Success of village hall project can be inspiration to others

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AS VOLUNTEERS are increasingly relied on to provide lifeline services for their community, villagers in North Yorkshire are pulling together in an effort to raise vital funds to keep some of those services alive.

It is no easy feat being a regular volunteer or part of a management committee on a group project; something that is recognised by Rural Action Yorkshire’s (RAY) new campaign called ‘52 (Almost) Painless Things Your Community Can Do’. The charity hopes to draw attention to the pressures facing volunteers in times of severe cuts to public funding, while also providing inspiration and motivation for communities to try new ideas.

The campaign takes its name from the concept that no new project is without a lot of hard work and enthusiasm, new ideas can undergo a painful process as they come to fruition, and ask a lot of the volunteers involved. But RAY has found that this work almost always pays off, and communities are made brighter, more vibrant and resilient places to live - often due to the humbling efforts of their volunteers.

Among the list of 52 ideas for rural communities as part of RAY’s campaign, is a description of how to run an ‘Open Gardens’ event.

It was added to the list after the success of one of these events run by residents of Kirkby Fleetham, North Yorkshire. Volunteers here, having recently taken over the running of their village hall, discovered that this was a relatively straightforward way of raising funds and bringing different groups of people together.

It is based around members of the village making their gardens open to the public for a day, providing them with maps, selling refreshments, and allowing people to make their way around on a garden tour - hopefully during a hot summer’s day.

The purpose of the event in Kirkby Fleetham was to raise money to extend the village hall and to encourage cross-participation between the three villages that make up the parish.

The village hall committee worked with members of the local church to pull off the event, sharing responsibilities such as planning and catering.

Jean Morley, a volunteer who worked on the project, said: “We hoped for at least six gardens to sign up for the day, but we were delighted to have nine. This was more than enough for our visitors to walk around on a warm July weekend. It worked really well when we worked together with the church and we have subsequently done more events with them. We share the profits!”

Kirkby Fleetham’s Open Gardens is now an annual event which raises funds for the running of the village hall. It means that in turn services for the community run from the hall can continue.

The village hall committee has been particularly successful in recent years at reinvigorating their community with fresh ideas. Over 18 months they have raised £30,000 from different fundraising activities and another £50,000 from grants and other funding sources to go towards their new extension which is finally set to open this spring.

Leah Swain, RAY’s chief officer, hailed the success, saying: “Without volunteers it is difficult to imagine what would happen to our vibrant communities, but it is likely that services and activities, and that sense of community spirit, would fall by the wayside.

“People like Jean and all of the other fantastic volunteers we have spoken to as part of the campaign demonstrate why it is important to continue to support our rural communities and empower them to take their dreams forward.

“RAY is here to help with that, and we hope the campaign and its stories will inspire others to try new things and implement new ideas to benefit their whole village.”

For more information about Rural Action Yorkshire’s ‘52 Things’ campaign, visit