The 'pivotal role' of village halls in rural communities has taken centre stage at a special event held at Northumberland County Hall, Morpeth.

This celebration, coordinated by Community Action Northumberland (CAN) during National Village Halls Week, runs until March 24.

Northumberland is home to more than 160 village halls, often playing the role of the community nucleus, catering to the needs of isolated communities by serving as a gathering spot, a hub for sports and leisure activities, and during tough times, a centre of operations.

This year's event aims to highlight all that is commendable about village halls, particularly efforts towards becoming more environmentally friendly.

The Northumberland Archives Team and CAN collaboratively worked with 30 village halls on a major heritage project.

This project was geared towards understanding the significance of village halls to rural communities, including analysing their usage and considering measures necessary for preserving them as essential resources.

Councillor Jeff Watson, Northumberland County Council cabinet member for Culture, Heritage and Libraries, said: “The network of village halls across Northumberland is the glue that keeps isolated rural communities together.

“They are invaluable to keep people in touch with each other and to provide a safe, warm, place communities can gather.

“There are no better examples of this than during Storm Arwen and the Covid Pandemic when they really came into their own.

“I’m keen to hear about the findings of the Northumberland Village Halls Heritage project which has delved deeply into their role in keeping communities together.

“The event also gave us the opportunity to say a huge thank you to the volunteers and trustees, without whom we would be lost.”

Cllr Watson welcomed guests and other speakers, including John Grundy, historian and broadcaster; Sue Wood, head of Northumberland Archives, who gave an overview of the Village Halls Project; and Andy Dean, Alan Gerono and Louise Currie of CAN.

An exhibition showcasing the heritage project will be held at the County Hall during Village Halls week.

Moreover, many village halls will organise their own events during the week, such as coffee mornings, activities, and heritage displays.