Village halls have seen a resurgence in recent years and are now more vital than ever at helping to tackle loneliness and isolation in remote communities, according to a leading rural campaigner.
While the buildings may always remain under threat in rural areas due to ageing and declining populations, they are now being handed new lifelines thanks to new funding sources and a new army of younger volunteers, said Rob Thomson, a member of the East Riding Association of Rural Community Buildings (ERAofRCB).
Mr Thomson’s comments come ahead of ‘‘Hall Together’’, Yorkshire’s first conference for village halls, which is being held at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor on Thursday.
He said: “I think that village halls are always going to be under threat, but now there is a lot of funding available and they are also perceived as being at the heart of the community. It is very heartening to see. We do have a number of volunteers at our own village hall who are of retirement age, but we also have younger people, and they are very important to us.
“Village halls do cost money to run and time, but I think people recognise their importance.
“I think there has been a resurgence. The fact that we have had such a positive response to our conference suggests that people are interested.”
A total of 28 representatives from village halls will attend Thursday’s event, which has been organised by ERAofRCB, a registered charity run by volunteers.
Mr Thomson, who is also the treasurer and trustee of Sancton Village Hall, said to ensure the survival of the rural amenities, village halls would benefit from working together in line with the East Riding model.
He said: “Villages do tend to be somewhat isolated and village halls may feel alone. If they join up with others and share experiences they will have access to a valuable pool of information.”
The conference is funded by Tesco through its Bags of Help scheme and offers a day’s activities to support the work of village halls. The keynote speech, ‘‘Village Survival Guide’’, will be delivered by Helen Fagan from the Prince’s Countryside Fund. Further presentations include ‘‘Village Halls and the Rural Strategy of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’’, and talks on fireproofing and security. Stalls will have experts on hand to cover issues from insurance to community transport and running a cinema.
It has been estimated that there are 10,000 village halls in England and Wales with a value of more than £3bn, making it the largest network of community-owned facilities in rural Britain.
Mr Thomson said: “You hear about the problems of rural isolation and the village hall is the answer.”