First pints set to be pulled at Cocking pub converted into community hub

MADhurst recently made a donation to Blue Bell Community Hub
MADhurst recently made a donation to Blue Bell Community Hub

A new community-funded hub in Cocking is preparing to open its doors for the first time.

After months of hard work, the refurbished Blue Bell pub will welcome residents on Friday, December 13.

Frances Russell, a member of the project management group, said it was a soft opening for drinks only.

She said: “We’d really love to see the local community come and support us.”

A grand opening is due to be held next year.

The closure of the pub two years ago sparked the Blue Bell Community Hub project, which seeks to turn the space into a restaurant, bar and bed and breakfast accommodation as a focal point for the village.

Frances said that when the business closed, there was ‘nothing left’ in the village.

The project has come a long way in a short time, she said, considering that the pub was only purchased in April.

Over the last six months ‘a massive amount’ of work had taken place to get it ready for opening.

It was down to the strong backing of residents that the scheme had achieved so much, she said.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support, both in fundraising and volunteering, the goodwill has been absolutely amazing,” she said.

“We’re so grateful to people who have given us their money and their time.”

She said the project had resonated with people because it was community based and all about restoring the heart of the village.

The scheme has also attracted attention from further afield, she said.

“We know there are a large number of villages in the area around us that are watching how we go to see if this is something they can do,” she said.

“People see that this might be the way forward for communities, especially rural villages.

“We have to learn to help ourselves and not wait for other people to do things to us. It really is exciting.”

Going forward, there remains work to be done.

A general manager has now been appointed to run the venue, but other members of staff are still being sought.

In the first quarter of the new year, the village shop and post office will be moved to the site in the second phase of the project.

A new fundraising appeal will be launched to help see this work completed.

For updates, visit www.bluebellhub.org

The MADhurst Music Arts and Drama Festival recently made a donation towards the Blue Bell Community Hub project.

A MADhurst spokesman said: “MADhurst loves to celebrate creativity and develop community and we felt that this project connected so well with our festival ethos that we wanted to make a financial donation as part of our charitable giving to local good causes.

“We very much hope that by MADhurst 2020, we could see the Blue Bell Community Hub as a venue for one of the MADhurst Fringe events.

“We have enjoyed getting to know some of the committee and have valued the support they in turn, have given MADhurst.

“Together, we hope to see the range, quality, accessibility and versatility of Music, Arts and Drama develop and grow in our locality.”

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