On Saturday I drove over to Barham, outside Canterbury for a very special event, having been asked to speak at the opening of the Nailbourne Community Shop. Back in 2008, Post Office Limited embarked on a programme of rationalisation of their sub post office network across the UK. Kent was the first county to be looked at and against a huge public outcry and strong protests and lobbying by KCC, many small and valued facilities were summarily closed.
In Autumn 2008, the closure of it’s sub post office led to Nailbourne’s last grocery shop closing, leaving local residents with nothing. In many small communities this would have simply put another nail in the coffin of the village, but in Nailbourne local villagers refused to accept this. Working alongside a range of agencies including Kent County Council, Kingston and Barham Parish Councils, Churches in Society and local KCC Members, they formed a small local group and began to set up their own village shop and post office.
I first visited the shop a month or so ago and was instantly impressed by the number of people visiting – at that stage the footfall was already into hundreds each day. Someone told me that since the shop had opened, there was a noticeable increase in the number of people just walking around the village – stopping to chat, meeting up, whether or not they were buying anything at the shop it has become a catalyst for community life.
As I said to the large crowd of local residents, I felt like an intruder having driven over from Lamberhurst! But I congratulated everybody on their single-mindedness and commitment – many of the locals have actually put their own money into the enterprise. One of the local residents is David Starkey, historian, author and latterly radio and television presenter. I had the good fortune to chat to Mr Starkey after the ribbon cutting; what an affable and insightful chap he is. It was also very kind of him to agree to perform the opening ceremony along with an elderly local resident; it was purely due to him that local press, along with BBC and Meridian were all in attendance at the event.
As I said to the crowd, they are a shining example that our small villages and communities don’t have to take what’s handed to them by faceless national bureaucrats. Perhaps if more took a leaf out of Nailbourne’s book, corporate arrogance might become a thing of the past.