Alstonefield Village Hall
As we begin 2021, we look back at the challenging months of the COVID-19 pandemic with a mixture of satisfaction and nervousness. Satisfaction in maintaining at least some of our essential activities; nervousness in what lies ahead for 2021. When the pandemic began and community halls essentially closed, it was good to be able to continue with our outreach Post Office, at least. Getting suitably prepared even for that limited service - with risk assessments, deep-cleaning, signs and cleaning protocols in place - meant we remained technically open, and that was enough to be able us to offer the premises for a vital service - manufacturing scrubs and gowns. It’s hard to believe nearly a year on, but at the time, there was a huge national shortage of protective equipment for front-line workers in the NHS and care homes. A small team of locals, headed by Cathy Reavy (who normally runs embroidery workshops in the Hall), worked solo in shifts through until the end of May, having made an amazing 437 gowns and 183 sets of scrubs.
By the Autumn, things were looking more positive but restrictions continued and few of our normal users had an appetite to re-commence their activities, even in a limited way. But it has been good to see financial support to charities like ours being provided, with much-appreciated help from local authorities - themselves ‘locked-down’ with employees working from home. That support enabled us to continue with our maintenance plans, which included substantial works to re-surface and mark-out our car park - a well overdue improvement.
By the end of the year, the pandemic was showing no sign of abating - just the opposite, in fact. So we took the decision to try and generate some extra income and, at the same time, provide at least something for the community, by opening a takeaway food service for the first time. Within a couple of weekends of opening, it was proving a huge hit for locals, so we decided to invest a little in equipment (a hot cabinet, for example). Opening the service meant meeting Environmental Health requirements including registration as a food business, and the local authority have been wonderfully helpful in making things straightforward. Some further kitchen improvements will be needed for this, but we’re looking at the long term!
Looking ahead into 2021 and beyond, the pandemic has made us think about what else we might do to ensure the Hall is of real benefit to our community, and remains financially viable. In normal times, we already host fitness classes, indoor bowls, arts groups etc., and the committee itself runs monthly live music events that attract locals and visitors (which is also good for the local economy in this rural area). But ideas are flowing for other activities we could run, or encourage(!) and to broaden the use of the premises for commercial or other bookings such as weddings and parties.
In summary, we’re very positive for the future. The pandemic will go away in time, and we hope to come out of it with an enhanced understanding of the role a village hall can play in our particular community.