AN ORGANISATION first set up to support independent businesses hit by the 2015 floods has attracted 51 new members during the pandemic.

Indie York has grown to become a 220-member network of independents, with more than 10,400 followers on Instagram, 5,100 on Facebook and 3,400 on Twitter.

The organisation has printed more than 80,000 copies of its map featuring independents across the city, revamped its website which is interactive and now a consumer hub, and held promotional events such as city trails which showcase local businesses.

"The pandemic made everyone realise how amazing independents are," said Indie York chair Rebecca Hall at its annual meeting.

Rebecca, who co-owns Galtres Lodge Hotel and Forest Restaurant in York, took over as chair in February after Johnny Hayes , a founding member, stepped down.

After receiving hearty applause for his contribution, Johnny said: "Indie York was set up during a crisis. We started it because independents were badly hit by the Boxing Day floods of 2015.

"With now 220 members, it has come a long way. York is a city of independents. It is as good as you get anywhere in the country."

Rebecca said Indie York had lost 24 members during the pandemic with 18 having to vacate their premises, but another 51 had joined.

"The support for Indie York is huge," she added.

Its new-look website has seen a 35 per cent increase in visitors, the group has 'two amazing partnerships' with York BID and City of York Council, along with other support - including from Bootham School which hosted the meeting, and from The Lord Mayor and Under Sheriff who attended.

"We really appreciate you sticking with us," Rebecca told members. "We have been a network of people all in the same boat. We are getting the word out there about Indie York."

She said the £75 membership fee was 'value for money', covering the map printing costs, running the website, and paying for a part-time admin role.

Any extra money raised goes towards events, training, coaching and webinars. Indie York has also created a video to showcase members.

Future plans include holding future events such as a Halloween trail, and fostering partnerships with other key stakeholders, such as Welcome to Yorkshire whose chief executive James Mason was guest speaker at the event.

Rebecca added that York was in a better position than comparable cities - with its vacancy rate rising from 8.2 per cent pre-Covid in March 2020, to 12.1 per cent by May 2021.