INDEPENDENT charity Devon Communities Together is carrying out an audit of Devon’s village halls to understand their stories – from their achievements to their struggles – which will result in a first ever asset map of these vital community facilities.
The programme is funded by Devon Communities Together in partnership with Devon Public Health and DEFRA.
The aim of the initiative is to celebrate the value of village halls and what they mean to their communities, but also to understand what support they need and what potential they may have for providing additional services.
The information will be used to support and maintain these spaces as important assets for the future health and wellbeing of their communities.
Devon Communities Together has a rich history of working with community buildings, having supported their creation, redevelopment and operation for over 60 years, through a dedicated village halls support service.
Project Manager Charlotte Squire explains: “As the Rural Community Council for Devon we have witnessed over the past six decades how important village halls are for their communities.
“From places for people to celebrate, discover hobbies or enjoy exercise, to housing pre-schools, lunch clubs and – more recently – facilities like Post Offices and health services which are disappearing from rural communities in their traditional form.
“This winter in particular we’re seeing halls seeking to become ‘warm hubs’ - a place for people to come together in a warm, welcoming environment away from the pressures they may be facing heating their own homes.
“These buildings, often operated by volunteers, offer so much to their communities.
“Through our audit we want to give them a voice and put them on the map, quite literally, by mapping where they are and what they’re doing and hope to do, as well as what they need.
“We hope that the evidence we produce through this programme will help to shape future support services and even funding opportunities. There are over 400 halls in Devon, and we’d like to speak to as many representatives as possible!”
All village halls that take part will also be entered into a prize draw with a top prize of £500 to spend on their hall, and second and third prizes of £300 and £200 respectively.
Advisors from Devon Communities Together or a Partner organisation will make pre-arranged visits to as many halls as possible, with each visit discussed with the committee beforehand to ensure it’s tailored and convenient for them.
They will go through a standard list of questions around the facilities available, for example number of rooms, Internet connection and parking.
Participants will also have the chance to talk more broadly about their past achievements and their aspirations for the future.
“We are happy to visit at a time convenient to the participant,” added Charlotte. “We hope it will be a really positive experience and would encourage any village hall or community building committee to get in touch if they would like to take part.
“The more people we speak to, the more comprehensive and impactful the information we produce will be.”