As Trustees, it is our task to make sure the needs of the community will be served today and five to ten years from now. As best we can, we need to make sure the Village Hall continues to be fit for purpose and offers a fully inclusive space for everyone to use and enjoy. For the reasons outlined below, we think it might be time for change, to vary what the Hall offers and to make sure it has the capacity to meet the needs of our community and the potential population growth of the village.
The decision to take on this ambitious project will be driven by you.
The Village Hall, which is managed entirely by committed volunteers and part-funded by generous bequests and the efforts of an exceptional group of local heroes, exists to serve the community. The feedback we receive confirms it does so successfully; a success that has led to an almost 85% take-up of available hiring capacity in every week since lockdown ended. Looking at 2022 as a whole, almost 26 days out of 30 in each month, are already booked with several events running at various times each day.
Job done? Maybe. The question the Managing Trustees have considered was, “does the service offering meet the current needs of the entire community and, the future needs should for example, the village housing development plans proceed? If not, what needs to change in order to widen participation?”
The simple answer is to increase the capacity and provide more flexibility of use, by expanding the Hall.
The next generation
After analysing the usage across a typical year, it is clear that, apart from Scouts, the younger generation within Crudwell and its parish, is not best served by what is currently available, bearing in mind levels of disposable income and what is available elsewhere that is within easy reach.
Informal conversations with several parents and early teens, express a need for a place, other than their bedrooms or the bus shelter, to ‘hang out’ and do ‘stuff’. Youth boredom, anxiety and over-stressed parents need to be replaced by a relief from stress, fun stuff, life stuff and perhaps, a bit of youth independence. The benefits are well documented, but we need to hear from you.
And for those who might have physical challenges and disabilities, we are looking at incorporating, for example, a couple of ‘sensory’ rooms. You might be asking, “Why? We’re only a village hall.”
We believe there are perhaps as many as 15 families in close proximity to Crudwell who we can help, just by providing a space which will help babies, young children and adults with their sensory development. Wootton Bassett children’s centre has a sensory room which can be rented by families, but this is the only one available to rent in Wiltshire, and it is always full. Having sensory rooms in close proximity to the village will be a positive step forward in becoming more inclusive and learning from others about these challenges and creating a network of support throughout the parish.
So where are we now?
A proposal has been agreed by the committee of Trustees, which looked at expanding the Hall to free up existing capacity and to add to it. The objective is to help us set a direction to encourage the involvement of a younger demographic whilst keeping our regulars happy and giving the more mature group of residents somewhere to hang out as well!
We aim to do this by constructing a new independent unit for Pre-school enabling them to enhance their own service offering across five days a week instead of three. This has already been discussed with Pre-school who would like to move towards a return of classes like ‘New Mother and Baby’, a Toddler’s group and perhaps other similar sessions that were provided when the Hall was first opened many years ago. This is Phase 1, and the costs will include the hire of temporary units so that Pre-school can keep running throughout the construction.
Additionally, and in line with the survey conducted by the Parish Council in 2018, Phase 2 would see the construction of a contemporary coffee lounge, adjacent to the existing kitchen that will enjoy the benefits of views across the fields from inside and outside. A great meeting place for all to socialise, chill, read a book and maybe take a rest after a Pilates, a Tai Chi class, or after that long bike ride or walk. Hopefully, it will be open at least five days a week including the weekends and we hope to make it ‘dog friendly.’
The tough bit
We have had some preliminary drawings produced based on the concept formed around what we think we need. This has allowed us to obtain a ‘quick and dirty’ prime cost sum covering construction. The crude estimates, including a realistic contingency, from very experienced main contractors produces a project value for both phases that is not insignificant and not easy to raise, but is not impossible either.
And yes, raising sufficient capital is critical. We know it’s ambitious, and we have to be realistic, but we reckon it’s worth a shot.