The national campaign week — now in its fourth year — is set to take place 25 to 29 January and will feature online events, videos, podcasts, and blogs showcasing the history of village halls and the benefits they have derived for rural communities over the years.
The initiative is being championed locally by Community First Yorkshire, a charity that provides support and advice to 971 village halls found across York, North, South, and West Yorkshire.
David Sharp, Chairman of Community First Yorkshire Board of Trustees, said: “This year has seen the marking of the Centenary of the establishment of the first rural community council (as the forerunners to the ACRE Network were originally called) in Oxfordshire, which was followed soon after by several others — with Yorkshire just a few short years behind. This was as a result of a new initiative by the Government of the day to support rural communities to get back on their feet after the devastation they suffered with the loss of so many of their young men in the First World War — and presumably also the impact of the Spanish Flu epidemic which followed in 1919/20.
”100 years on and Coronavirus has had a massive impact on our local halls and community buildings, with many having to close, or partially close, and lose vital funds. The hall committees have had to continually keep updated with the ever-changing guidance and restrictions and have put new policies and procedures in place for their halls. This has taken its toll on many of our members, so this chance to celebrate the great work that they do and to showcase the history of the halls is a very welcome opportunity to shout about their importance.”
Community First Yorkshire support community buildings and village halls across York, North, South and West Yorkshire more information can be found on their website www.communityfirstyorkshire.org.uk. We also have a peer support group on Facebook for any committee member of a community building or village hall, which offers many valuable insights, tips, and information on anything from funding to advice on insurance and hire agreements, as well as lots of coronavirus guidance at the moment.
Managed by volunteers, England’s 10,000+ village and community halls support a diverse range of community activities from exercise classes to coffee mornings and are routinely hired out for private parties and weddings. Some host community shops and post offices.
In a survey undertaken by national charity Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) last year, it was found that 60% of village halls provide the only meeting space in the local community. An estimated 50,000 individuals are also reliant on the use of village halls to make a living.
Phillip Vincent, Public Affairs and Communications Manager for ACRE, said: “The current national lockdown means we are having to do things differently for Village Halls Week 2021. This will be an online affair but there’s still a good opportunity for village halls to get involved and join us in celebrating all the work they do. We’ve published a programme that invites people to join online events, share stories on social media, and sign a ‘doomsday book’ which will be a record of village halls in their centenary year.”