Celebrating Village Halls and Community Spaces

Wed, 20/03/2024 - 09:55am

Christine Fairbairn, our Engagement and Membership Lead, writes...

Community spaces and village halls are often the unsung heroes of our rural and island communities, adapting to meet the diverse needs of the local communities. They serve as essential venues for a wide range of activities, including community meetings, social gatherings, sports and fitness, lifelong learning, cultural events, and even as safe havens during emergencies. Despite their crucial role, village halls face numerous challenges such as increasing costs, outdated facilities, and shifting population dynamics. Support for these community spaces often falls short, relying heavily on the dedication and mission-driven efforts of volunteers and community members. 

Recognising the importance of village halls, Scottish Rural Action collaborates with various organisations, including the Scottish Rural Network, Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS), Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), Community Enterprise Scotland, Social Enterprise Scotland, Community Energy Scotland, Rural Housing Scotland and others to strengthen support for these vital community spaces. Together, they have developed resources like the Village Halls Handbook, an online guide covering topics ranging from governance and facilities management to sustainability and digital integration. This resource provides valuable assistance to those involved in the management and operation of village halls, empowering them to overcome challenges and maximise their impact on local communities.

The recent Scottish Rural and Islands Parliament took place in November 2023 in Fort William. Its main theme centered on Village Halls and Community Spaces, further highlighted by the use of these venues across the three days, including small halls in Kentallan and Duror to community centres in Speanbridge to the Nevis Centre. We organised a dedicated workshop on the topic of village halls, where over 60 of the total 350 delegates gathered to discuss the essential role of village halls, emphasising their versatility, inclusivity, affordability, and accessibility. Delegates also identified areas where additional support is needed, including community collaboration, transparent governance, and innovation in sustainability and networking.

The insights and recommendations generated from workshops like these contribute to shaping Scottish Government policymaking and the Rural Delivery Plan. By incorporating the perspectives and needs of local communities, policymakers can develop strategies that better support village halls and ensure they continue to thrive as vital community assets. In the recent Addressing Depopulation Action Plan, village halls and community spaces were highlighted:

Community hubs benefit residents and visitors alike and are proven to enable community spaces to be at the forefront of rural regeneration and development. They have the potential to provide opportunities of growth and development as well as offer a safe space for those in need. Shared spaces such as centres and village halls have always been and will continue to be a key aspect of any rural and island communities.

In the run-up to Village Halls Week (18 - 25th March), organised by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), Christine, our Engagement and Membership Lead, has been out and about visiting some of her local halls and hearing about how they serve as indispensable pillars of rural and island communities in Scotland. Despite facing challenges, their resilience and adaptability are a testament to the dedication of volunteers and the strength of community spirit. Through collaborative efforts and targeted support, we can ensure that these essential spaces remain vibrant hubs of community life, fostering connection, pride, and resilience for generations to come.

Two people smiling in a room together
Multi-tasking – Some days a book exchange, some days a Post Office!
People standing together making food
Scrumptious soup and delicious deserts at the Buckie Community Lunch