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2002 Celebrations

Since the Village Hall opened it has played an important role in the activities of the local community. On 26 October 2002, a Celebration Dinner was held to recognise the contributions that many local people have made to the running of the Hall over the years. In addition, it was to commemorate the successful operation of the New Hall and to anticipate many more years of its involvement with the people of Coal Aston and the surrounding districts.

Welcome speech by Pamela Wigfield

Mr Mayor, Ladies and Gentleman, on behalf of the Chairman and Management Committee of the Coal Aston Village Hall, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all here tonight.

This gathering is to recognise and celebrate the life of the Coal Aston Village Hall in all its incarnations.

It was way back in the early 1930's, when Coal Aston was caught up in the national 'depression', that the idea was mooted that the village needed a meeting place, somewhere to go, to meet together and talk, perhaps to learn to do things to pass the time.

As usual, a few dedicated people were fired with a dream - money would be needed - and a committee was formed, a Village Hall Fund was started and numerous events were held.

Then came the war years and energies were turned to winning the war and the peace. The end of the war saw the beginning of a huge effort to develop a Village Hall. Ground was purchased and, after still greater efforts, it was with enormous pride that in September 1958 a foundation stone was laid, and a year later the Hall was officially opened with a membership of 200. The dream had become a reality.

Over the decades, the Hall filled a greater need than just somewhere to go and pass the time. It became used for a variety of purposes, for art, culture, caring for the very young and old, indoor sports, and entertainment of all kinds.

Time passed and eventually the Village Hall (or Community Centre, as it became widely known) became very run-down and it was obvious that a little TLC was needed. Again, dedicated people girded their loins and set forth on a journey that took months of research and mountains of application forms. After much effort and sweat, money was allocated from various funding agents. So, we come to the present day and we find ourselves in this magnificent building that is used on a daily basis by social services, a busy IT unit and many regular clubs and associations.

Over the years, many people, too numerous to mention, have given their time and enthusiasm to maintaining the welfare of this building, but it would be inappropriate not to mention just one or two whose efforts have been above and beyond the call of duty.


Helen Askew, who cared for the Hall as if it were her own and had everyone shaking in their shoes when she crossed the car park.


Joan Unwin, another brick, who was the longest-serving committee member and last President.


David Eccles, Treasurer for over twenty years, who held the finances in a safe and tight fist, as well as being Santa Claus at Christmas events and announcer at the Village Galas.


David Stevenson, who became our first Caretaker, manfully aided him on numerous occasions.


Sadly, none of these friends is here to enjoy this celebration, well certainly not in the flesh, but who knows?


In amongst those dedicated souls we must not forget Ron Hubbard, our current Chairman and Treasurer, and retired committee member Derek Andrews, ably supported by our Secretary Philip Bradburn, without whose diligent efforts with all those meetings and application forms for funding, tonight would not be a celebration.

Finally, many, many thanks must go to all of you here this evening, who have given time and effort over the years to make the Coal Aston Village Hall what it is today - a place to be proud of.

Keynote Speech by Philip Bradburn

Chairman, Town Mayor, Honoured Guests, ladies and gentlemen.

The idea for this evening was first sown just over a year ago, when a small number of past and present committee members were chatting, and Anita Marriott suggested it would be nice if we could arrange an evening get together for everyone over a cup of tea.

This was raised in committee, whereon the Chairman proposed that we should combine such an evening with a Celebration to mark the end of the three years of Lottery involvement - which terminated at the end of September. And so this evening came about.

Unfortunately Anita, who started the whole thing off, has another engagement tonight, so she will have to try again. Janet Rodgers, who collected your replies to the invitation to be here, has had a number of other apologies - and many comments expressing this to be a lovely idea - we hope you agree that the occasion has lived up to the idea.

This fine building and fittings cost some £400,000, paid for mainly by the Lottery Millennium Fund, but also by other Sponsors, as you will have seen on the plaque in the entrance hall. It is owned by the community through a Registered Charity set up by our predecessors. Compare this £400,000 with the cost of £2,600 for building the original Village Hall in 1958, and a further £540 for the fittings; £3,140 in all. How times have changed. The achievement of the 1958 Committee has to be applauded. Apart from an educational grant of £1,070, their Building Fund was raised a few pounds at a time from coffee mornings, raffles, galas and the like. And we have a representative of that 1958 committee with us tonight - Norah Wheatley, who, together with her late husband Eric, served the Village Hall for many years. We owe a great deal to the dedication and foresight shown by the members of that committee.

Back to the present. The success of any campaign depends upon the right leader being in the right place at the right time - Nelson, Wellington, Churchill - all men of their time - and we had the good fortune to have Ron Hubbard as our chairman and leader, when he was needed.

Ably assisted by committee member Derek Andrews, negotiations started, firstly with the Dronfield Town Council, who gave us wonderful support, in the shape of good advice and financial help. They helped us obtain the services of FOCUS Consultants, who specialise in preparing bids for funding - application forms are complicated; it is vital that bidders understand the questions on the forms, and more importantly, understand how to respond in appropriate language, which will influence the Lottery's decision makers.

Funding secured, we appointed Tony Tranmer to be our architect, Mike Bennett to be our Project Manager, and accepted a tender from Jarvale Construction to turn the plans into reality. Once again we found the right people to assist us.

Ron and Derek spent hours travelling up and down the country to attend meetings on our behalf. And a year after the funding was granted the new Hall was completed and we were open for business. Derek decided to stand down from the committee after the new Hall was opened and we expressed our thanks to him at that year's Annual General Meeting - in verse as I recall, penned by our Poet in Residence, Anne Ellis. And tonight we have the opportunity to formally express our sincere thanks to Chairman Ron.

They say that behind every successful man is a successful woman - I will alter that slightly and say that 'beside our successful man is an indispensable woman'. I speak of course of Helen.

Last week she was in hospital having a hip replacement, and we are delighted to have you here tonight Helen, in your rightful place beside Ron. Many's the time I have been to see Ron at his home to deal with some Village Hall business - and he has depended upon Helen to find a letter, or remind him of someone's name or who said what on the telephone. Or just to make a cup of tea.

Thank you Helen for being a part of the team.

Ron is not only our Chairman - he wears more hats than Tommy Cooper did in his famous sketch. Letters and phone calls come to him as Acting Treasurer, Fire Prevention Officer, Safety Officer, Funding Manager, General Manager, to mention but a few. Last year he was made an honorary member of the Dronfield Band. He spends hours in this Hall dealing with a host of routine matters and he has turned his hand to dozens of jobs from locking up and sweeping out - to unblocking drains, dealing with faulty locks, setting up the heating system, sorting out bookings ... such is the joy of being retired, Ron.

Ron, we cannot adequately thank you for what you have done and we hope you will continue to do, but perhaps with a less hectic schedule. It is my very pleasant duty to ask you to accept a small token of our very sincere appreciation for ALL you have done for the Village Hall - and through the Village Hall for the community as a whole. It is a debt that we cannot hope to fully repay.

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