Up to £50k is up for grabs!

Rural communities in Northern Ireland are being reminded that grants of up to £50,000 are being offered to start up community business ventures that will breathe new life into their areas.

The money comes from the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS scheme, which aims to inspire a rural revival across the UK and support rural communities that may be struggling with issues such as isolation, ageing populations, and the closure of local amenities.

Grants of between £10,000 and £50,000 are now available to help rural communities with less than 3,000 people develop plans for enterprising projects that will answer a local need or improve services for local people. Projects could be anything from community-run shops and pubs to energy or transport schemes, craft or food projects.

People in Northern Ireland can register at www.villagesos.org.uk where they will find more information and advice about community enterprises, including an online support network. Application forms for the funding are available on the website now.

Cloughmills Community Action Team was offered its grant of £29,680 through the first round of the Village SOS funding scheme, which launched last year. The organisation plans to develop a micro brewery and run training courses in horticulture and traditional activities such as weaving, wood cutting, bread baking and arts and crafts.

They will create the first micro brewery of its kind in Ireland and run lifestyle training courses in their rural village. They hope this will be the first stage in the development of a traditional arts and culture centre located in the village’s old mill, encouraging local people and tourists to visit the area.

The organisation will run courses in beer brewing where people can learn how to brew, bottle and label their own beer, and they also offer courses covering local skills such as growing fresh food, building wooden items with waste timber, baking and weaving.

Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “I would urge communities across Northern Ireland to explore this unique opportunity to get funding and support to start up a community run enterprise which will revive their local area and help buck the trend of rural decline.”