ACRE’s Chair, David Emerson CBE said, “We’re thrilled that Louise has received an OBE for her many years supporting rural communities, especially village hall trustees. Her advice, drawn from a deep understanding of community buildings, has helped these vital assets weather recent lockdowns. This is an honour well deserved”.
Louise said “I owe huge gratitude to the contributions of thousands of volunteer trustees and county-based advisers in the ACRE Network who have provided support and shared experience over many years, not least ACRE’s current national Adviser, Deborah Clarke. Together we have helped village and community halls to deliver many benefits for the rural communities they serve, as well as helping them withstand the financial and practical challenges of Covid over the past year. This would not have been possible without funding which has come from Defra, local authorities, the lottery, as well as corporate sponsors”.
There are over 10,000 village halls to be found across England. Managed by volunteers, they support a diverse range of community activities from exercise classes to coffee mornings and are routinely hired out for private parties and weddings. Some host community shops and post offices.
In a survey undertaken by ACRE last year, it was found that 60% of village halls provide the only meeting space in the local community. An estimated 50,000 individuals too are reliant on the use of village halls to make a living.
Between 25 – 29 January, ACRE will be hosting Village Halls Week 2021, a national celebration of village and community halls, their volunteers and difference they make to the rural communities they serve. This will tell a story of how village halls are survivors, many of which have been bringing people together since the 1920s.