TVRA wraps a supportive arm around our village hall communities, with support and expert advice. What a sad and surreal day it was in spring 2020, when hundreds of village halls across the country had to close their doors, literally turning off a life-line for many who relied on the facilities as their safe haven and for social interaction. Buildings that were a hive of activity providing coffee mornings, library and health and wellbeing activities etc - suddenly became silent. Volunteer management committees now had to consider their new role, that of managing an empty building, they could not just lock the door, walk away, and wait for the government to tell them what to do.
At the start of lockdown, Tees Valley Rural Action's (TVRA) staff and Village Hall Advisor were inundated with enquiries as to what was happening and what they should do. Tees Valley has over 70 village halls who grabbed opportunities to come together virtually with expert partners/agencies such as Martyn Ingram from Norris and Fisher Insurance Brokers Ltd who was able to give guidance on behalf of insurers for village halls.
Throughout the pandemic, TVRA has provided advice, guidance and support to village halls and community buildings across the Tees Valley. This has included funding advice and encouraging the management committees to apply for the government business support grant, regular interpretation of the guidelines coming out of central government and helping them to understand what they could and couldn't do.
Fast forward some 15 months and there is an excited buzz in the air! Why? Because village halls are planning their re-opening and diligently working to ensure their users and visitors feel confident that they are entering a safe environment. Returning once again to providing a facility for communities to meet and services that are paramount in small villages and go a long way to reduce loneliness and social isolation.
Rita Lawson CEO, “Throughout the pandemic, TVRA has never been so busy. The team has been at the end of a phone providing advice and guidance on following the government guidelines. Also, as TVRA is your regional network member of Action with Communities in Rural England, (ACRE) we have had access to simplified updates which again we have been able to share with our village hall and community building management committees. One of our village hall members did say that without TVRA’s help and support they were fearful of doing things wrong and putting people and themselves at risk. We’re coming to, what will hopefully be the end of this current lockdown and applaud everyone involved in our communities for diligently following the 4 step road map. We do need to be continually mindful not to become complacent and undo all the good that has been done in keeping our communities and each other safe. As we emerge back into the new normal of life, TVRA will be there every step of the way as ‘together we are stronger’.”
Village halls in England are being encouraged to sign the online record to mark 100 years of rural community action. Has your hall signed the national record yet? There is still time to get involved.
Many of England’s Village Halls date back to the 1920s. There are over 10,000 village and community halls to be found across England. Many were established in the 1920s when there was a national drive to improve social and educational provision in rural areas. In a survey undertaken by ACRE last year, it was found that 60% of village halls provide the only meeting space in the local community. An estimated 50,000 individuals too are reliant on the use of village halls to make a living.
The online record has been set up by national charity, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE). The Domesday Book is a colourful, and arguably historical record, so far featuring 700+ village halls whose volunteer custodians have taken time to explain their charity’s history, their response to the pandemic, and hopes for reopening and supporting their community in the future.
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