Westley Waterless Village Hall

Learn more about the bespoke support we can provide to a Village Hall charity who need to recruit and train new trustees.

About the project

In October 2021, we were approached by Cambridgeshire County Council’s Think Communities Team to attend a meeting with Westley Waterless Parish Chairman and one of the two remaining trustees of the Village Hall charity. This was an exploratory meeting to discuss the village hall’s future and the lack of use by residents over the last few years. The trustee present indicated that they had struggled to attract new trustees to join the management committee and, as a result, governance of the charity had slipped.

The main outcome of this initial meeting was a decision to invite the community to attend an ‘open morning’ at the village hall. This would provide residents with an opportunity to have a look around and we could consult them how they might use this space in the future.

While planning for this event we were able to offer advice and guidance to the two remaining trustees on their role and responsibilities and how we could help them get the charity back on track. It became evident during our conversations that both trustees wished to step down and allow a new committee to take over the running of the charity.

The open morning provided an opportunity for local residents to see the hall and to give their views on the sorts of activities they would like to see taking place. It also provided an opportunity for us to ask if anyone was prepared to volunteer to support the charity on an ongoing basis.

With the support of the Parish Chairman, we were able to encourage several people to come forward to take on the role of trustee for the Village Hall charity. Our Village Hall Advisor attended meetings at the village hall to facilitate the existing trustees to step down and the election of new trustees. We were also able to provide information and guidance on getting the right policies and procedures in place.

Since these initial meetings the new committee have successfully held their first AGM and now have a fully operating management committee. Alongside the trustees, there is a strong group of volunteers willing to help the trustees with organising local events.

By working in partnership with the Parish Chairman and the Think Communities team we were able to bring the right people together in the community to move this situation forward. Our work supporting the trustees continues and we have lots of information and materials available to guide the trustees in the coming months.

Why is this needed?

The advice and guidance service we offer supports trustees, volunteers and paid employees of village hall and community building charities. Our work covers a wide range of activities including group training & networking and bespoke support built around individuals or committees. In some cases, this support will go beyond working directly with the trustees and will require us to reach out further into the community to help the charity consult, resolve problems or find additional help and support.

Our community development officers need to call on their various skills from planning events to negotiation through local problems and conflicts to ensure a successful conclusion.

How can you get involved?

Village halls and community buildings are always looking out for new trustees to help and support their work. If you are interested in finding out more about the role of a trustee, please get in touch.

What impact has our work had?

Testimony

Jim Paltridge, Parish Chairman at Westley Waterless said:

“Our village hall had not been used much as a community or social space by the villagers for about 15 years, with many people who had moved here within the past decade not stepping foot inside except to vote in elections. It had basically no usage by the village and limited hires from outside.

Christian Swarbrick (Community Connector, Cambridgeshire County Council) made the initial contact with us about whether our village was interested in some help to reinvigorate the use of our hall. We agreed to a site meeting to talk through how we might use our hall more.

After that meeting, Lisa Chambers from Cambridgeshire ACRE became involved, attending several initial meetings with residents and existing hall trustees, to encourage community involvement and outline how we could bring in new trustees and helpers.

Lisa discussed what other village halls were doing and ‘held our hands’ through the technical and legal parts that all of us found scary to start with. Lisa then helped us run an open day at the hall, to gauge village interest and garner fresh ideas for the hall’s use. We now have 8 new trustees and several enthusiastic helpers.

We staged our first pop-up pub recently which was a huge success with over 100 people attending. A lot of the villagers did not know each other until that night and there was a strong feeling that this social gathering lifted the quality of village life and promoted community feeling. We hope to build on this and already have more dates booked into the calendar for community events including a Quiz Night, Jubilee Big Lunch and Harvest supper. In addition, we also have people now looking to hire the Hall for private events who would not have done so before.

Thank you to Christian, Lisa and to Cambridgeshire ACRE. We would never have done this without your professional help and encouragement.”

Useful links

Photos: Pop-up Pub (Friday 4 February 2022)

Who can I talk to about this work?

Please contact Lisa Chambers, Community Development Officer, on 01353 865048 or email lisa.chambers@cambsacre.org.uk