England’s 10,000+ village halls to be recognised for providing warm, welcoming, and inclusive spaces
Author: Phillip Vincent, Public Affairs and Communications Manager, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE)
Village Halls Week 2023 will celebrate how these volunteer-run rural community buildings support local residents, groups, and businesses, particularly during difficult times.
As the country endures a cost-of-living crisis, rural communities have come to rely on the humble village hall as a place to keep warm, access basic services and socialise without the expense of travelling elsewhere.
The national campaign week will be an opportunity for halls to showcase what they are doing for their community and the opportunities they provide to people locally that would not otherwise exist.
Activities beginning Monday 23 January, will include open days at local halls and an engaging social media campaign that will include touching stories from users of community buildings.
Research conducted by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), which organise the annual campaign, found that in 60% 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 offices, doctors’ surgeries, and convenience shops whilst supporting an estimated 50,000 people whose livelihoods depend on the use of these buildings.
Deborah Clarke, ACRE’s Village Halls Manager, said: “If it wasn’t for village halls, many people in rural communities would be isolated and cut off from basic amenities. The past three years have been difficult for everyone. But during this time, village halls have adapted and developed new ways to help residents, from sewing face masks during the first Covid lockdown to Warm Hubs providing a haven for people struggling to pay their energy bills and community fundraisers for Ukrainian refugees. That’s why members of the ACRE Network will be joined by many other organisations next week in celebrating how these volunteer-run buildings are the glue that binds rural communities together by offering warm, welcoming, and inclusive spaces.”
The charity recently began administering a £3 million grant fund on behalf of Defra, available to village halls that want to improve their buildings.
Lord Benyon, Minister of State for Rural Affairs, welcomed the campaign and said: “Village Halls are an important part of rural communities and deserve recognition of the many good things they do to support local residents and businesses. The government is committed to supporting these valuable rural assets, which is why we recently made funding available to help restore and modernise the buildings in which they are based.”
Village Halls Week takes place from Monday 23 to Sunday 29 January 2023.