Friday, 03 October 2014 12:18

Village halls struggle to find volunteers

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Village halls struggle to find volunteers

VILLAGE halls are struggling to find new recruits to manage the buildings, reveals a study.

England’s 10,000 village halls rely on more than 12m hours of volunteering each year to deliver their vital role at the heart of rural communities, says the survey.

The report, by rural charity Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), found that volunteers who run classes and events put in 2.5m hours annually.

That’s on top of an estimated 9.6m hours clocked up by management committees.

But more than half of the halls who responded said they were struggling to find new recruits to help manage the buildings.

Many people protested that they were too busy, too old or simply not interested.

ACRE village halls manager Deborah Clarke said: “People want to use village halls – but they don’t want to commit to running them.

“It’s understandable as there is a raft of duties to deal with, from licensing legislation to health and safety – but communities are in danger of taking their volunteers for granted.

“Younger people are especially hard to attract as they often work long hours away from villages in order to afford to live in them – while the newly retired often don’t want to commit."

Ms Clarke said village halls provided social activities, clubs, classes and essential services for every age group – helping to combat loneliness and build a sense of community spirit.

She added: “It’s vital that people step up and volunteer to help halls move with the times – just an hour a week can make a difference.”

ACRE, which runs an information and advice service for village halls, carried out the survey to identify what support halls need and to illustrate the social value they add to rural life.

Popular uses for village halls include preschool and nursery groups; fitness classes; dance classes; clubs and groups for older people including luncheon and retirement clubs.

The survey also showed the growth in popularity of fitness classes, particularly Pilates and Zumba, and dance activities from ballet to salsa.

Some one in ten village halls host a community enterprise such as post office, community shop, coffee shop, library, cinema or farmers’ market.

But almost a quarter of all halls don’t derive any financial benefit from this activity.

More than 90,000 individuals, small businesses and professionals use England’s village halls to earn their living, or part of it, during the year.

Nearly a quarter of halls were built before World War I, while an estimated 600 were built to commemorate World War I or individuals who perished during that conflict.

ACRE undertook a survey of village halls across England. The survey returned 1,300 responses that were used to derive the statistics for the report.

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