Hopkins Homes backs historic St Ives Corn Exchange to bring customers back after lockdown

Hopkins Homes backs historic St Ives Corn Exchange to bring customers back after lockdown

An historic market hall in Cambridgeshire which is run by the community has successfully reopened its doors after the national lockdown – with help from a new partnership supporting community organisations.

The Corn Exchange in St Ives was forced to close along with thousands of venues across the UK in March. But the historic building has now reopened and is hoping to attract new and regular customers back so it can continue to play its central role in the town.

To help it prepare for the challenges ahead the Corn Exchange has received specialist support from the Hopkins Plunkett Communities Scheme. Hopkins Homes has partnered with the Plunkett Foundation to provide free support and expertise from the charity’s network of advisers under their Hopkins Plunkett Communities scheme.

Ian Dobson, chairman of ACE, the Friends of St Ives Corn Exchange, said: “The Corn Exchange normally hosts a huge variety of local organisations and events – from community groups, drama and dance groups and exercise classes, U3A meetings and classes, community cinema, comedy nights and DJ and live music gigs to public and private sector business hirings and family celebrations. It really is at the heart of the community.

“Our challenge has now been how we reassure existing users that they can come back, what measures we have taken to ensure their safety – and also what we can do to attract new organisations to come and use the facilities that we have on offer. That is what the Hopkins Plunkett Communities Scheme has helped with. I thought it was a great scheme and I got straight onto it – not just for short term advice but possibly for the longer term to.”

The Corn Exchange has received help from a specialist community business adviser through the scheme to support efforts to attract more users, and to work with hirers to overcome the anxieties that many people have. Community-owned and community-run businesses of all types, including shops and pubs, across Norfolk, Suffolk, rural Essex and Cambridgeshire are eligible to apply for similarly tailored support.

James Hopkins, Executive Chairman and Founder of Hopkins Homes, said: “Supporting community organisations to return to normality following the lockdowns is one of the immediate priorities for the Hopkins Plunkett Communities Scheme.

“Each organisation will have its own challenges as it adapts to any new way of working and the scheme offers professional, expert guidance to ensure they overcome any hurdles.

“We are pleased to see St Ives Corn Exchange open its doors and we hope the guidance provided has been valuable to allow its community to safely enjoy the many events and activities hosted at the venue.”

The Corn Exchange building is owned by St Ives Town Council and is run by the St Ives Corn Exchange Community Interest Company (CIC) with the help of volunteers from ACE – Friends of St Ives Corn Exchange.

Plunkett helps rural communities to tackle the issues they face, through promoting and supporting community businesses, which are enterprises that are owned and run democratically by members of the community and others, on behalf of the community.

James Alcock, Chief Executive of Plunkett, said: “We are delighted that we can offer this free support to community businesses across East Anglia thanks to Hopkins Homes, who are recognising the importance of community businesses to the lives of people across the region. At this moment, as rural businesses are continuing to adapt to new health and safety measures or reopening after many months of closure, this support could not be more critical.

“I wish the Corn Exchange in St Ives well with their efforts and urge other community businesses who need advice to get in touch.”