Village SOS

8:00pm Wednesday 10 August on BBC ONE

Sarah Beeny presents as six villages in rural Britain try to breathe life back into their areas with the help of a grant from the Big Lottery Fund and an army of volunteers

BBC One is looking to spark a rural revival with a major prime-time series – Village SOS.

The series, which will start filming next year for broadcast on BBC One in Winter 2010, will feature six villages as they launch a brand new rural business, with the help of six “village champions” who bring their expertise in business, building – or whatever skills each village thinks it needs – to get the projects off the ground.

The Village SOS project is a major partnership between BBC One and the Big Lottery Fund (BIG). BIG will be searching for the villages and will fund the community-owned rural businesses for their first year, during which they will be filmed by the BBC.

The feel-good series will be presented by Sarah Willingham (The Restaurant) who grew Indian catering chain The Bombay Bicycle Club into a lucrative catering business.

The six-part series will follow the trials and tribulations of the village communities and their champions as they pull together to bring life back into their area, create jobs and inspire others.

Jay Hunt, Controller BBC One, said: “This unique collaboration between BBC One and the BIG Lottery Fund offers six villages a chance to regenerate the heart of their communities and six people the opportunity to make their dream of escaping the rat race come true.”

And the hunt starts now (1 June 2009) for villages to submit their schemes and the potential champions to submit CVs to see if they can make it to the final six in Village SOS. Dozens of villages across the UK may already have first-class ideas but be waiting for funding or just need a catalyst in the form of a champion to set the whole scheme in motion.

The village champion can be anyone with a successful track record in running a business or project who is looking for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a difference to a rural community. Charisma, confidence and the character to make the most of the local talent are key, with the villages themselves choosing their own champion with the range of skills that best suit their own project.

A shortlist of 18 potential businesses and champions will be selected from the applicants in November, with BIG providing development money to further the proposals for three months. The successful six will then start work – with BBC One filming their progress – in May next year.

Details of how to apply to submit your village’s scheme or to become a village champion can be found at BIG will also have a helpline for further information at 0844 8888677.

Sir Clive Booth, Chair of the Big Lottery Fund, said: “While rural village life is in decline we believe that many villages are sitting on a range of untapped potential that, with the strength of the community behind them, can be turned into thriving businesses.

“Village SOS will leave a genuine legacy for each of the villages involved and ultimately, we hope, will inspire other villages, showing them what can be achieved when communities work together.”

BBC Learning will be working to further the impact of Village SOS beyond the boundaries of the six filmed schemes with advice on how to start rural businesses and apply for grants, and with details of other organisations helping to make an impact on rural communities.

Village SOS is produced by BBC Wales for BBC One.

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