THERE IS NO MEMORIAL MORE FITTING: within three weeks of the death of the man who did most to ensure the survival of a struggling, century-old village hall, National Lottery funding has been granted to enable a small but highly active north Northumberland community to move closer to completing the work Tom Turnbull started.
Crookham village hall, which has spent years unsuccessfully seeking desperately-needed renovation funds from the Lottery, is one of eleven communities sharing in a £420,000 windfall made available by the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF).
Crookham was awarded £50,000 in order to renovate a room adjacent to its main hall and kitchen which urgently requires underpinning to stop it falling down, a new roof to replace the existing leaky affair and a new raised floor to enable disabled access.
“Tom Turnbull would have been overjoyed at our good fortune,” said current hall chairman Mike Keating. “He always put the hall first over his many years as chairman and then honorary president.
“This very generous award goes a long way to meeting the estimated cost of £70.000 to £80,000 for a complete renovation, so it enables us to start confidently, but we will still need funding from other sources to finish the job”
Other funding beneficiaries of the Northumberland Village Halls project, led by Community Action Northumberland (CAN), include St Aidan’s Hall (Berwick) Trust; Ponteland Memorial Hall; Lesbury Village Hall; The Hindmarsh Village Hall (Alnmouth); Corsenside Parish Hall; Netherwitton Village Hall; Wingates Village Institute; Middleton & Todridge Village Hall; Mitford Village Hall; and Wooler URC Hall.
The grants, among the first to be made by the NLCF (previously known as the Big Lottery Fund) are intended to enable village halls to carry out important improvements and refurbishment.
In his letter to the NLCF, Mr Keating told how fund raising aided by successful grant applications had enabled the main hall to be double glazed (part supported by Awards for All), the roof insulated and the smoky open fire to be replaced with a stove to provide vital warmth in winter. Improved disabled access to the hall and a unisex WC with disabled access had completed the most urgent work.
Plans to solve the problems of the decrepit small hall and a hopelessly outdated kitchen would have united the two areas but two applications for funds under the ‘Reaching Communities’ programme. failed, probably because the costs were too large to justify spending as a lump sum on a small community.
But by 2015 the old kitchen was in such poor condition that the small hall project was suspended in favour of (successfully, thanks to Awards for All) replacing the kitchen on its existing site, which was completed in summer 2018.
Now, attention turns again to the small hall. Three options present themselves: repair appears to be the most economical way forward, although some committee members still argue for a rebuild while the middle way might be to replace the existing ‘footprint’ with a smaller, more modern conservatory-style structure. But the NLCF grant clears the way to replace a space that is not open to wheelchair users and currently can only be used on rare occasions or for the storage of non-perishable items.
Whether repaired or replaced, the small hall will play a full part in hall activities. Events organiser Annette Woolfson said: “It would provide a small meeting space ideal for parish council meetings, art and book groups and knit-and- natter and perhaps a future mother and toddler group. We could also move the book cases in there to make a small library and reading area and build cupboards for storage of countless materials.
“These measures would clear the large hall and make it more attractive to potential hall hirers and enable two events to be held at once: last year the art group had to give way to a food safety training course.’’
Sarah Benioff, England Director at The National Lottery Community Fund said: “National Lottery funding for good causes changes lives. As the largest community funder in the UK, we see the amazing achievements of thousands of people-led projects every year. People tell us that village halls are often the heart of rural communities so we’re really happy that this funding can support more of these hubs to bring people together and allow them to play an active role in helping their communities to thrive.”
Louise Currie of CAN was over the moon at the news: “This collaborative approach has meant that many more village halls than expected have secured funding. CAN aims to continue working with the Community Fund over the coming years to secure additional funds for other village halls that need it.”
Meanwhile, at Crookham there is much excitement and a move afoot within the management committee to rename a renovated small hall in its late champion’s honour: The Tom Turnbull Room.