Journey onto hidden tracks, look behind unfurled gardens, walk to the end of worn-down paths and you will find an unsuspecting centre for joy and fulfilment: The Village Hall.
These quaint spaces celebrate and champion rural communities. From having your birthday here as a child, to hosting your own child’s first birthday. These institutions enrich, support and enable meaningful interactions between people; empower individuals, across generations, to flourish. Village halls are a haven for friendships, for development, for growth and opportunity. Ask any friend, person even, on the connotations of these spaces and they will reply with nostalgia: watching their friend’s band play, dance lessons, weddings, pilatesclasses, toddler groups, Spanish lessons, wooden floors and splinters in ballets shoes, dusty pianos, hand-written signs instructing correct chair stacking etiquette.
Spaces like village halls, are not only memory makers but activity hubs, paramount fixtures in Rural Communities whose inhabitants are at a greater risk of loneliness and isolation. They are at the heart of rural community life, providing other vital services: post-offices, doctor’s surgeries and shops. In some cases, the absence of Village Hall run services, would leave members of the communities stranded; a situation which disproportionately affects the elderly. The maintenance of these crucial rural spaces would not be possible without the kindness, generosity and good will of volunteers who run the community buildings.
Volunteers time and dedication keeps them going and to say thank you ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) have organised ‘Village Halls Week’, a week long campaign and national celebration of all things Village Halls from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th January. This began in 2018 and has grown from strength to strength, last year the event was featured across 16 BBC stations, showcasing the nation’s love for these treasured buildings. This year will be events up and down the country: open days, ‘halls history’, performances and events.
ACRE are custodians of rural communities, championing their needs and using a strong evidence pool to speak up for the communities they serve. ACRE’s vision, ‘to be the voice of rural communities’ and drive to have an impact has influenced national policy on rural issues, from housing, health and transport to broadband, services and fuel poverty.
Their Village and Community Halls Network provides an opportunity for members to air their views and consolidate them in the development of policies in support of village halls and similar rural community buildings.
Part of the network’s role is to support members in managing all aspects of their building, including their gas and electricity expenditure.
Utility Aid supporting village halls
Since 2014 Utility aid has supported ACRE’s network members on energy saving projects. From offering training and guidance, sharing best practice and helping members access the best value energy packages. The Utility Aid team are passionate about supporting local communities and helping them to thrive. Utility Aid understand that funding and volunteers’ time is precious better invested into community projects and not utility bills.
Utility Aid are determined to enrich as many communities as possible, which is why this year they will be the Lead Sponsor for Village Halls week.
Giles Hankinson (Utility Aid’s CEO) commented: “It’s the perfect fit, we have the same dream, same ambition. We want to empower the communities we serve, it’s an absolute honour to support in any way we can.”
On Monday 20th January, Hankinson attended the Village Halls opening reception at The House of Commons with the ambition to raise the profile and impact of rising energy costs on these rural communities.