Village Halls Week 2021 celebrates 100 years of community buildings providing essential services
The role of Buckinghamshire’s community buildings in providing essential services to rural communities is being recognised during Village Halls Week 2021 (25-29 January 2021).
Village Halls Week 2021 is an annual celebration of village halls, their volunteers, and the services they offer their communities. This year the national awareness week focuses on how village halls have contributed to local communities since the 1920s, supporting rural areas during the Covid-19 pandemic but also in previous times of struggle.
Buckinghamshire has over 300 village halls and community buildings. Managed by volunteers, these halls and buildings support a diverse range of community activities from exercise classes to coffee mornings, with some hosting community shops and post offices: in a survey undertaken by national charity Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) last year, it was found that 60% of village halls provide the only meeting space in the local community.
“A community building is so important in bringing communities together, providing facilities for social, educational and recreational activities for people of all ages,” said Katie Higginson, Chief Executive of Community Impact Bucks. “The past year has been one of the most challenging in a century of these wonderful buildings. The volunteers who run them have devoted an enormous amount of time and energy putting in place COVID-secure measures and raising emergency funding, so that wherever possible they can continue offering a safe space for community activities when they are needed most. Village Halls Week 2021 is a celebration of these vital community spaces and the volunteers who run them.”
Chalfont St Peter’s Community Centre is an example of one of the many community buildings in Buckinghamshire which has overcome challenges to ensure it is Covid-19 safe and complies with changing government guidance. During the lockdown in March 2020, its staff and trustees made considerable changes in order to re-open when legally allowed including carrying out an extensive risk assessment, installing a new heating control which could be managed remotely, and adding security fencing to protect the Covid-compliant cleaned nursery space.
“Prior to Covid-19, our community centre each year hosted around 100,000 people of all ages who took part in activities ranging from arts and crafts, drama and singing, to sport and education,” commented Carol Birkenshaw, representative of Chalfont St Peter’s Community Centre. “As we entered the pandemic, we felt it was crucial that the centre was available to the local community – to support the mental and physical wellbeing of our hirers, keep alive a feeling of community spirit and boost local morale.”
Chalfont St Peter’s Community Centre also undertook a complete overview of its finances to remain solvent as income was hit due to closure. This included applying for government grants and requesting financial support from its local Buckinghamshire Council Community Board.
Community Impact Bucks has provided vital support to the county’s village halls during the pandemic. Through its Community Buildings Service the charity responded to over 400 enquiries in the first 6 months of the crisis, hosted a series of virtual peer networking events, and is continuing to help village hall committees to adapt by advising on issues such as grant funding and managing COVID restrictions.
To find out more about the Village Halls Week 2021 and Buckinghamshire’s Community Buildings Service, click here.
For any media enquiries, please contact Rachel Fisher at Community Impact Bucks: email@example.com/ 01844 617216
- Community Impact Bucks is an independent charity that supports people and groups to get involved and make a difference in Buckinghamshire communities. We offer expert advice and training, help people to find volunteering opportunities, and help charities and not for profit groups to get started, be effective and grow.
- Part of the ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) network, Community Impact Bucks is the Rural Community Council for Buckinghamshire and runs the Buckinghamshire Community Buildings Service. For more information, visit Buckinghamshire’s Community Buildings.