Apples & Bikes Sept 2013

Village hall campaigners are nearly halfway there

This is an article by Fran Bardsley, in the Oxford Mail on 24th September

CAMPAIGNERS planning to extend and redevelop Sandford-on-Thames Village Hall are celebrating after landing a second major grant.

In July, the scheme was awarded £100,000 from South Oxfordshire District Council. Now the hall development committee has secured a further £75,000 from Wren, an organisation which distributes landfill tax credit money to good causes.

With more than £20,000 already raised through fundraising activities and a weekly market in the hall, the new funds take organisers close to the halfway mark for the £500,000 project.

Abi Johnson, who sits on the hall management and development committees, said: “It’s a massive step for us. It’s very exciting.”

The Wren grant was made up of the maximum £50,000 along with a further £25,000 for exceptional projects.

Winning the two grants will allow organisers to unlock other funding streams too.

The plan is to extend and improve the hall with additional meeting rooms, a community cafe and a shop.

The entire sum of £500,000 must be raised before the project can start, and Mrs Johnson said she was confident that would be achievedby spring next year, when building work is scheduled to begin.

Mrs Johnson and other members of the community founded a group called Talking Shop which holds a weekly market in the hall, and will run a community hub with a café, shop and kitchen for hire in the revamped building.

Although fundraising activities continue and the group is waiting to hear about several grants, new initiatives are already being brought into place, including an apple pressing day on Saturday, October 5.

Mrs Johnson said: “We are starting a lunch club for grown-ups in November.

“We also have a team of people within the project who are training to be bicycle mechanics to keep the bikes of Sandford on the road.

“We are starting to develop into some of the areas that we as a community hub aim to house so it’s exciting. We are moving forwards even as we are still working towards the new building.”

As well as the new lunch club, the next focus for the organisers is to continue fundraising, with more applications going to funding sources in the next few months.

Mrs Johnson said: “It’s starting to feel very possible now – more than very possible – and I think the community is starting to really believe it’s going to happen.”