Umberleigh Village Hall
Chairman’s Report 2020
This Report covers the period May 2019 to May 2020, a year in which the Village Hall Committee has had to respond to a number of unexpected issues, which will be covered later in the report..
The Garden Show and Dog Show, held in August 2019, was opened by our then MP, Peter Heaton Jones and was a success, with a higher number of adult competition entrants as well as an increased profit compared with 2018. A full report from the Garden Show Secretary was produced in September 2019. A significant change was that the marquees previously supplied by the Torrington Farmers’ Hunt are no longer available, so the Committee agreed to purchase a concertina type gazebo. This is the same pattern as used at Atherington, and we have an agreement to share them when necessary. The gazebo will be a useful asset for other outdoor events.
After six years, the Garden Show secretary announced that he would be stepping down in order to concentrate on his role as Committee chairman. We have been fortunate in finding volunteers to take over the running of the Show in future.
For some time, the Committee has been considering the provision of additional storage for tables and other items, which are currently stored at Umberleigh Barton Farm. With the aid of grants from Devon County Council and North Devon Council, a metal shed was purchased and in February 2020 erected in the Hall grounds by a group of volunteers. This has now been brought into use.
Under the heading “Bringing the Community Together”, the Committee has produced a new document setting out our Objectives and Management Policy. This includes equal opportunities, volunteer and safeguarding policies, which are now included in our terms of hire. Increasing use is being made of the Village Hall website, in particular to set out the terms of hire under Covid.
A number of housekeeping improvements have been made, including the purchase of new tablecloths and cutlery. A new defibrillator has been purchased and installed by the front door of the Hall. This was partially paid for by fund raising events such as the “Safari Lunch” in September 2019.
In January 2020, a spokesman for Great Western Railway addressed a meeting at the Village Hall to announce their plans for providing additional parking places at Umberleigh station and for introducing parking charges. The Committee felt that the proposals could have an adverse effect on the community value of the Hall, as parking charges could deter potential visitors to major events such as the Garden Show and Antiques Fairs. A letter setting out our position in detail was sent to our new MP Selaine Saxby in January 2020. She put our views to the interim Managing director of GWR, but to date (June 2020) no substantive reponse has been received. Although GWR stated the work would be completed by the end of March 2020, nothing has yet been done.
In March 2020 the Government announced that in order to limit the spread of Coronavirus (COVID 19) all public events should be suspended until further notice. At a Trustees meeting held in mid March, we therefore decided to close the Hall with immediate effect and to take no further bookings. In addition it was decided to cancel the Garden Show and Dog Show; this was in line with decisions taken by the organisers of other local and county-level shows.
The Trustees continue to meet virtually via Zoom and are keeping the situation under review. Socially-distanced meetings of the Trustees have also been held in the hall. Reopening of the Hall took place on 1 September in line with Government advice. As a Covid secure venue, we require all intending hirers of the Hall to comply with risk assessment requirements and keep a record of attendees. As the Covid situation develops we shall continue to adhere to current Government guidelines to ensure the safety of all our community.
When closure was announced, our caretaker decided to step down from the position he has held for some years. We greatly appreciate his dedicated service over that time and we are pleased to announce that a new caretaker has been appointed who has now taken up his duties.
The Hall committee continue to work with Umberleigh Academy on the Park and Play project. Progress on this is now speeding up; grant funding has now been obtained and work will hopefully start soon to prepare the site and install the equipment.
In general, the Hall has continued to be a popular venue for local events. As in previous years, the Hall was well used up to March this year, with a spectrum of activities including antiques fairs, art classes, dance classes, band practice as well as private parties and celebrations. Many organisations also use the Hall for meetings: schools, North Devon District Council, Young Farmers, Women’s Institute and the Tarka Rail Association for example.
Umberleigh Village Hall has for more than thirty years been the venue for the very popular Umberleigh Pantomime, produced by the Really Useless Theatre Company. The 2020 performances performance of Camelot were, as always ,well attended We greatly value this ongoing relationship. The Bell made a donation from their proceeds at the bar.
Of course, nothing at the Hall happens without the hard work and dedication of a large number of local people who give freely of their time to plan, organise, set up, clear away all the many events we host. Our fund-raising group remains active in coming up with innovative ways of making money through popular events , such as the Village BBQ for example. In addition, the regular tasks of grass cutting, hedge trimming and general maintenance work are all undertaken by volunteers. However, as some residents move away and others join our community, we are always pleased to welcome new volunteers to help run this vital asset.
I think it can be fairly said that UVH plays an important role in fostering a real sense of community and belonging. Now the Hall has re-opened , I look forward to seeing it continuing to create an environment in which the entire community – young and old – can benefit by active involvement in the range of activities we support.
David J. Hawkings
Chairman,Umberleigh Village Hall Committee
4 October 2020