural health services.

And Finally

Scientists Praise Stronger Beers as “Very Very Healthy” thanks to Gut-Friendly Bacteria

I knew it! And therefore some very positive cheer for Christmas – this story tells us:

Certain beers could be considered “very healthy” thanks to the amount of gut-friendly bacteria they contain, according to scientists specialising in gut health.

Professor Eric Claassen, who works at Amsterdam University, explained that strong Belgian beers, including Hoegaarden, Westmalle Tripel and Echt Kriekenbier, are rich in probiotic microbes that offer a range of health benefits.

Presenting his research at an event held by probiotic drink maker Yakult, Professor Claassen said that unlike most mainstream beers, which go through a single fermentation process, these beers are fermented twice.

The second fermentation not only creates a drier flavour and boosts the strength of the beer, but it also uses a different strain of yeast found in traditional pints. 

This strain of yeast produces acids that kill harmful bacteria in the gut that can make us ill.


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


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