August 2019 Update

After a period of rapid visible change, it may seem that nothing much is happening but in fact the interior of the building is coming together very nicely. The electrics and plumbing are in and the walls have been plastered. We hope you will like the colour scheme. The wooden floor will probably be fitted by the time this article is published. There has been a last-minute finalisation of what we can afford in terms of exterior landscaping and lighting thanks to a recently arrived section 106 fund from South Derbyshire district Council. Overall, the project has stayed on budget and on time, we are now entering the phase where we can spend on necessary equipment and fittings within limits.

A good number of people have come forward not only to work in the cafe but also to provide the expertise to plan and run it. At the time of writing the name has not yet been decided. There is certainly room for more volunteers if you are interested. Likewise, we have been having meetings with bodies who can advise in the setup and running of youth activity. More volunteers are needed to get this off the ground.

The trustees have decided to put on three events where people can have a look around the hall as soon as it opens:

On Saturday August 31st it will be open between 2pm and 5 pm to visit informally. We will try and open the café for this.

A formal opening will take place on 1st September from 3pm to 5pm. The Burton Concert Band has kindly offered its services to entertain us while the former chairman and booking secretary, namely Peter and Pat court, formally cut the ribbon in the presence of invited guests. There will be free tickets available on a first-come first-served basis. If you would like tickets for this event, please contact Kyran Farrell on 701069 or at rvhchair1@gmail.com.

Finally, the Village Show will take place in the hall on Saturday 7th September between 2.30 and 5:30pm, there will be no charge for entry to the show. Visitors will be welcome to have a look around the hall, see the fantastic produce on show and visit the cafe .

July 2019 Update

The construction continues on programme and it is looking good both inside and out. At the time of writing there were plenty of wires going in and shortly the other utilities will be going in. We had already started working on a colour scheme when a sudden rather odd request came through. Apparently, there is something of a rush nationally on orders for toilet cubicle fittings and so we had to choose colours and get an order placed. As the team leading on the colour scheme had a good overall plan, this was not as difficult as it might have been. There has also been a fair amount of discussion and effort to make sure that the audiovisual system is fitted properly and other small but important technical points will be right, eg making sure wifi works where it is needed. The construction team are proving very helpful and easy to deal with. A planning application has now gone in to request removal of the trees in the car park which are not in good condition and to put in replacements in better locations.

As the construction is going on time, we have committed to an opening event on Sunday, 1st September at 3 PM in the hall. David Haines is kindly bringing the Burton brass band to provide entertainment. We are planning a small opening ceremony with a very local focus. There will be an opportunity to look around the hall afterwards and during the following weekend. There will be further details in the August magazine.

In recent weeks we have been talking to and signing up our old regular users and some new ones. Some groups have been flexible enabling us to make a more harmonised timetable and fit in more people than we might otherwise have done. I am very grateful for this and pleased to report a good level of interest for family events too.

The parish council and village hall liaison group has had a meeting to review progress and also to discuss making best use of the office space that the parish council will use on Monday and Thursday afternoons.

On 12th June there was an open evening in the Red Lion for anyone interested in helping with the community cafe, library or book exchange and youth initiatives. Quite a few people had given their names who could not attend. The attendance was actually quite high and work is starting in these areas. There is a real desire to make the new facility a true hub for community activity, simply somewhere to be and simply find company. There is a long list of activities that have worked in the past and others we could add in the future. For example, there have been suggestions about having board game afternoon or evenings in the community café, computer advice sessions and informal language groups. It is very much up to us a community what we make of it.

The task of going through the archives continues. The old hall featured on the front cover of a Derbyshire wide community magazine in 1971 in its splendid new glory. That was also the year that Repton won a ‘Best Kept Village’ award for villagers with more than 1500 residents.

June 2019 Update

The construction programme continues to go well. An added bonus seems to be the entertainment for passing children provided by the diggers on site. Once the roof is watertight, work will begin on the first fix for the electrical wiring. That is the point of no return for getting things in the right place, this means not just the plugs but also wiring for security, access control, internet and audio-visual systems.

In recent months, the trustees and the committee have been working to try and produce a fair, transparent and universally applicable booking system. Handling bookings in the past has been quite a difficult job and it is important to try and make it both easier to administer and to try and modernise it. That means being able to handle invoices and payments electronically where possible and to have a diary visible on the village hall website so that potential users can see whether slots are free or not. These debates have got to the essence of what the village hall is for. Perhaps controversially, we have decided to put forward a universal pricing system simply because, in the vast majority of cases, either the people attending an event or the person or group organising it have a local affiliation. Because of this, we have decided to try and keep the prices as keen as possible across the board. For most users this will not represent a great change but for some it may as we have decided to rationalise the timetable as well. No one likes change but we can assure you that a lot of thought and debate has gone into this.

We had a stall at the village party. It was a very busy event all round and there was a lot of positive interest at our stand. People came forward with offers of help and questions about what was happening. There were some interesting contributions to the wishing well of ideas on the stall. The sweetest being a wish that ‘everyone be happy’. It was also heart warming that some people came along simply to say ‘thank you’ for what we were doing. Some of the souvenir pens were on display. These were made from the wood in the old hall floor and stage. They have been beautifully made locally by Steve Smith and presented as a fundraising gift to the hall. We have taken orders for quite a few but more will be on display at events in the future.

The other area of activity is preparing for the reopening. There is obviously a lot of basic preparation to be done but also we want to make progress with the voluntary activities previously mentioned. We have had interest declared in making progress with the ideas of establishing a library, starting a community cafe and youth activity. Thank you to those people who have put their names forward already, more are needed. As a next step in this program, we will have an open evening in the back room of the Red Lion Wednesday 12th June from 7.30pm. Please come along if you’re interested. With three months or less until opening, it would be good to get the ball rolling in terms of organisation, training and funding. If you cannot make it, please make contact on rvhchair1@gmail.com.

May 2019 Update

Progress with the village hall: points of no return and new ventures.

The Sale of Work committee at Repton School have made a generous donation following the fundraising event in November. This group has been a consistent donor for quite a few years and we are very grateful.

At ground level the progress with the hall is obvious as one walks by. The project is on time and we have had to make sure that all the fine tuning has been done. This boiled down to making sure at this stage that the water supply and drainage is all in the right place. A point of no return was reached quite quickly. The next stage was to make sure that there will be sufficient electrical power and computer points where they will be needed. All the connections for the audiovisual system have also been mapped out. The constructor allowed us to sit with the kitchen supplier who was able to map our ideas on computer as we spoke. This is a very important area and a lot of effort has been put into trying to get it right.

Work is still going on as to the best way to deal with the trees in the car park and to produce a good finish within budget. Progress is being made but this is proving surprisingly complex. We will have to pursue a further grant from somewhere to complete the landscaping scheme in its entirety brazilian hair.

Past users have been consulted and most are keen to return. There is a wedding request for October 2020 and we have had enquiries about a christening, birthday celebrations and other new activities. It is fair to say that pretty much everybody is sensitive about price and we have had already two quite long meetings trying to set out a long-term policy on this. We are working on a projection of likely costs but have to make an assumption about the likely level of use. The more the facilities are used, the easier it will be to control prices. That in turn might work if, for example, we could persuade regular monthly users to rotate around one evening thereby leaving a different evening free for a regular weekly evening user. In the short term, this might not be achievable as some groups book speakers far ahead but it merits consideration.

Not all groups will need to use the main hall. The meeting room and cafe space will be available. It is very likely that we will be able to charge much less for daytime use and on Sundays which are traditionally quite quiet. We are also fairly certain at this stage that there will be a discount for local users and possibly for long-term users. The aim is to reach a conclusion on this during our meeting in May.

This is a difficult area as whilst we want all to be very affordable it also has to be clean and meet current levels of expectation in terms of facilities. When visiting other halls as part of our preparation work, we had a very salutary tale. A new hall in South Derbyshire was built in the mid-1990s and jogged along merrily until 20 years later it was realised there was no money in the kitty and a massive backlog of maintenance and repairs. It was very hard work to sort it out.

It seems that there are good levels of interest in supporting a community cafe venture and for youth activity. The key to success in both these spheres is finding someone willing to lead and enough volunteers. Please contact me to be added to lists of those interested in discussing these projects further, thank you to those who have already done so.

April 2019 Update

By mid-March the foundations were complete and the steelwork started to appear. The heavy crane used on site did not sink into the car park. This means that the substructure is better than had been hoped and may enable economies later on. At the same time, work is still proceeding on how best to deal with the issue of the trees in the car park subject to a preservation order, as are preparations for future use of the hall and on how we make sure that the future hall has a true community focus.

Word is getting round about the intention to start a community cafe and quite a few people have expressed an interest in helping with this. A leader will be needed. The appeals in last month’s magazine for help with television screens has been generously responded to and we have also had a very generous and ‘gift aided’ donation which will be the budget for better chairs. This donation has come from someone outside the village but who has enjoyed use of the old hall for many years, attending the village society and history group meetings. It is difficult to express our thanks adequately for this.

On that subject, there are two remaining major targets in terms of equipment that we hope to fund. The first being lightweight folding tables, which we have seen used elsewhere and can be stored on trolleys, and the second is a collapsible stage system which can also be stored on a trolley system. If we cannot do all these things at the beginning, we do have backup plans.

When the hall in the High Street burned down in 1962, it put an end to the youth club that was thriving there at that time. Youth work in the old Hall in Askew Grove did not last unfortunately. We have been visiting other youth clubs and have been in consultation with the community volunteer service locally. Basically, the support and funding for youth initiatives is there, but the hard part is finding enough of a group of volunteers to run a youth club. If anyone is interested in working on this, perhaps just starting with a simple youth cafe type format, please get in contact. With busy lives, it can be difficult to see how one can do this, but one villager recently told me this about times past (paraphrased): ‘after a bad day at work and not feeling like wanting to go, an evening running the youth club lifted the spirits no end’. We could feel this buzz when we visited Hilton youth club and clearly the young people were getting a lot from it. There is a time slot reserved for this purpose if we can get it off the ground.

The village hall committee is also looking at how the old hall was used and what changes might need to be made to get the best out of the different facilities that the new hall will have. This is not a straightforward as it sounds but it’s important to do so. Availability has to be maximised so we can give priority to local groups and make sure the hall is primarily available for the villagers who are paying for it through past and present funds donated directly or via the parish council. The more efficiently the hall is used, the better we can cover costs, control fees and have a prudent savings plan for the future. The good news is that we are already getting enquiries about bookings for major family events. I will say more on this next month.

March 2019 Update

The old hall disappeared quite quickly and work has begun on piling and foundations. A drain has to be moved at the front of the site and a tank has to be sunk in the car park as part of water retention to reduce stress on the brook.

During the preparation for the project, there has been considerable expenditure on ecology and this includes trees in the car park. Those in the centre are subject to preservation orders, despite the fact that only one of them is in anywhere near a fair condition. In many ways, the car park would work a lot better without them. We could plant better specimens elsewhere on the site and take pressure off Askew Grove but these issues are never straight forward or cheap to resolve.

With the project started, in theory the village hall committee should have had little to do but in fact there is a lot of practical and administrative work to consider before reopening.

Hopefully, the risk of expensive surprises is diminishing as the groundwork proceeds. It will be a while before we know exactly what funds will be available for essential items and the things we want to replace on our long-term wish list. To reduce the cost of the contract, a number of items were identified which we could fit ourselves. For example, we salvaged simple things such as coat hooks and their batons and discovered that we could save a lot by putting up simple shelving ourselves. It does not sound a lot but in fact the monetary value was considerable, so a bit of DIY before we open will be well worth it.

In addition to the practical aspects of moving back, we also have to look at how the new spaces will be used and booked out. We are already getting requests for major bookings. We have already taken advice from environmental health on things to consider in running a community cafe and we have visited other halls where they are running successfully. Similarly, we are taking advice on how youth activities could be restarted in the hall. There has been none since around 2003. As with any organisation these days, a wealth of policies has to be in place to show that we are running the place safely. We will take this opportunity to update everything.

Requests for help: we have had one generous donation of a TV monitor which will go in the meeting room to be used for presentations. If anyone else is trading up in the next six months, we also would like one for the cafe area where it could be used for meetings, youth activity and computer guidance. Another area where you may be able to help is with recovering some very good but tired looking metal framed chairs. We have 10, some with arms, which have been particularly useful for some less able users of the hall in the past. Please get in contact if you can help with any of these issues.

January 2019 Update

The site was fenced off on 9th January to allow for work on the disconnection of electricity and gas supplies.

Unfortunately, some of the work requires digging up part of the road in Askew Grove. The gas supply for the new hall will be taken from Brookside Close so Askew Grove should be spared a second visit by the diggers. At the time of writing, the plan is to hand over the site for the beginning of demolition on 21st of January so by the time of publication there may not be much of the old hall left. For information, the experts found a few traces of asbestos bonded in some floor tiles and in one toilet cistern. None of this should present any risk during demolition.

The construction will be done by A and S Enterprises Ltd. Their website has plenty of examples of their work on projects of a similar scale. From 21st January they have total control and responsibility for the site. We are confident that they will do a good job for us and will do their best to minimise disruption with deliveries.

As commented on before, it has taken a lot of patience and perseverance by many people to get the project to this stage. Without the help of the planning department, hard work by the parish council and the patience shown by Bi Design and Armsons, we would not be rebuilding now.

There have been some outstanding examples of generosity recently. Over £1000 has been raised by an eBay campaign to recycle elements from the hall. This was led by Adrienne McStocker. We even managed to sell the old kitchen as a period item. The Gould family have provided a huge amount of free storage for us. The PCC has given us a generous cheque following a fundraising quiz evening and St Wystan’s School have given us a donation from Halloween activities and a fancy dress disco in the hall. Thank you to everyone.

Also, a thank you and congratulations to John Perks for the success in obtaining the SDDC Community Partnership Shceme grant for £25,000. This arrived as the tender process was being finalised and the budget was getting tight. During the construction, we will continue to bid for funds for specific items. At present, we are not sure we can change our tables, chairs and other items and we have trimmed aspirations on landscaping until we see how much we can afford.

The 100 club which is managed by Adrian Argyle is still functioning and there is room for new members if you feel you can support us that way. Please use the email address below.

When we open the new hall, we will equip it as best we can but have to maintain a reserve for emergencies. We are also planning to start a savings fund so that future items such as car park resurfacing, tree work, redecoration and other maintenance will always be affordable.

The trustees and committee will shortly be turning their minds to all the planning and preparation that needs to be done during the closure period so that we can welcome users back in late August or early September. Plans will be outlined in more detail in the months to come.

Finally, we must thank all the committee members past and present who have carried on regardless with this difficult project for many years. There is no way we would have made it without their dedication and perseverance over nearly two decades. The current chair is a mere newcomer to the project. We would also like to acknowledge the three years of hard work by the appeals team who were phenomenally successful.
Kyran Farrell Contact: rvhchair1@gmail.com