This week saw the nation celebrating village halls as part of ACRE’s Village Halls Week, a campaign recognising the value and contribution made by the 10,000 village halls that can be found across England, their volunteers and the huge difference they make to the communities they serve.

Plunkett Foundation is a keen advocate of the campaign as village halls play a vital role in serving and supporting rural communities. In 2021 ACRE’s (Action with communities in Rural England) celebration highlights how village halls have helped their communities in the past year, the determination and resilience of their volunteers in the face of Coronavirus and the measures they’ve taken to ensure that they can continue supporting their local communities.

Generally managed by volunteers, England’s village and community halls support a diverse range of community activities and many host community shops and post offices, which during the pandemic their vital services have been more important than ever. One such example is shared here.

Village hall to community shop in just one weekend!

Minety, in North Wiltshire, is a thriving village with around 1,400 residents, several businesses, a popular primary school and many farms. Sadly its shop closed 12 years ago and the villagers have a 30 minute round trip to the nearest town.

The community wanted to revive a shop on their doorstep with fresh local produce; a Post Office; parcel drop-off point and a space that could also be a social centre too. A fundraising campaign was launched by the Community Benefit Society in January 2020 and then the Covid-19 outbreak arrived.

In response to the Coronavirus, the Minety shop committee were offered a room at the village hall to set up an emergency pop-up shop. They needed to quickly switch from ‘fundraising mode’ to ‘shop set-up and running mode’ and so they sought the help of a Plunkett adviser to get their new operation up and running. In just one weekend they’d turned a fundraising campaign into a working shop!

This last year has brought great difficulties to everyone. In response to the Coronavirus village hall volunteers have shown brilliant commitment, resourcefulness and flexibility in stepping up to support their local communities. Plunkett is on hand to help groups who are thinking of hosting a community business – whether in their village hall, place of worship, pub carpark or shipping container! Whether it’s a short-term pop-up service whilst you’re fundraising or a long term ambition.

Alongside ACRE we applaud the impact village halls and their volunteers have on rural life, and are proud to endorse the campaign again this year.