Tell us a bit about the Community Buildings Advisory Service… 
Rural Action Derbyshire was initially established because of the village halls grant back in 1924, and our advisory service has been one of the founding support networks across the country. Community buildings are totally reliant on volunteers taking on their management or ownership. But because they’re volunteers, they don't always know what it means to run a hall. So that’s why we have an advisory service - to help the people running community buildings. We provide support that they couldn't get elsewhere. And it is vital. Otherwise, these people may not fully understand what it is that they should be doing. 

Why are you involved in the project? 
In truth, I came into the role almost by default. I was already working for RAD as a Rural Officer, which led to me working with parish plans, community led plans - talking to local people to find out what the needs were within the community. I was also Secretary for my local village hall, I'd done that for about eight years. So I had some knowledge of community buildings myself already. And it just happened that the previous adviser was retiring, so it was an internal decision to ask if I would want to take on that role. I was only too happy to take up that challenge because there was an awful lot of great stuff involved.  

What are you most proud of from your time working on this project? 
I’m proud to have helped village hall projects, even discreetly. Like Repton Hall; I wasn't hugely involved with their new builds project because they’d been fundraising for about ten years before I even knew about the plans. But I did get involved at a certain stage, when they were asking about funding - and I gave them the idea of getting a loan from the parish council. We looked into it and supported them through that process, and they got £300,000 to help with the build. It was only a subtle bit of help because I was not instigating the project development, but a little bit of input from RAD actually made that project come about.  

How is the service managing at the moment? 
There is a big focus on the zero carbon agenda, with a lot of potential work around renewable energies. We need to look at pilot projects to help halls with that target, things like electric vehicle charging points or car sharing schemes. There also needs to be a focus on upskilling new volunteers again - a lot of volunteers resigned because of COVID, and now we need to help them bring recruits in and revitalise their energy for village halls, because they’re so important. Without community buildings, many rural communities would have no place to come together and socialise.  

You can find out more about our Advisory Service on the Community Buildings webpage