Village Halls Week
Celebrating Village Halls Week
Northumberland’s village halls first joined together to celebrate the first national Village Halls Week in January 2018, to celebrate the vital role they play in sustaining rural communities. Subsequent years have seen further events gathering Northumberland's volunteers together.
The week-long celebration, organised by ACRE Network, England’s largest network of rural community support organisations, is to say a collective “thank you” to all volunteers who work tirelessly to keep community buildings and village halls open for the benefit of local residents.
2021 event moves online
Village Halls Week 2021 will recognise the contribution England’s 10,000+ halls have made to rural communities since the 1920s.
The national campaign week - now in its 4th 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.
In Northumberland, there will be a special online event for village hall reps to attend to find out more about the new Northumberland Village Halls Portal which is currently in the final stages of development. This aims to help promote all Northumberland’s halls and to enhance access to halls for organisations delivering services across Northumberland.
Louise Currie, Village Halls Advisor at CAN said
"Though this year we are unable to host a celebration event, we still need to acknowledge the wonderful work that trustees undertake to keep these vital resources thriving. I have been astounded at the resilience demonstrated in this year of challenge – applying for grants, making the halls COVID-19 secure, following stringent risk assessments to enable opening to make sure the people in their communities can meet safely. They have dealt with closures and re-openings, used their halls as food distribution centres, places to make scrubs and for additional storage for goods for their village shops!
"Although this year has got to have been the most difficult in our lifetime, it has truly demonstrated the tenacity of trustees who have continued to keep the halls maintained and safe so that when normal life resumes, people will be welcomed back with open arms. Anyone keen to find out more about the Village Halls Portal event, please join us.’’
Why Village Halls matter
Village Halls and other Community Buildings play a key role in reducing isolation in rural communities by providing a meeting place for local residents. However, it’s not all coffee mornings and knitting classes/proggy mat making as some might expect. Some of the more unusual activities offered include Zumba classes, Tai-Chi, stargazing nights and baby massage classes.
There are 10,000 village halls and other community buildings in England’s rural communities, of which 240 can be found right across Northumberland.
At the Northumberland Village Halls celebration event which took place at the end of January 2019, CAN took the opportunity to ask a few people why their village hall is so important to their community. A short film has been created as a result - view the film.
Diverse uses of Northumberland village halls
Village halls, church halls and other community buildings remain a vital resource at the heart of many rural communities, acting as a hub for multiple local services and hosting community enterprises.
Some of the diverse examples in Northumberland include Seahouses Hub which has a thriving community cinema, showing all the latest films in addition to free internet access and a lending library. Rothbury Jubilee Institute also has a monthly cinema – and film showings are popular in even the smallest of halls. There are halls with Post Offices - including Kirkwhelpington Village Hall and Whalton Village Hall. Capheaton Village Hall has a thriving café, popular with cyclists. Harbottle Village hall hosts an outreach GP surgery and Bellingham Town Hall has a library on the ground floor. Some host sports facilities such as Lesbury Village Hall and Longhoughton Sports & community centre.
An estimated 600 halls were built nationally to commemorate World War I, or those individuals who perished during that conflict such as those locally at Boulmer and Corsenside. Some of Northumberland’s oldest halls date back to the 19th Century, and many were originally ‘Reading Rooms’ – established to ‘educate the workers’, and some are Mechanics Institutes or Memorial halls.
2018's newest hall
2018 saw the opening of the newest, St Mary’s Village Hall in Stannington, following the refurbishment of the former St Mary’s Hospital Chapel. The new facility will act as a hub for those living in this new rural community having been gifted by Bellway Homes on an 80-year lease.
CAN provides a community buildings service offering support and advice for trustees managing community buildings, led by Louise Currie, Community Initiatives Officer.
Louise praised the initiative:
“We’re delighted to celebrate the tireless work carried out by the amazing volunteers running community buildings in our county. Without their dedication, skills and expertise, these vital facilities would be lost to the communities they serve. We are proudly supporting #VillageHallsWeek so we can celebrate the network of halls we have locally, champion the services they offer to their communities and say a big thank you to the volunteers at the heart of it all.”
A teapot as big as the moon - the Village Halls Week poem
This poem was written by renowned poet and writer Ian McMillan as part of the first Village Halls
Week in 2018. Listen here to Ian reading A teapot as big as the moon.
Previous Years Celebration Events
2020 event held at Breamish Hall, Powburn
Over 100 volunteers came together from 41 halls to the annual event held at Breamish Hall in Powburn, organised by CAN.
The presenter John Grundy was our guest speaker, helping celebrate the true value of village halls with stories of his travels visiting the various halls around our county.
A fantastic announcement was made on the day of £300,000 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund for 12 village halls which will share the money between them for vital improvement and refurbishment works. This is the second year of a three-year partnership with the Lottery, using CAN’s local expertise and support to help the halls produce their funding bids.
2019 event with Ian McMillian at Stannington
CAN held an event in January 2019 in Stannington Village Hall (next to the Ridley Arms) to acknowledge all the hardworking, dedicated trustees who manage halls and community buildings across Northumberland.
The poet and broadcaster Ian McMillian came up with a live Northumberland poem to celebrate our halls with lots of audience involvement!
As part of the event, we showcased the heritage of village halls and the huge contribution they make to rural communities.
We also announced a major funding boost to village halls as the National Lottery Community Fund, previously known as the Big Lottery Fund, awarded over £420,000 to the Northumberland Village Halls project, led by CAN. This is one of the first projects to be awarded money raised by National Lottery players, under the new name of the largest funder of community activity in the UK.
This fantastic news was announced at the CAN Village Halls event in January and means that 11 village halls will all receive the funding they need to carry out important improvement and refurbishment works.