Weston Lullingfields Village Hall

Weston Lullingfields Village Hall


AGM - 16th May 2024 - Chair’s Report

                                               Chair’s Report 2024.

Yet another year has passed so quickly and it is already time to reflect upon the last twelve months and deliver the 2024 chair’s report for the AGM of Weston Lullingfields Village Hall.

Our hall was built back in the 1960’s due to the vision and effort of the people of the village for the benefit of themselves and the generations to come. It is unlikely that anyone in 1968 would have foreseen the social and economic changes to their village that would take place over the next fifty six years, but I am sure that they would be/are delighted to find that the hall is still here and doing what they set it up to do.

There is no doubt that the experiences, tastes, expectations and way of life of many residents now differ widely from those of those residents of 1968. It would be easy to argue that the community cohesion, or community spirit, many consider to be the most attractive characteristic (beyond the scenic) of a typical English village is, in fact, wearing very thin in the face of modern life and the changes to the work and leisure activities people enjoy. I suspect that back then far more residents had been born locally and almost everyone knew the names of everyone else in the village, with more of them sharing experiences e.g. farming, attending the same schools, going to church etc. as well as going to events in their new village hall. All of this would bring them closer together and so familiarity and a sense of community would be more natural. Much of this is no longer the experience of most people as changes in the way we live our lives have brought material benefits but made isolation far more common.

In terms of efforts made to try and maintain the best aspects of community life I, along with many others, have always viewed a significant factor in the promotion of the social cohesion of Weston as the continued active existence of the church, school and hall, with each one supporting the other two through formal and informal means. Each benefits from the existence of the other two and the village benefits from the existence of all three. 

Any relationship requires effort on the part of all involved and I would like to thank the church and school for their ongoing support. I also hope that we can build upon the existing relationships and ensure that each of the three organisations can further support each other going forward. With increasing costs and ageing buildings, it is more important than ever that we work together to ensure we go into the future with determination, realism, energy and optimism. 

Much that  happens in many places throughout our land is wholly dependent upon the hard work and dedication of a relatively small group of community minded volunteers. Whether joining an official organisation or doing something as an individual or local group, these volunteers are working hard to maintain and/or improve that which they value through giving their time, skills and energy. People do not volunteer for financial gain or public adoration, but because they feel that they have enough time and energy to spare to be able to help out their neighbours in some way, just as they are aware that others have done so in the past and will, hopefully, do so in the future.

I would like to thank all the volunteers who make up the committee, past and present, who have given of their time and energy to manage, maintain and improve the hall, all for no reward beyond knowing that the hall continues to serve its original purpose. I would also like to thank all those who, although not formal members of the committee, help out so much at events by planning, cooking, setting up, running, clearing up, putting away etc. and help make possible so much of what we do. I would also like to thank all of you who support us by coming to events and, hopefully, enjoying yourselves.

A study of our financial report, so clearly provided yet again by our treasurer, will show a relatively healthy financial situation, with the hall able to cover its running costs and also pay for expensive repairs and improvements including new curtains, uPVC fascias and soffits.  We are also almost at the point of providing wifi for hall users following a very generous grant from Baschurch Parish Council which has allowed us to pay for the telegraph pole and cabling required. The delay to this service is caused by Openreach not yet completing the work. As well as the day to day costs of maintenance, repairs and replacements, we have plans to develop the space outside the kitchen door to provide an outdoor seating area to broaden the range of facilities we offer to hall users. There is also likely to be work needed to the floor of the hall which, especially during the particularly wet winter, has buckled upwards in places and is only now settling back into place. An initial quote of £20000 to replace the floor gives some idea of the scale of such work and so we will endeavour to try and continue with localised repairs while we consider grants and fundraising. 

You will know that costs, particularly energy costs, have increased considerably. Just like at home, the price of our electricity has risen a great deal and so heating the hall and water has become much more expensive. We are fortunate for the vision of the committee a decade ago in fitting solar panels which have continued to provide a good income, as well as reducing our carbon footprint. 

 While the number of individuals and groups hiring the hall has declined over the years, there remains a demand and need for community based activities for people to attend. The committee and friends have tried to deliver a range of events which complement those already offered by Holy Trinity and the school, while also trying to bring people together and raise money for the hall. We have been fortunate that committee members and their friends have been willing and able to organise and run these, and they have been, for the most part, well attended. There are usually many positive comments about the events we run, which are always nice to receive, but it can be a challenge to come up with and organise events that will be popular and cost effective. It is also something of a balancing act to offer enough events to keep people engaged and which raise money for the hall but not too may that people become bored as we are, after all, a rather small community, even smaller when we consider those who do not attend any events. We also need to be careful that we do not end up competing against Holy Trinity and other local halls for the same audience. 

The Pop Up Pubs with the ever popular pizza van in attendance are held approximately every two months and have proved popular. We are also looking to hold a pub on its own in the months in between. These ‘pop in’ events offer a chance for people just to get together with friends and neighbours, introduce themselves to the community, get out of the house, have a chat, a drink and play a few games. There is no entrance fee for the pub events and no need to pre book. Other events which have proved very popular are quizzes, band events and the reintroduction of bingo. Our ticket events are those where we need to know numbers beforehand, usually for catering reasons, and we try to ensure that we balance out events where we ask for pre booking with those where we don’t.

Another way many continue to support the hall is through the purchase of tickets for our Hundred Club, which allows entry to a monthly draw with real cash prizes. Each ticket costs £12 and this, if bought at the start of the year, is then entered into twelve draws over the next twelve months. Half the money raised goes to the hall and the rest goes into the prize pot to be distributed to the lucky monthly winners. The purchase of multiple tickets is allowed.

We have increasingly publicised our activities to the whole world via the website and facebook. However, we have also used our noticeboards, and it is also clear that ‘word of mouth’ plays a part in encouraging people to attend events, confirming that the community aspect of what we do remains very important. 

However, and no matter how hard a committee and its friends might work, to put it bluntly, without the continued support of the community, a village hall finds it impossible to prosper, and ours is no exception. We have been fortunate in that we have been able to cover our basic costs while still improving what we offer, but the increasing cost of repairs to an ageing building will require imagination, hard work and cash. It is our intention to provide these going forward.

The committee has had hundreds of members since it began and can trace its history back to before the land was secured and the hall built, but this will be a significant year in its history as it is the year that Pam and Alan Cole have decided to leave it. Pam did depart for a few months a while ago but was soon asked back but Alan has been a constant for over sixty years. Words cannot really express the gratitude our community owes to them both, from their efforts to secure the hall for the village and then their many thousands of hours of help, support and their knowledge in supporting each new committee since. Their dedication is an example to us all and has been instrumental and keeping the hall going. I would also like to offer my personal thanks to them both for the support they have given me since my relatively recent joining of the committee and I will certainly miss them both.I have asked that they continue to provide a bingo session now and again so I will keep a Guinness or two in the fridge alongside a sweet white wine, but they will need to turn up to get them.

Finally, our work over the last year has seen the hall, despite the challenges, continuing to serve the purpose it was built for, adapting to a changing world and providing a space for entertainment, reflection, commemoration and education. Long may it continue!