THE rural affairs department Defra is urging country folk to get together and share plans ways for turning their village halls into centres fit for the 21st century.
Such halls should provide a wide range of services like post offices, Internet centres, doctors' surgeries and other services facing growing difficulties in the countryside, Rural Affairs Minister, Jim Knight, told the National Village Halls Forum Conference yesterday.
He encouraged delegates to foster a network of information and support for solving the issues village halls are facing today: ""Now is the time to explore our vision for the future role of the village hall in the 21st century.
"Many village halls are exploring some new and exciting ways in which to capture the imagination of their communities and are working hard to develop their potential for the future.
"Their foresight and examples of best practice are something that many more can learn from and I hope that the work of the Village Halls Forum will be encouraged to take this forward so other village halls around the country can follow suit.
"Village halls have played an important part in the life of the community for a very long time. However, the really successful village halls have not rested on their laurels. They have moved forward from their initial inception in the inter-war years and have evolved to meet the needs of their local communities, addressing their health, social and sport needs."
Across Yorkshire & the Humber, Defra is helping more than 13 communities to improve and extend their village halls, with grants ranging from £4,000 to more than £100,000. In the East Riding, Rural Enterprise Scheme funding is supporting a Humber & Wolds Community Council project to co-ordinate funding applications to renovate village halls.