Deborah Clarke, ACRE’s Village Halls Manager, reflects on this year’s network event for specialist advisers who support England’s 10,000+ rural community buildings
Village Hall Advisers representing 30 ACRE members gathered in Leicestershire this week for an in-person networking event. The buzz and camaraderie was amazing to see, especially as this was the first time advisers new to the ACRE Network had had a chance to meet colleagues also supporting rural community buildings in other parts of the country.
The event was an opportunity for delegates to brush up their technical knowledge of things like constitutional structures and business plans. But the focus, as always, was very much on sharing good practice, learning about each other’s organisations, and identifying successful projects that can be replicated locally for the benefit of halls.
Of course, we provide online training and networking opportunities throughout the year, but nothing beats face-to-face interactions which helps colleagues to bond, understand what they have in common and who they can go to if they need some friendly advice in the future. This was especially the case for six delegates representing ACRE members in the South West who were new to our network and had never had the opportunity to meet colleagues from other parts of the country in person. They all left with a firm commitment to support each other and keep in touch online during the rest of the year.
One of the reasons this year’s event was a success was because of the contributions made by village hall advisers themselves, and also our corporate partners who attended. This set us up for an action packed-two days.
During the afternoon of the first day, we considered how village halls can address climate change sharing information on how best to carry out audits of buildings and make adaptations. A highlight was the first showing of a video created by ACRE and sponsored by Norris & Fisher which was shot in Kirtlington, Oxfordshire. This showcased the installation of a car charging point at the village hall, along with solar panels, and improved insulation; an initiative led by the hall management committee in partnership with local activists with the aim of making the building a leading example of what can be done to stimulate greener behaviours and contribute to Net Zero. The video features Tessa Hall of Community First Oxfordshire, discussing how ACRE member organisations can support village halls in their ambitions for sustainable buildings and future proofed buildings and Tom Ingram from Norris & Fisher providing a view on the insurance implications of installing new technology such as EV charging points.
We are, as always, extremely to grateful to our corporate partners, without whom the event wouldn’t take place. This year Norris & Fisher (Insurance Brokers) Ltd and Utility Aid were the main sponsors but our marketplace consisted of six other companies that provide goods and services for village halls from booking systems to interiors and architectural advice. ACRE members are looking forward to working with those suppliers over the next year – yet another valuable form of networking!
Clearly, these are exciting times for village halls as there’s many ways they can continue to grow and increase the contribution they make to the rural communities they serve. And so, having left this year’s event with renewed enthusiasm, I look forward to working with my colleagues and friends across the ACRE Network to turn these ideas into action.
Notes to editors
ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is a charity speaking up for and supporting rural communities. It is the national body of the ACRE Network, England’s largest rural grouping of community support charities which together reach over 35,000 community groups annually, and lever in over £34 million each year in support of initiatives that equip people with the knowledge, skills, and connections needed to improve their local community. Through a network of skilled advisers, ACRE coordinates a nationwide information and advice service for village halls.
Other sponsors of this years networking event for village halls included: Hallmaster, ARC Thermal Products, SW Architects, Bridge Interiors, Steelplan Kitchens, Lee Chapel Floors, and Sound Reduction Systems (SRS).