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South Holland village halls coping with loss of bookings due to lockdown

Village hall managers and committees are weighing up the prospects of reopening to community groups after months without income due to lockdown.

Dance classes, bingo nights, wedding receptions and lunch clubs have all been put on hold as elderly and vulnerable villagers, who would normally use the hall, protect themselves from the coronavirus.

But government guidelines about social distancing, queue management, hand sanitisers and toilet cleaning are added considerations for village hall trustees in deciding when to reopen after months without any income from bookings.

A public meeting to launch a new leaflet about Captain Matthew Flinders, held at the Ruby Hunt Centre, Donington, in June 2019.Photo: 030619-8.
A public meeting to launch a new leaflet about Captain Matthew Flinders, held at the Ruby Hunt Centre, Donington, in June 2019.Photo: 030619-8.

Margaret Kenworthy, manager of the Ruby Hunt Centre, in Donington, said: "It's extremely difficult to operate, unless you do it in the correct manner.

"However, we've got out groups waiting to get back using the centre.

"Obviously, there are things to look at like hand sanitisers at each event and how many people we can have in the building at any one time.

"It's complicated but we're running a trial on August 5 when we'll be keeping the front of the building while bringing in a chiropodist for one-to-one appointments booked in advance.

"One of our staff will be there to make sure the guidelines are followed strictly and we're hoping to hand sanitisers in place throughout the building."

Mrs Kenworthy, who was awarded a British Empire Medal in June 2013 for services to the community in Donington, explained that utility bills for the centre were being paid out of its own funds, with help from South Holland District Council.

"Normally, the centre would be in use every day of the week for one reason or another," Mrs Kenworthy said.

"We have a lunch club on Wednesdays that an awful lot of elderly people would look forward to.

"It's such a pity that we can't operate it, but we do have a certain amount of savings to meet the costs of gas and electricity, although we're not using a lot at the moment."

Neil Wright, chairman of The Curlew Centre, in Sutton Bridge, said: "We actually had our first users back in the centre on Thursday.

The Curlew Centre in Sutton Bridge.
The Curlew Centre in Sutton Bridge.

"But the regular users are very apprehensive about coming back, most of them being elderly in nature.

"There are ongoing costs that go out every month and we also have two caretakers who do excellent work, so we've kept them going because we didn't want to lose them.

"Our past income is one of the things that has kept us going, but the biggest thing now is trying to get some of the regular users back.

"Before lockdown, the centre was in use several days a week and there was always some people in there.

"But we went from that to nothing so the important thing is that when we are able to reopen, we do so with the guidance, rules and regulations being followed."

David Blaxter, secretary of trustees for Whaplode St Catherine Memorial Hall, said: "We've made a huge range of improvements and repairs to the hall during the lockdown.

Whaplode St Catherine Memorial Hall.
Whaplode St Catherine Memorial Hall.

"People may have seen the new roof and the outside of the hall which is all freshly painted, with new curtains put up and rewiring inside.

"We're in discussions as to when we can reopen, with most village halls seeming to be looking at October or November.

"The only thing we have to pay each year is our insurance, which is a major expense.

"But we have a certain amount of funds available to pay it, even if we don't reopen before January 2021."

A South Holland District Council spokesman said: "Village halls play an important role in the heart of our local communities and over 75 per cent of organisations with links to village halls in the district, excluding those owned by parish councils, have accessed vital support during the coronavirus through the Government grant schemes and by claiming relief on their business rates accounts.

"We would urge any business or venue which is unsure of what help is available to them to visit the Government’s Support Finder tool and the Business Lincolnshire Growth Hub website, which provides access to the latest COVID-19 information and other business support."

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