A NEW national survey of England’s 10,000 village halls has found they rely on 12 million hours of volunteering.
Village hall users munched their way through 2.5 million packets of biscuits and washed them down with 38.6 million cups of tea
The survey, by ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), showed volunteers who run activities and fundraising events put in 2.5 million hours annually on top of the estimated 9.6 million hours clocked up by management committees.
Lurgashall village hall has been held up as a shining example.
Twelve years ago it nearly closed, but with advice from AirS (Action in rural Sussex) it was renovated by local volunteers and took on a new lease of life.
Louise Beaton from AirS, a member of the ACRE network, said: “The hall has proved very important to the health and wellbeing of isolated, older members of this small, very rural community. The committee are an exemplar of good management, having just been awarded a Quality Assurance award and are kindly sharing their good practice with other halls.”
But more than half of the halls said they were struggling to find new recruits.
ACRE carried out the survey to identify what support halls needed and to illustrate the social value they add to rural life.
Mrs Beaton, who works with 120 village halls in Sussex, said: “They provide social activities, clubs, classes and essential services for every age group – helping to combat loneliness and build a sense of community spirit. It’s vital new people step up and volunteer to help halls move with the times.
“We have many requests for capital funding for modernisation to make them fit for purpose and most local authority budgets are under intense pressure. However, continued public investment is essential. We can support committees through the complexities of legislation and funding.”