First birthday for hub at heart of local life

Steve Scoffin, Chair of the Northumberland Coast and Lowlands LEADER Local Action Group presents the funding award to representatives of Ellington Village Hall.
Steve Scoffin, Chair of the Northumberland Coast and Lowlands LEADER Local Action Group presents the funding award to representatives of Ellington Village Hall.

A VILLAGE community venture is proving a roaring success as it nears its first anniversary.

Ellington Village Hall Association opened a new community hub last October to provide a library, cafe and rooms for hire.

Staffed entirely by volunteers, it was designed to put the Lynemouth Road premises at the heart of local life.

And 10 months on, it seems to be doing just that.

Committee Chairman Kath Robson said: “We are doing quite well and we have bookings now on a regular basis.

“There is zumba, tai chi and a small luncheon club every Wednesday, which gets people out of the house and gives them a two-course meal.

“It is all staffed by volunteers, we have no paid staff at all, but it is hard work because there aren’t a lot of us.

“We have a fair number of volunteers who wanted to work in the library, but there are only four of us doing the cafe and village hall side, which has a lot to go into for health and safety regulations to make sure we are doing everything right.

“Villagers definitely appreciate it though. We have children’s activities on a Friday afternoon, with up to 22 children sometimes, and it was lovely because one of the members came up to me and said the village hall was one of the best things that ever happened in the village. That is really good to hear and it’s nice to know that we are appreciated for what we have done.”

The association spent three-and-a-half years trying to get the project off the ground and when Northumberland County Council agreed to hand over the building there was a major fund-raising drive to secure more than £100,000 for improvements.

About half, £52,000, was provided by the Northumberland Coast and Lowlands Leader programme, while £30,000 was awarded by the county council. Other funders included Ellington and Linton Parish Council, Stobswood Community Benefits, the Sherburn Hospital Trust, Rio Tinto Alcan, the Mineworkers’ Union and county councillor Milburn Douglas.

The hall was given a full-scale revamp, with its leaking roof repaired, a new kitchen, disabled toilet, emergency doors and ceiling installed, insulation added and new lighting installed — all in time for its opening on October 23 last year.

But despite the success of the centre, Mrs Robson, who is also a member of the parish council, is still eager to bring more to the village.

“There is a lot of unseen work goes into the village hall and a lot of stress, but we got there and had our open day and we have done very well since, but we still haven’t got very much in Ellington,” she said.

“We are hoping to get a youth club started in the hall and the parish council is working on getting a play area because there is nothing for the kids round here.

“We want to try to get the kids something because all they want is somewhere to go to sit and chat, but they have nothing. We are in the process of trying to raise money for that.”

In the meantime, the hard work and dedication of the Ellington Village Hall Association has been recognised by the Northumberland Coast and Lowlands Leader Local Action Group.

Chairman Steve Scoffin presented a plaque to the committee, outlining the group’s support for the centre. The fund has further money to allocate over the next two years and is seeking applications from residents, farmers, landowners, businesses and community groups for similar projects.

Co-ordinator Ivan Hewitt said: “We are committed to helping support and develop communities to have a real say in the delivery of rural development through local community-led projects.

“If you have an idea for developing your small business, improving our natural and cultural assets, benefiting from bio-energy, carrying forward community development, sustaining farming and forestry, encouraging tourism and recreation, or improving basic rural services then we would very much like to hear from you.

“Leader is a community-led approach to rural development and our aim is to work with local communities, organisations and businesses to improve employment opportunities, enhance the environment and increase the quality of life for rural communities in coastal or lowland Northumberland.”

For more information about the fund telephone Mr Hewitt on 01670 863007 or email ivan@leadercoastandlowlands.org.uk