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Industrial and Provident Societies and Village Pubs: Exploring Community Cohesion in Rural Britain

Ignazio Cabras ()

Environment and Planning A, 2011, vol. 43, issue 10, 2419-2434

Abstract: In the UK, pubs are often the nodes and centres of the local social network. Particularly in villages and rural areas, pubs play an important role in stimulating community cohesion and social capital by enhancing socioeconomic activities, such as communal initiatives and business activities, within communities. Despite this, there has been a constant decline in the number of British pubs during the past decades. The factors influencing this decline are many and diverse: the rise of pub chains and theme pubs which target a more commercial type of custom, the result of progressively tougher drink–driving laws, rising prices and alcohol duties, the increased popularity of home entertainment, and the smoking ban. Since village pubs work as a network tier for the entire area, their disappearance often means the disappearance of major centres of social aggregation. This also has a significant impact on rural economies, given the importance of these businesses for local supply chains. The creation of Industrial and Provident Societies (I&PSs) in villages and small communities may represent a valid way to rescue a number of village pubs from closure. An I&PS is an organisation carrying on an industry, business, or trade, either as a cooperative or for the benefit of the community. This paper discusses the functioning of I&PSs and their potential with regard to pubs in rural areas by presenting original data obtained from primary research, including interviews held with owners, managers, and customers of village pubs. In addition, the paper provides case studies of communities who used an I&PS to save their local pubs and assets, and explores how this solution may help villagers to keep their centres of social aggregation economically viable and sustainable. It is concluded that I&PSs can represent a valuable solution for many rural communities. It is also concluded that the level of community cohesion among villagers, the investment required for setting up the I&PS, and the availability of financial grants and public sector support all have an important impact on their development.

Date: 2011
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