ACRE Network to stage two-day event in Stratford for specialist village hall advisers
by Deborah Clarke, Village Halls/ Rural Evidence Manager

The dedicated band of specialist advisers who support England’s 10,000 rural village halls are holding their annual training event in Stratford-Upon-Avon next month. The two-day event, from May 11-12, brings together village hall advisers from 34 counties from Devon to Durham to share their knowledge and best practice.

Insurance giant Aon UK Limited has supported the event since 2000. Babbar Abbas, Client Manager at Aon Risk Solutions, said: “Aon are delighted to continue our long-standing support for the village hall advisers’ training event. “The role of advisers is clearly important to supporting village halls in being well managed, including the mitigation of risks which can, in the worst scenario, threaten viability. Aon are keen to work with delegates to support this work, which includes making this important event possible.”

On the agenda for the delegates will be issues that help to keep village halls at the heart of rural communities - from funding to maintenance and broadband provision. Speakers at the Holiday Inn will include representatives from the Pensions Advisory Service and Gigaclear. The BIG Lottery Fund and Office for Civil Society will join some of the sessions and Becky Payne, author of Churches for Communities, will lead a session on working with churches. Solicitor Jonathan Dawson will be holding advice surgeries and there will be a discussion about ACRE’s Quality Standard Scheme for village halls.

The event is organised by village hall advisers from across the South East with the support of ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England). ACRE is the national voice for the Network of 38 rural community councils that employ advisers to support the 80,000 volunteers who manage rural community buildings.

A first for this event will be a market place for six organisations that provide goods and services to village halls which will be an opportunity to build relationships between business and the sector.

It is the second visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon for the event, which usually moves around the country and is now celebrating its 17th year. ACRE’s Rural Community Buildings Officer Deborah Clarke said: “Village halls are hugely valued by their communities for playing a multi-purpose role, serving as a social centre, arts centre, sports centre and in some cases providing education, health or retail services.

“The volunteers who manage them need specialist support, which demands time, expertise and money. Our Network of advisers is working hard to maintain this service against a backdrop of rapidly reducing funding for professional support organisations. We are pleased to welcome again our main supporters Aon UK Limited but also those organisations joining us in the market place. “The annual training event is a great opportunity for the advisers to get together and share ideas about how to help village halls survive and thrive.”