volunteersEngland’s 10,000 village halls rely on more than 12 million hours of volunteering each year to deliver their vital role at the heart of rural communities, a new survey has revealed.

The survey, by leading rural network ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), showed volunteers who run classes and events put in 2.5 million hours annually. That’s on top of the estimated 9.6 million hours clocked up by management committees.

But more than half of the halls who responded said they were struggling to find new recruits to help manage the buildings – with people protesting that they were too busy, too old or simply not interested.

At Cornwall Rural Community Charity (CRCC), a member of the ACRE Network, a Vital Venues Service is provided by Jon Teague, for village halls and rural community buildings across the county, Jon said:

“Village halls 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 that people step up and volunteer to help halls move with the times – just an hour a week can make a difference. Anyone who wants to help run their village hall will no doubt be welcomed with open arms.”

Sara Marsh, volunteer at Treverbyn Community Hall, added:

“In short, volunteers really are the life blood of Treverbyn Community Hall. Without their commitment, passion, enthusiasm, hard work, skills and contacts we simply would not be in the position we are now. Over the past 12 months we have witnessed how a small group of people can turn an underused, underfunded, cold and damp building into a modern, thriving centre that will be a vital venue for our community for decades to come. With their vision and ambition we have secured grants approaching £300,000 to improve the hall. Our volunteer base has grown from 15 to over 50, testament to the enthusiasm of all involved and the success of activities so far. People help out where and when they can.

We know from anecdotal feedback that our volunteers do get a lot back from being involved. Not only a sense of satisfaction and well-being that comes from doing something positive and being part of a team, but also a genuine sense of community, better social networks (the real ones) and more diverse life chances.”

Key findings of the ACRE 2014 village halls survey include:

  • Hall volunteers make a total commitment worth almost £85m annually, at a notional rate of £7 an hour.
  • The average age of a village hall committee member is 58 – the age range stretches from 18 to 98.
  • Village hall users and volunteers munch their way through a total of 47,500 packets of biscuits each week – washed down by 743,000 cups of tea. That’s nearly 2.5 million packets of biscuits and 38.6 million cups of tea each year.
  • An estimated £11m has been invested in work on village hall buildings in the past four years.
  • Around 1,000 village halls, host a community enterprise such as post office, community shop, coffee shop, library, cinema or farmers’ market. However, almost a quarter of all halls don’t derive any financial benefit from this activity.

Nearly a quarter of halls were built before World War I, while an estimated 600 were built to commemorate World War I or individuals who perished during that conflict.

ACRE undertook the survey of village halls across England. The survey returned 1,300 responses, (13%) that were used to derive the statistics for this report. For more information about the village halls service, visit www.arce.org.uk

Thank you to the volunteers in Cornwall who completed the survey.

Leave a Reply