How it all began
Our passion to save The George began in early 2018, when the owners, Camphill Village Trust (CVT), announced plans to close the café and sell the building. After successfully persuading Forest of Dean District Council to list it as a community asset, we formed the Newnham on Severn Community Benefit Society and launched a campaign to buy the building and turn it into a mixed-use village hub.
We fundraised by putting on events in other local venues; selling Community Shares and securing grants. Many people gave us generous donations too. Our successful grant application for match funding from the Community Ownership Fund enabled us to buy the building.
After campaigning for five years, in September 2021 we finally had the keys in our hands. The management committee, volunteers and contracted specialists hit the road running and we opened our doors to the public in March 2023. The evening was an explosion of fantastic canapes, an exhibition and lovely people. We had made it happen – together!
Our vision has always been to re-establish The George as a welcoming social hub for the village, where community, environment, sustainability and fair trade values come together. Access and inclusivity are key to our planning. The George is for everyone, young, old and all the stages in between – a centre of wellbeing for Newnham and the whole Forest of Dean area, where people can work, volunteer, learn skills, socialise, and be supported, enriched and entertained.
We are a small organisation run by a volunteer management committee, so must work within our capacity to deliver on our vision. The committee oversees the business, including managing contracted staff. Having started trading tentatively, until we brought in paid staff, we now relish seeing the community coming to life again. Volunteers are key to our success, both on the committee and on the ground. The cafe is getting busier and busier and gallery exhibitions are becoming increasingly popular. We hold events in the evenings, mostly around the cafe offer, but expanding our offer with workshops, talks and group meetings.
We knew once the cafe was up and running we’d be better positioned to develop other activities. Our in-house bakery is in action twice a week to order and, of course, supplying our cafe with fantastic baked products too.
In October 2023 we were thrilled to win the New Voluntary Group of the Year Award at the Forest Voluntary Action Forum (FVAF) awards. The judges described us as ‘an uplifting social hub’ and this gave us a real boost.
As we expand we are actively seeking to engage as many diverse groups and ages as possible. The building and business belongs to the community, and couldn’t have reopened (and reinvented) The George without the local generosity and support of Newnham people. Our business plan lays out the potential of the Community Hub. It has changed a little since we began and will change again and again, as we grow, learn and respond to feedback.
How the Community Hub evolves is not in the hands of the Newnham on Severn Community Benefit Society committee, everyone has a voice in deciding on how it develops. If you want to give feedback please talk to a member of staff, or call us. We welcome your input.
Our values are:
We use the term Community Hub to embrace all we offer in the building. We aim to provide employment; recreation at all stages of life; training and volunteering opportunities and a whole range of cultural activities. Community involvement within the buildings provides a sense of belonging and supports good health and wellbeing.
The environment matters to us. We have a clear mission to cut waste, reduce energy consumption and minimise carbon emissions. Where possible we reduce the use of plastics and use local suppliers. Volunteers enjoy the social aspect of being involved in a range of ways, bringing a rich sense of involvement to all who work with us – both paid and unpaid. We offer training and support so people can learn new skills that are transferable. Cooking cakes for the cafe together in the kitchen is fun, helping maintain the building is rewarding, and helping at events is always an experience! Being part of the bigger picture and valued is good for the soul.