New-look hall for village

RICHARD BATSON They used to be humble huts where locals went to hops and dealt hands of whist.But village halls are moving into the 21st century as modern community hubs offering facilities ranging from post offices to computers.

RICHARD BATSON

They used to be humble huts where locals went to hops and dealt hands of whist.

But village halls are moving into the 21st century as modern community hubs offering facilities ranging from post offices to computers.

At the weekend the north Norfolk seaside community of Bacton unveiled its new-look village hall, after a £370,000 make-over.

It has seen the 1960s hall extended and reworked after a survey to ask locals what facilities they wanted in the place.

That included replacing a lost Post Office, access to a computer for anyone without their own, adding a new kitchen, meeting room, storage, and disabled-friendly toilets, along with installing central heating instead of the old electric bar fires.

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Hall treasurer and project manager Margrete Thorsen-Moore also works for the Norfolk Rural Community Council and was aware many other village halls were in the same boat of needing modernisation.

“Halls need to be extended and adapted to people's needs which have changed over the years. They should be a community hub including facilities which are being lost from villages,” she said.

There was funding out there, and the RCC could help people find it.

Bacton's project won a £259,750 Big Lottery grant, and had a £90,000 donation from the BBL company which recently built a gas pipeline link between the local gas terminal and Holland. A fund-raising committee had also provided £30,000.

The improved hall was given the stamp of approval by two VIP guests at the weekend. MP Norman Lamb said it was a good initiative to replace one of many lost and threatened rural post offices, while 81-year-old former villager and Post Office worker James Andrews, who was on the fund-raising committee for the original hut back in the late 1940s, said it was marvellous building which carried on the work started many years ago.

The hall now plays host to a range of groups including art sessions, antique collectors fairs, a gardening club, craft market, pilates, theatre group, and a “bitch and stitch” coffee morning combining handicrafts with a chance to share a problem.

Organisers are now trying to encourage other users, and anyone wanting information about bookings should ring the secretary on 01692 650706. Other village halls seeking advice on funding improvements can contact the Norfolk Rural Community Council on 01362 698216.