VILLAGE Halls Week 2023 (January 23 to 29) will celebrate the many ways these volunteer-run rural community buildings support local residents, groups and businesses, particularly during difficult times.
Halls will also have the opportunity to be part of the first ever audit of these celebrated spaces across Devon.
As the country endures a cost-of-living crisis, many village halls are providing their communities with a place to keep warm, access services and socialise, without the expense of travelling elsewhere.
Halls across Devon will be taking part in the national campaign week, showcasing what they are doing for their community, and the opportunities they provide to people locally that may not otherwise exist.
DEVON VILLAGE HALLS AUDIT
Independent charity Devon Communities Together is also carrying out the first ever audit of Devon’s village halls to understand their stories – from their achievements to their struggles – which will result in a first ever asset map of these vital community facilities.
The aim of the initiative is to celebrate the value of village halls and what they mean to their communities, but also to understand what support they need and what potential they may have for providing additional services in the future.
The audit is funded by Devon Communities Together in partnership with Devon Public Health and DEFRA.
Devon Communities Together has a rich history of working with community buildings, having supported their creation, redevelopment and operation for more than 60 years, through a dedicated village halls support service.
Devon Communities Together’s Project Manager Charlotte Squire explains: “As the Rural Community Council for Devon we have witnessed over the past six decades how important village halls are for their communities.
“These buildings, often operated by volunteers, offer so much to their communities. Through our audit it’s amazing to celebrate these successes as well as look to the future and imagine what else they could be, for example could they be health hubs, hosting visiting NHS services and supporting access to digital healthcare?
“Could they have electric car charging points? How can they become more energy efficient? What support do they need?
“We hope that the evidence we produce through this programme will help to shape future support services and even funding opportunities.
“There are over 400 halls in Devon, and we’d like to speak to as many as possible – there’s even a chance of winning money for your Village Hall just by taking part! What better time to get involved than Village Halls Week?”
CELEBRATING VILLAGE HALLS WEEK
Activities for Village Halls Week, beginning on Monday, January 23, will include open days at local halls and Devon Communities Together will be supporting two halls in particular with their open events:
Longdown Village Hall, Chapel Hill, Longdown, EX6 7SN - Monday, January 23, from 10am – 3pm.
South Pool Village Hall, South Pool, Kingsbridge, TQ7 2RP - Thursday, January 26, from 10am – 3pm.
Other halls across the county that will also be opening up their doors next week include Cheriton Fitzpaine, Winkleigh, Tavistock, Chudleigh Knighton, Dunsford, Bradworthy, East Portlemouth, Exminster, Marldon, Merton, Okehampton, Holsworthy, South Molton, West Anstey and Whimple.
Whether you are a member of the public, or from another local village hall, a welcoming group of experts will be ready to talk to you about a range of community support available from Devon Communities Together, including:
• Energy saving and emergency planning advice and support
• Green Energy advice
• Wellbeing information and support – try the traditional Swedish custom of FIKA, taking time out of your schedule with colleagues and friends to pause and reflect.
• Details about how you can get support starting or developing your business idea, or income for your village hall
• Details about the Village Halls Audit and how to be part of this
• And of course, refreshments will be available!
Research conducted by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), which organises the annual campaign, found that in 60 per cent of countryside areas, community buildings are the only place for local people to socialise.
Aside from hosting a wide range of social and recreational activities for residents, they also host vital services such as Post Pffices, doctors’ surgeries and convenience shops, whilst supporting an estimated 50,000 people whose livelihoods depend on use of these buildings.
“From places for people to celebrate, discover hobbies or enjoy exercise, to housing pre-schools, lunch clubs and – more recently – facilities like Post Offices and health services which are disappearing from rural communities in their traditional form, Village Halls are vital spaces for their communities,” added Charlotte.
“This winter in particular, we’re seeing halls seeking to become ‘warm hubs’ - a place for people to come together in a warm, welcoming environment away from the pressures they may be facing when heating their own homes. We’d love to see lots of people drop into these events to explore what their local hall has to offer.”
To find out more about the Village Halls Audit please contact: [email protected] or call 01392 248919.