The rich variety of activities that take place in village halls and the volunteers that support them are to be celebrated this January in the first ever #VillageHallsWeek. Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) and their 38 member organisations will use the week to celebrate the diverse network of 10,000 community buildings at the heart of England’s rural communities and the volunteers who work tirelessly to keep them open for all.

Ian McMillan

To mark the occasion, renowned poet, writer and radio presenter Ian McMillan has written a brand-new poem. In his inimitable style, McMillan’s A Teapot as Big as the Moon highlights some of the cultural events that village halls often host, from gigs to dance classes. The poem was commissioned by the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), the membership organisation for rural touring schemes which work with volunteers in halls across the country to bring professional performance art – from theatre to dance to magic to music – to rural audiences.

Other activities being staged by NRTF members during the week include performances of wartime drama Think of England in Sixpenny Handley Village Hall in Dorset and a gig by Welsh folk trio Alaw at Bulkington Community Centre in the West Midlands. These events are typical of those staged by NRTF members at halls all over the countryside every week.

Richard Quallington, Executive Director of ACRE said “Starting 2018 with a celebration of these wonderful hubs, which offer so much to their local community, is a fantastic way to start the year. Residents in rural communities rely on local availability of services such as childcare, health services, social meetings and entertainment – village halls host all such services. They are flexible, multi-use community spaces which have stood the test of time and saying thank you to the volunteers who keep them going is the least we can do. Please do join in with #VillageHallsWeek on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and celebrate your local hall and show them your appreciation.”

Speaking about their support for #VillageHallsWeek Tom Speight from NRTF and a village hall chair himself, said “They may sometimes be a bit below the radar but village halls really matter to local communities. They bring people together to share, be it watching a fantastic performance or using the local post office or keeping fit with a Zumba class. NRTF is delighted to support #VillageHallsWeek and fully endorses the ACRE Network messages of celebration and thanks that rural communities can access such versatile community assets locally.”

#Villagehallsweek (22-26 Jan) is an initiative started by ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), the national voice for the country’s largest rural network, formed of 52,000 grassroots organisations in 11,000 rural communities.

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