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 Jan Cox and Will Tooby decided to patch up their own corner of Worcestershire by setting up The Fold, a collection of restored barns forming a place of inspiration since 2007.
It’s now a community space with eight vibrant work studios for local designer-makers who trade in traditional and contemporary arts and crafts, a 50-seat eco café, a natural therapy centre and, most recently, the Fold care farm.
“The farm is about looking after the land while looking after people, “says founder Tooby, who is from a farming family and was working with a life coach before the Fold. “It helps people with learning disabilities and mental health problems, while growing organic produce for the eco café. We get visitors from all over the place who come and enjoy our facilities and say we’re a haven. We are a centre 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.
Although the legal form is not advertised to the public, Tooby 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 canvas as a community organisation. It’s still early days, but I think we have a sustainable vehicle.”
With up to 100 visitors a day in peak season and around 600 to its festivals. The Fold provides a lot of people with a glimpse of a sustainable way of life. Visitors can see trader producing beautiful, locally made goods, eat organic food and enjoy a tranquil place to visit that has an additional community benefit.
Part of this extra benefit is providing experiences to local people through volunteering opportunities. “It’s uplifting to look into our café, run by fellow director David McCaw, and see five staff working together, three of whom might be volunteers,” says Tooby. “It gives it a different kind of quality that you just don’t get as a private company. They also help us with out-catering events where we provide locally sourced food to the community.”
Currently, a group of designer-maker, silversmith, milliner, metalworker and glassmaker occupy the studio shops. They work alongside the different courses and classes taking place daily at The Fold, which includes workshops such as basket making and specialist treatments in its three therapy rooms.
||The Fold Bransford
||CIC limited by guarantee
||Became a CIC in March 2007
|Community interest statement
||A social enterprise making a stand for creativity, sustainability and health.
|Number of staff
||7 plus 15 volunteers
Find out more about The Fold