What’s in a name? Village Hall versus Community Hub

Anyone still thinking about a few New Year’s resolutions?  How about getting a bit more involved in your local community, meeting people and making new friends? Or perhaps breaking down a few old preconceptions?

If you live in a village you will almost certainly find it has a Village Hall somewhere at its heart.  You probably hardly notice it any more. It’s just a building where the Parish Council meets, where non-controversial things like referendums and general elections take place, or maybe where local friends occasionally play badminton.

But look again and your village hall is actually a rather remarkable place.  It is genuinely owned by the whole community and gets used for a vast array of different activities. It is run by people who give up their time to do so, not by a profit-making company or the local authority.

If you were to live in a large town there would be separate buildings for everything but in a village there are not enough of us to justify this. Instead the Village Hall can cover a remarkable range of uses: Mother and Toddler groups, the Pre-School Playgroup, a Cinema once a month, a lunch club twice a week for older people living on their own, a doctor’s branch surgery, the youth club and, of course, any amount of amateur dramatics.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Village Halls are struggling to find new, younger people to become Trustees. With so many uses, all efficiently sharing one building and one set of fixed overheads, why do we persist with a negative stereotype of these wonderful places?  ‘Drafty’ is a word that is often used by officials from various bits of government who would rather not venture out to meet the local community on a winter’s evening.  Few are actually drafty.  Or ‘old’ is the other term often used.  Some are, but only because updating them is a massive job requiring huge perseverance and fundraising by local volunteers.

With tongue only slightly in cheek, perhaps it is worth reflecting that the problem may be with some of the other words we use.  Perhaps people would be queuing up to become Trustees of Village Halls if only we used trendier jargon to describe them. It would be so much more appealing to become a ‘volunteer for civil society’ in a ‘community hub’ that serves the needs of its village as a ‘community owned asset’.

What is more, if Village Hall Trustees could just learn to describe themselves in this way they might also have less trouble raising the money that is needed to prevent their buildings from becoming ‘old’ and ‘drafty’.  Achieve this and perhaps a whole host of politicians and government officials will finally realise how important Village Halls are when it comes to breaking the cycle of loneliness and isolation that affects so many people of all ages in rural areas.

Jeremy Leggett – CEO.

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