Celebrating our village halls

24 January 2023
This week we’re celebrating Village Halls Week (23 – 29 January) – a time when we recognise the vital contribution that village halls and community buildings make to our communities. Community First Yorkshire trustee, Jan Thornton reflects on how village halls and community buildings have been central to her life.

It is hard to imagine what my life might have been like were there not a village hall or community building in the village where I was brought up or currently live in….

As a young child, my first years at infant school were in an old building, which subsequently became repurposed for community use when the new infant and junior school opened in the late 1960s. I remember subsequently attending dancing classes there and also Brownies and Guides in the church hall.

My husband and I, as a newly married couple in the late 1980s, moved to the village where we still live. The village hall has been central to my life within the community ever since and barely a week has gone by in over 35 years where I haven’t been taking part in one activity or another there.

It has been the venue in which I have volunteered, worked hard (!), made friends and met up with neighbours. It is a great space to participate in and feel part of the community in which I live. I am very lucky: our village hall was newly built with a grant from Sport England only a couple of years before we moved there. It has been well maintained and ‘kept up with the times’ over the years by the volunteer village hall committee, so that it is still an attractive and warm place to visit and a delight to spend time in. It is so important where possible to manage a community building in a sustainable way so that it can continue to be an attractive venue for community use. Cold, damp and musty halls are hard to visit and support!

Obviously it is much harder this year than ever before to manage energy bills for community buildings. Energy advice is available on the ACRE website. There is also information available on how to apply for the Rural Community Buildings Loan Fund which is managed by ACRE on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which helps community buildings fill temporary gaps in funding, either for specific projects or for urgent work connected with the building. Last year, government announced a new £3m Platinum Jubilee village hall improvement fund, which will provide grant funding over three years (to 2025) to support capital improvement projects for village halls, such as installing Wi-Fi, extending buildings and modernising facilities, with 125 village halls set to benefit.

At Community First Yorkshire, we provide practical guidance and rural advocacy to trustees, employees and management committees of rural community buildings. Support is available on a range of topics including: good governance; safeguarding; finance and funding; policies and procedures and operational good practice. If your hall needs some improvement, there is advice and support on funding opportunities available.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who manages and maintains rural community buildings across Yorkshire.  It is a significant responsibility but so worthwhile for the life enhancing richness they provide to those who live in your community.