Messy hands on Brisley Village Hall’s new paintwork? Who cares!

Here, what's going on? A spanking new paint job on our village hall and people are already smudging their gooey paw-prints on the tiles…

Well, that at any rate was what it might have looked like to any strangers venturing into Brisley's community hub yesterday.

But children and grown-ups in the 200-plus population village between Dereham and Fakenham were in on the fun and having a wow of a time. They were busy making their mark for posterity and helping to brighten up the place still further in the process.

In return for a donation to the hall's hoped-for new set of chairs, all ages could dab their hands in plates of blue, pink, orange, red and other paints and then make an imprint on a ceramic tile.

While pastel shades are the order of the day elsewhere in the building, these will be used to create a splash of colour in the foyer to welcome future users.

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By the end of the special open afternoon, nearly �500 had been added to the hall coffers.

The village hall was first mooted in 1942 – but the second world war got in the way and it was not until 1951, in austere times, that the project was set in motion again. It was opened five years later by the then lord-lieutenant of Norfolk, Sir Edmund Bacon, and cost �1,500.

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It was extended later, and the latest project – to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee – brings the building bang up to date, with new heating and facilities for people with disabilities as well as a smart new look.

The hall was a deafening hubbub of laughter and mardling as villagers enjoyed the fun afternoon and watched ITV Anglia presenter Becky Jago perform the official opening.

Later, the hall's original secretary, Keith Hammond, who spent much of his life at Brisley before moving to Longham, was among those waiting patiently to dip his hand in the paint.

'It's just something to leave the village when I go!' said Keith, now 81, with a smile.

He said he had enjoyed plenty of good times there over the years, including parties, dances and bingo sessions.

'Looking back, from what this was like to what it is now, well, it's fantastic. Just fantastic,' he added.

Present-day hall committee chairman Lisa Barker runs The Clay Barn painting and crafts studio in the village and gave the tiles for the hand-printing.

To help towards the �23,000 cost of the refurbishment she also swam a mile in open water, just six months after learning to swim, and raised �500.

Lottery and Breckland Council grants boosted the tally, and villagers raised �8,000 themselves over a number of years.

Lisa said the hall remained a great asset to village life, hosting everything from Zumba, table tennis and pilates sessions to an Easter pantomime and the harvest supper.

'This is one central place that brings everyone in Brisley together, and that's really good,' she added.

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