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How our Community Interest Company provides a haven for artists and the environment

Long neglected farm buildings in rural Worcestershire were renovated to provide a home for The Fold Bransford CIC - a social enterprise that "makes a stand for creativity, sustainability and health", as its founders explain

It's always sad to see redundant and neglected farm buildings blighting a beautiful view of the English countryside. That's why husband and wife team Jane Cox and Will Tooby decided to patch up their own corner of Worcestershire by setting up The Fold, a collection of restored barns that has been a place of inspiration for more than a decade.

It's now a community space with vibrant work studios for local designer-makers who trade in traditional and contemporary arts and crafts. There's also a café, a natural therapy centre, and The Fold care farm, which helps vulnerable people to participate in meaningful farm and craft activities.

Why we became a Community Interest Company

"The farm is about looking after the land while looking after people," says Will, who is from a farming family and was working as a life coach before The Fold.

"It helps people with learning disabilities and mental health problems, while growing organic produce for the café. We get visitors from all over the place who enjoy our facilities and say we're a haven. We are a centre that is making a stand for creativity, sustainability and health."

The CIC structure seemed ideal for fulfilling The Fold's objectives. It enjoys the benefits of being a social enterprise for the community, such as lower business rates, but it also has greater flexibility than a charity.

Social enterprise

Although the legal form is not advertised to the public, Will says he is proud to call The Fold a not-for-profit social enterprise. "We took advice when we were setting up and that's when we heard about the CIC structure. It seemed so right for us. We wanted to be able to operate from a clear, sustainable canvas as a community organisation."

The Fold provides a lot of people with a glimpse of a sustainable way of life. Visitors can access beautiful, locally-made goods, eat organic food and enjoy a tranquil place to visit that has an additional community benefit.

Success on a plate

Part of this extra benefit is providing experiences to local people through volunteering opportunities. "It's uplifting to look into our café and see our staff working together, some of whom might be volunteers," says Will. "It gives it a different kind of quality. They also help us with catering events, where we provide locally sourced food to the community."

A group of designer-makers - including a furniture and cabinetmaker, goldsmith, dressmaker, metalworker and jeweller, landscape artist, picture framer, batik artists and glassmaker - occupy the studio shops. The Fold also hosts a diverse range of courses, workshops and events.

Reproduced with kind permission from the CIC Regulator.

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