AS vital community services such as pubs and post offices are continuously threatened with closure, village halls are experiencing a resurgence.

With more than 10,000 village halls across the country, these spaces provide vital hubs for communities to connect, collaborate and celebrate.

Rural areas can often seem forgotten and isolating for the people that live there, but community spirit often acts as a driving force to unite its residents.

The government introduced a £3m fund to improve village halls and better connect rural communities across the country last year with dozens of venues already reaping the rewards.

At an event last week, village halls throughout Northumberland were given an added boost after receiving news of £300,000 of funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to mark national Village Halls Week.

Rosaleen Doonan, chairwoman of Slaley Commemoration Hall, which was one of the village halls to benefit from the funding, said the service was vital despite seeing its usage numbers decrease recently.

“It’s all we have in the local area and it’s for older and younger generations. We don’t have a very good bus service in the area so the village hall is used as the main place to visit for many people.

“We have received a grant fund for the first phase of regeneration work for our building, but without the lottery fund there would not be any way for village halls to get their money.

Committee members at Slaley Commemoration Hall hope the funding can bring the hall into the 21st century.

“Hopefully that will bring people back to the hall and bring it into the 21st century and make it viable for today.

“With the work we’re doing, it is hoped more families will come and visit the hall and see what facilities and activities we have on offer,” Rosaleen added.

“I don’t think village halls would survive if it was not for the work of Community Action Northumberland (CAN).”

Humshaugh Village Hall is another community venue that has benefitted from the funding. “It’s very important,” said Diana Linnett, trustee at Humshaugh Village Hall.

“It’s in use every week and I don’t think there’s a day when it is not open. It’s a great community building as it’s in the heart of the village next to the church and near the pub.”

In 2017, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) noted the decline in village hall attendance as organisers struggled to get younger people through the door.

Volunteers and event organisers have since took on a forward thinking approach. Throughout the week the community venues host activities such as zumba, yoga, film clubs, drama clubs, badminton sessions and parish council meetings.

Diana added: “It’s the only public building in the village where activities can take place.

“It’s always been a key place. Particular activities come and go but there is always something else that people want to do.”

The hall, like many others throughout the district, is operated by a team of dedicated volunteers which helps maintain, manage and improve the buildings.

CAN has been helping village halls for almost 70 years offering support and advice, with Louise Currie fulfilling the village halls advisor role.

Louise explained: “In rural villages where there is often no post office, no pub, no school or shop, the village hall is a lifeline. Some people would have nowhere else to go without them.

“Thanks to the funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, we can bring people together with their neighbours and wider community by creating warm, welcoming village halls.”

Last year saw 11 halls awarded £390,000 through the project, which managed to then bring in further funding from other sources, leveraging in an estimated extra £200,000.

Louise added: “The work has made a huge amount of difference to local people.

“When people visit to see if they want to use the hall, they are bowled over.

“We have so many more events now and lots of people, who have never been to the halls from within and outside the community, tell us it’s a delightful place to be.

“Our regular users are so proud of what they have achieved and even offer conducted tours and demonstrations of the new facilities.

“The refurbishment has transformed the hall, its flexibility and the way it is perceived. We can genuinely say ‘we love our village hall’.

Tynedale village halls which will benefit from the £300,000 funding boost include: Elsdon Village Hall, Humshaugh Village Hall, Stamfordham Village Hall and Recreational Ground, Slaley Commemoration Hall, Acomb and Byrness Village Halls.