Village Halls Week 20th - 26th January 2020

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CAN is a member of the Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) network. Eacy year, ACRE campaigns to highlight the importance of village halls and community venues across the country.  Here in Norfolk, we at CAN know how important they are, as the lifeblood of communities - we work closely with many of the governing bodies of village halls to help with refurbishment, rebuild, governance and trustee training.

Why are village halls important?

Village halls and community buildings are vital in creating vibrant communities in Norfolk.  For many villages they are the only place that people in the village can access services and events without travelling sometimes considerable distances. Halls providing spaces for these services and activities are particularly essential where there is no public transport to alternative places.  In many of our villages they also host community shops and post offices – giving people access to fresh local food and postal services that could not otherwise be accessed.  They also provide an invaluable social function – people make friends and connections in their local community.  For many isolated people, this can be the difference between just surviving and positively thriving. With health and wellbeing activities, halls can provide an affordable venue which enables self-employed instructors to support people who would not have been able to access these activities.  It improves the local economy as well as health and wellbeing.

Are there any village halls in Norfolk that are particularly important, historically or for the events that take place there?

They’re all important! Norfolk has a very diverse range of Halls, great and small, old and new, some superbly refurbished, others perhaps in need of a little improvement but no less active.

What does the future hold for village halls?

Village halls are often at the heart of the community. This will continue and, as other services potentially decline in rural areas, their role as multi-service centres will increase. They are key places of social connection, helping knit the community together and reducing loneliness and isolation.

Village halls have proved amazingly resilient.  Good halls will meet their general running costs from their bookings income.  However, halls need grant funding to support major maintenance or to update their facilities to meet the needs of their ever-changing communities.  Capital funding of this sort has been particularly difficult to access over the last few years and this trend looks set to continue.  This may mean the standard of hall facilities suffer at a time when consumers often have ever higher expectations.

Who runs village halls?

Community buildings are almost universally, entirely, managed by volunteers.  Running what is in fact a small multi-purpose public venue and needing to comply with legislation often designed with pubs, clubs and football stadia in mind puts a strain on community-minded individuals who often didn’t know what they signed up to when they agreed to be ‘on the committee’. At CAN we increasingly see people leading with busy lives, whether retiring later, working longer hours or being part of the sandwich generation caring for children and elderly relatives simultaneously. Finding the people to run a community building well will likely be an increasing challenge.

How CAN helps

We aim to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations – including village halls – and provide a range of services including:

  • Support with finding and securing funding
  • Governance advice and training, from trustee training to helping to understand their governing documents
  • Development support to help them run as sustainably as possible.
  • Converting unincorporated charities to incorporated charities.
  • Policies and procedures, including Village Hall information sheets created by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE).