Case Study: Forgandenny Village Hall
Forgandenny Village Hall is a vital local facility. Between 2012 and 2022, the RWE Lochelbank Wind Farm Community Fund has awarded eight grants totalling just over £19,000.
Funding was initially awarded to renovate and preserve the Hall and latterly to ward off the financial effects of the Covid pandemic and cost of living crisis.
The village population of 630 people has benefited hugely from all the activities and events taking place at the Hall over the past decade.
The village of Forgandenny lies four miles south of Perth and has a population of approximately 630. The village hall has long been the only meeting place in the village, being used for a wide range of activities including weekly Pilates, badminton, self-defense, keep-fit, dance and amateur dramatics. A total of seventy people regularly attend these classes.
The local primary school, which has fifty pupils, uses the hall regularly for services, plays and fundraising activities. Monthly film nights attract an average of fifty people, and regular annual events, such as the Burns supper, Christmas Fayre, Halloween, and New Year parties, have averaged one hundred attendees. Coffee mornings, ceilidhs, quiz nights, jazz nights, Forgandenny in Flower, music recitals and a pop-up restaurant have also been well attended. It is also let for private use, such as for birthday parties or funeral teas.
The hall is therefore a very important facility for the local community. The 19th Century building is predominantly of red sandstone and was experiencing major problems with damp. This was thought to be a result of the type mortar used when repointing the building in the past. This cement mortar had formed an impermeable layer and did not allow damp to escape. Gutters, downpipes, facias, and a stone chimney were in a poor state of repair. The kitchen area and interior had received minimal attention for years, leaving them in a poor state.
Following the launch of the RWE Wind Farm Community Fund in 2012, the Hall committee successfully applied for two grants totaling £3,740 to renovate the kitchen. By 2016, the exterior repairs could no longer be ignored, and the Committee sought support to make the building safe and eliminate the damp problem, and hence safeguard the well-used community asset for the future. The renovation project was undertaken in two phases. Initially £1,000 was awarded from Lochelbank Wind Farm Community Fund in 2016 for a professional survey and remedial repairs to the porch area of the building. The porch repair was used to test the effectiveness of repointing with lime mortar in resolving the damp issue.
The repairs to the porch proved successful. As a result, the hall’s management committee applied for further funding to remove the old cement mortar and replace it with lime mortar on the remainder of the building. £8,973 was awarded in April 2017 to carry out a range of repairs to the fabric of the building identified as urgent in the earlier survey. These included: stabilisation of the stone chimney; repairs to guttering, facias, downpipes and soakaways, and installation of ‘tell-tales’ to monitor any movement in the walls.
Repairs to the hall took longer than expected due to bad weather and the need to keep the disruption to users to a minimum. However, the fabric of the hall was successfully repaired, resolving the damp issue, and making safe the potentially dangerous chimney. A local stonemason was used to carry out the majority of the works, increasing the economic benefit of the grant funding to the local area.
The Committee also fundraised successfully from other sources to sand and varnish the wooden flooring, and paint walls and ceilings.
A grant of £3,622 was also awarded from the Lochelbank Wind Farm Community Fund in 2022 to complete the works, namely, to refurbish the wooden surrounds and wooden benches.
With the building now in a good state of repair, the hall has continued to provide a safe and comfortable space for use by the wide range of groups and clubs described above and will do so for the foreseeable future. Moreover, the hall management committee has been able to build on existing usage to make the hall more financially viable in the long-term.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020/21 and the cost-of-living crisis emerging afterwards put pressure on many local charities. The RWE Wind Farm Community Fund Panel proactively contacted village halls in the area and offered grants based on estimates of lost income and/or income unable to keep up with costs to help Committees like Forgandenny Village Hall to weather these storms.
Between 2020 and 2023, Forgandenny Village Hall has received three small grants totaling £2,255 to help its financial resilience.
Village halls can be of major importance to rural communities. They are a hub of community activity, contributing to the health, social cohesion and quality of life of the local population. However, many village halls are older buildings – bringing challenges for voluntary committees when major repairs and maintenance are required – and like other charitable groups are not immune to the effects of unexpected economic events.
The Forgandenny Village Hall committee has had to deal with delays caused by weather and the practical difficulties of carrying out works while the building is in regular use. However, works have been successfully completed, and the future of an important community asset secured.
The RWE Lochelbank Wind Farm Community Fund has demonstrated the importance of supporting such groups to weather both actual and economic storms at crucial moments, and in turn helping groups attract and raise further funding to preserve vital community assets for the long-term.