Celebrating Community Centre Week

  • Community Centre Week is a celebration of the role of the UK’s centres
  • Many have interesting histories and serve their communities with services and events, and as meeting spaces
  • We find out more about two groups of volunteers who have worked to help their centres thrive

Each year during Community Centre Week (19-25 July 2017 – #loveyourcc), we celebrate the great work carried out by community centres, village halls and clubs.

This year, we find out more about Bushmead Community Hub in Luton – where volunteers took over the running of their local space – and meet the team at Tewin Memorial Hall, who launched a film night to bring the community together.

From imminent closure to thriving centre – Bushmead Community Hub

Scott Eastwood is a trustee of Bushmead Community Hub in Luton and shares his experience:

In April 2016, 100 people packed into our community centre hall to hear the news that it would be closed the following April due to council cuts. The centre has been at the heart of our community since 1990, hosting community services, classes and events.

I was one of those people packing the hall and joined a campaign to stop the closure. We attended council meetings and lobbied councilors, but soon realised that the centre was going to close, regardless of what we did.

So, we turned our anger into positive action and formally registered as a charity in September 2016 in order to take over the running of the centre. We created a new website, branding and booking system, and in April 2017, the Bushmead Community Hub was launched.

We are now four months into running the hub, and predict that by the end of our first year we will actually be at the stage that we hoped to be in year three.

We have brought in new users for the hall including karate groups, church groups, maths classes and local drama groups, who hire us for eight hours a week. We also took over the running of the 50+ bowls club and the youth club on a Friday evening, which is now used by more than 40 children each week.

Our social bookings have rocketed because our online booking system is easy to use and supported by a social media campaign.

But none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for eight community volunteers who stepped up and took the lead.

If you find your community in a similar situation, my top tip would be to listen to everyone’s views – some people will complain about what you are doing, listen to them and politely note their concerns, but give your energy to those who really want to achieve change.

Find more about Bushmead Community Hub , follow them on Twitter @bushmead_hub and Facebook: Bushmead Community Hub.

Rural cinema at Tewin Memorial Hall

Tewin Memorial Hall in Hertfordshire opened in 1922 as a memorial to local people who died in the First World War. It provided the village with a place where locals of all ages could meet, hold events, play table games and catch up with friends and neighbours.

Before the Second World War, 90% of the villagers belonged to the Hall and paid an annual membership fee. During the war, the hall was used to distribute gas masks and to provide school lunches so that mothers could work in nearby munitions factories. It also hosted dances and acted as a collection point for clothing for Service personnel and evacuees.

Today, the beautiful hall hosts exercise classes and baby and toddler groups, and is hired out for events and weddings.

Film night

The committee has also set up a film night to raise funds and bring local people together. Set up in 2012, 10 films are shown each year.

The committee invested £5,000 to set up the cinema, buying a full-sized screen, a projector, an amplifier and a loop system for those with hearing difficulties.

The monthly screenings attract between 50 and 90 people. The ticket price of £4 includes a hot drink and a biscuit, and ice creams are on sale. The evenings are especially popular with elderly villagers.

In the first year, the cinema made a profit of £1,000, with a further £1,000 profit in the second year. These profits go back into the hall to cover costs including the licence required for public screenings.

“I would advise any village hall thinking of setting up a rural cinema to go for it,” says committee member Linda Adams. “It’s a fun thing to do – everyone enjoys it and it is a great way to bring people of different ages together.”

With thanks to ACRE for sharing Tewin Memorial Hall’s story and local ACRE Network member, CDA Herts.