In 2006 the Village Hall in Grimsargh was struggling. They’d recently had to shelve highly ambitious plans for a major extension and development programme, when the costs compared to available funds and grants were found to be somewhat unaligned.
Now it would be great to be able to say that the team and I sat down, carried out a SWOT analysis, came up with a business plan and then executed a structured programme of change. However, that isn’t how it happened and my experience shows that, for community groups, a technique I’ve dubbed “Slowly, Gently, Catchey Monkey” can be more fruitful.
Working with volunteers is very unlike standard business activities. Motivations are entirely different and it is important to try to ensure that people are kept reasonably within their comfort zones and feel part of a cohesive team.
So, over a period of time, the steps we took included:
Some targeted maintenance works to improve the facility for current users.
Setting up a now highly successful monthly farmers’ market, with café, all profits from which go into the coffers.
Taking on running our own bar – previously carried out by one of the local pubs. Now a highly profitable part of the enterprise.
Using available (Section 106)* funds to carry out a carefully designed extension and improvement programme to give a much needed new kitchen, improved bar facilities, additional storage and a new patio. Total cost about a sixth of the scheme that had previously been shelved.
Setting up a website to promote the new facilities.
Installation of a 10kWp solar array with funding from the Landfill Communities Fund – providing a regular income from the Feed-in-Tariff and cutting energy costs
The Village Hall has gone from borderline profitability to now enjoying a rate of return that should guarantee it a long and happy future.
* Section 106 funds - Under S106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as amended, contributions can be sought from developers towards the costs of providing community and social infrastructure, the need for which has arisen as a result of a new development taking place. In the case of Grimsargh, the addition of a large new area of housing in the village, behind the Village Hall, allowed us to access such funds.