This week, Monday 24 to Sunday 30th January 2022, will see many of England’s 10,000+ rural community buildings posting pledges on social media as part of a popular national campaign.
Volunteers managing these important charitable community hubs are being encouraged to think outside of the box and consider what can be done to improve their operations for the benefit of local residents.
Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) which organises Village Halls Week – a one-of-a-kind annual celebration of halls and the contribution they make to rural communities – has published information to help groups get involved, including ‘pledge cards’ that can be downloaded, filled in and shared to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Quite often village halls are the only meeting place in villages, offering a smorgasbord of social activities, events, and services – from pilates classes to mother and toddler groups, and farmers markets. At the same time, they support upwards of 50,000 people who are reliant on these spaces for business purposes.
‘Innovating for the future’ is this year’s campaign theme. As Richard Quallington, Executive Director, at ACRE explains;
“Village halls have been making a difference to rural communities for over 100 years. But change is inevitable, and the future is increasingly unpredictable. So, we want to help halls think about how they can respond to this challenge; whether that be extending their offer to residents, taking action on climate change or becoming more financially sustainable.”
There are plenty of examples of community buildings that are already innovating for the future. Like Bickerton Village Hall that offers a whole host of activities and events for different people in their community including film nights, dog training classes and occasional arts and theatre performances. Or Beechwood Hall, the first community building in the South East to use integrated renewable energy from three sources – ground source, wind and solar.
Village Halls Week will be launched today at The Victory Room in Bucklebury, Berkshire with a headline speech by The Rt Hon Lord Benyon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Rural Affairs – an event that will be livestreamed by ACRE.
The campaign is being supported by a range of different organisations, including the 38 members of the ACRE Network who provide year-round advice and information to hall committees and corporate partners Norris & Fisher (Insurance Brokers) Ltd, Ansvar Insurance and Zurich.