This is the Holy Post Café. It's the first of that trinity of words that's the giveaway. This is not first and foremost a café or a post office. It's St Luke's church in the village of Kinoulton, in the Gainsborough lands between Nottingham and Melton Mowbray. The beaders are in the sanctuary, while the post office and cafe nestle behind the pews in which villagers sit and chat and pass the time of day.
I've come here with Dr Stuart Burgess, the Government's "rural advocate" and chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities, which once upon a time would have been called a quango. We meet in the Neville Arms down the road. With the leather sofas and contemporary dining furniture filling its small front bar, it's a Darwinian model of how the traditional village hubs of shop, pub and church are adapting, or dying.
Dr Burgess has been on something of a mission, since the closure of some 2,500 rural post offices was announced nearly two years ago, to establish alternative village postal services: "I've been travelling the country, cajoling." ("Encouraging," corrects his PR man). "Local businesses use rural post offices, but it's really the social dimension – they're critical for the elderly and a real focal point for communities."
The name of the Post Office's revival scheme, Outreach, isn't lost on Dr Burgess, a Methodist minister. "Outreach" is what churches call their efforts to minister to local communities. The target was to have 500 new Outreach post offices, ranging from mobile vans to services in alternative premises. That target has already been reached, with some 25 Outreach post offices either in churches or run by churches in local premises..More>>