With Local and Community History Month taking place recently, we thought we’d highlight one of the most important features of Derbyshire’s own local history - village and community halls. For over a century, these often understated buildings have acted as a vital hub for rural communities, providing a place for people to learn, relax and socialise.  

In wartime, halls were used to train soldiers heading off to battle, with many setting up rifle ranges for target practice, and provided crucial skills to those staying at home, such as sewing and growing crops. Nowadays, they remain a place for people to discover new talents - from fun, light-hearted activities like line-dancing through to more practical skills such as lace-making.  

They are also one of the few places for people in these communities to come together and chat over a cup of coffee, acting as an important tool for tackling social isolation, especially within older generations. Research by rural charity ACRE found that in 60% of villages, community halls are the only place for people to meet in the area. Without them, many would simply have nowhere to go. 

Our Adviser, Helena Stubbs, has almost a decade of experience in the world of village halls

Yet these hubs are facing growing challenges. As successive lockdowns forced many to close their doors, volunteers have found it difficult to deal with the financial and operational impacts of such an unprecedented period. Rising energy costs are affecting halls as much as any of us, adding extra difficulties as many were only just beginning to recover from the past couple of years. And as committee members move on from their roles, there is a growing concern that fewer people in younger generations will look to take the reins.  

This is what makes our work so important. Rural Action Derbyshire’s Community Buildings Advisory Service is the only place for committee members to receive vital information and guidance to help them navigate these challenges. Our Adviser, Helena Stubbs, has almost a decade of experience in the world of village halls, and we are part of a national network of experts, meaning we have access to a wealth of knowledge to deal with any issues that may arise.  

To be able to continue to deliver this specialist service and to see it through to the next level, we are launching a new membership scheme. This will provide access to regular newsletters, training sessions and bespoke consultations, making sure committees have all the skills they need to help community buildings thrive. Over a century after many village halls were first built, they are still such an important tool for bringing people together - for creating a community. We’re going to do everything we can to keep it that way.  

Find out more about our Community Buildings Advisory Service