A strange year in everyway, could never have been forecast. The last village hall AGM was on 14th November 2019, I didn’t attend as I was by Stuarts side as he lay dying all too quickly. Although in such shock I knew his wish was for me to ask the committee to carry on in his name to see the refurbishment project of the hall through, and help take us into the next decade with new and old programmes full of activities for all ages and interests of community.

Alas, the committee did give me permission to take the reigns and I can only thank them for their wholehearted support both physically and mentally. But this year, like the rest of the world ,has been curtailed by the shadow of covid 19 epidemic. During this strange year we have held a committee meeting every month except for August, totalling 13 necessary and full on meetings, usually on zoom and all productive and full of hope!

Following the last AGM we held a convivial Christmas village meal after the annual carol concert from the Birmingham University singers,’a New Years day walk which was a lovely treat and a shared lunch.

Into 2020, we held a great Burns night supper and entertainment, which raised a lot of funds for the affairs group who used it to clear out the pond! In February a new and most entertaining group of sea faring chaps entertained us with a sea shanty night- a great atmosphere and significant memories to Stuart and Ken.

We managed a well organised skittles night evening on 14th march, but an air of gloom, doubt and anxiety was beginning to creep in as we had heard of a prescribed lock down. From then on activities were curtailed and so weekly activities did too! The hall was officially shutdown on the 16th march 2020.

At the end of March 2020 I had a call from Tamsin Davey, our lottery grant representative offering us £68,200 towards our refurbishment project of the village hall, WOW! We had been working on this application for the past 3 years! They were offering us 70% of the total cost of the project, we had raised 30% over past few years! Thankyou to all for this.

We thus started to prepare for the building to begin, clear the hall and plan the project with our almost live on site Architect, Eric Hudson and builders under great care of Ian Taylor.

Building began on 20th July2020 and the completion certificate was received in November 2020. Although the refurbishment wasn’t a huge addition, it involved a lot of sub contractors who were often held up due to lack of materials and sometimes delayed due to covid restrictions. It sometimes seemed like one step forward and two back. Overhanging trees needed to be cut down from adjoining property, asbestos needed checking and investigation into a large growing crack in the end wall. This turned out to be the once exterior wall, rainwater was seeping through and onto a flat roof, the wall had not been properly insulated when built and needed strengthening as well as the gable roof and sofits needed re clagging and retiling and reinforcing. This extra work slowed down the work planned and also increased our costs by further £7000, which was our contingency store!

Unfortunately our fire risk assessment confirmed that our present arrangements are only capable of accommodating up to 100 people. After a lot of deliberation and expertise our best way forward would be to reinstate the fire exits in the middle of the hall and side end through bar. These fire doors, exits and ramps are proposed in a new plan as well as a regulatory fire shutter to come down over the hatch automatically in the kitchen. Costings for this extended project as well as finishing items to the halls i.e. cupboard doors, toilet requisites, Wi-Fi, and furnishings have been requested further in an extended lottery grant. This grant application goes to panel today! 28th January 2021!

The National lottery have been extremely helpful as well as supportive, we have been in regular contact with them and cannot speak more highly of they service.Ian Taylor has been an excellent builder and our project manager,Eric Hudson has given us excellent daily input and update. Mark Brooks, Pat Mutton ,myself, along with Eric have held site meetings at least once a week. Such a project has presented questions and difficulties as well as being active in such difficult times.

In July 2020 we sadly saw the closure of St. Michaels college, in doing so we were invited along to literally help ourselves to any items awaiting clearance and closure. Pots and pans, lighting, projectors and screen, folding chairs, racking and cleaning equipment came down to us and we are very grateful.

We have spent a lot of time regularly communicating with Acre and community first who have been able to advise us about restrictions, covid regulations, risk assessments and preparations for re opening the hall.

We did manage to have some events during lockdown, we CLAPPED for our heroes of the NHS,the easter bunny visited. On the 8th may we enjoyed seeing one another and remembering VE Day with our virtual street parties.

The light festival was successful on one evening which remained dry! Lovely to see the new building lit up which of course in turn lit our faces. Carols and hand bellringing bought such joy and atmosphere! The angel of St. Michael looked down on us and your houses looked wonderful, such community spirit. Thankyou again to community first who sent us all 2 lights to adorn our windows and say hello.

We enjoyed the company at a distance on our New Years day walk good to walk and talk together and welcome the year in and our many newcomers! Welcome!!

With great heart I wish to say THANKYOU ,nothing happens in life without collective, community sharing and caring, so therefore many thanks to you all who have supported the hall in the past and certainly in the present being this year.

The committee have been so reliable and committed this year—attending regular meetings, offering advice and practical help and huge support in some scary decisions. We have worked as a team, a very good team!!!
Jane Yardley has been an excellent secretary, her advise always well researched, Mark Brooks, our guide and competent Treasurer and technician, not to mention enthusiastic in the building project. Pat and Geoff Mutton such hard workers and advisors, full of wisdom in all matters. Cherry and Robin Moore have done an excellent job at looking at the hirers, covid agreements, regulations not to mention spending a weekend cleaning the floor! (Stuarts favourite job) Ros and Angela such practical doers, always enthusiastic and practical in every way. Mary, Mike and Janet great supporters and advisers because they have years of experience!!

It is especially important to be able to ask people to help in all sorts of ways, whether or not they are on the committee— a great gang of chaps, Peter Crownshaw, Vernon Albert and Eddie Powis came and took down the iron girder in the hall— a marathon task. Ann Wallace has kindly helped design posters for events, Ann and Simon produced a wonderful nativity scene in our new window this year. Paul Kemp has taken and is editing a great collection of photos of the building project, can’t wait to see them all!

Now, you will use this hall when you can won’t you? We are starting to receive enquiries for use— but we do look forward to this new decade of new and old uses but most of all— its yours! ENJOY it.

This is an incredibly long report but I believe vital this year! David Livingston said simply “I’ll go anywhere, as long as its Forward”
I hope you can join me in doing so. THANKYOU

Ros Plested – January 28th 2021