Village hall advisers stage event in Stratford
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

The dedicated band of specialist advisers who support England’s 10,000 rural village halls are holding their annual training event in Stratford-Upon-Avon next month.

The two-day event, from May 12-13, brings together village hall advisers from 36 counties from Cornwall to Cumbria to share their knowledge and best practice.

On the agenda for the 41 delegates will be issues that help to keep village halls at the heart of rural communities - from funding and investment to energy and employment.

Speakers at the Holiday Inn will include representatives of the Big Lottery Fund, the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Revenue & Customs, Locality and the Yorkshire Association of Local Councils. Solicitor Jonathan Dawson will be holding advice surgeries and there will also be a session with the Charity Commission.

The event is organised by village hall advisers from across the West Midlands with the support of ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England). ACRE is the national voice for the Network of 38 rural community councils that employ advisers to support the 80,000 volunteers who manage rural community buildings.

It is the first visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon for the event, which moves around the country and is now celebrating its 16th year. ACRE’s Rural Community Buildings Officer Deborah Clarke said: “Village halls are hugely valued by their communities for playing a multi-purpose role, serving as a social centre, arts centre, sports centre and in some cases providing education, health or retail services.

“The volunteers who manage them need specialist support, which demands time, expertise and money. Our Network of advisers is working hard to maintain this service against a backdrop of rapidly reducing funding for professional support organisations. “The annual training event is a great opportunity for the advisers to get together and share ideas about how to help village halls survive and thrive.”

Insurance giant Aon UK Limited has supported the event since 2000. Dean Waddingham, Strategic Relationships Director at Aon Risk Solutions, said: “Aon are delighted to continue our long-standing support for the village hall advisers’ training event.

“The role of advisers is clearly important to supporting village halls in being well managed, including the mitigation of risks which can, in the worst scenario, threaten viability. Aon are keen to work with delegates to support this work, which includes making this important event possible.”

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