Tony Everard is a Councillor for Bocking North Ward. In 2011, he and several others took over the management of Glebe Hall in Braintree when it was threatened with closure. Here is the story of how they successfully created a thriving and much-valued community facility used by dozens of local groups:
“It all started in 2011 when I was told that if nobody came forward to run the hall (which was previously run by Braintree District Council until a policy change) it would be knocked down, with the possibility that flats would be built in its place.
Determined not to lose this fantastic community facility, I called a public meeting at the hall, where over 100 people attended. From that meeting a number of people came forward who shared the view and we formed a committee to save the hall, holding meetings to plan our strategy to take it over. We also set about becoming a registered charity, joined RCCE (the Rural Community Council for Essex) and created a website.
We now have a management committee consisting of Trustees and representatives from our regular hirers. Terry Surrey was appointed as Chairman and has provided strong leadership throughout. Moia Thorogood is Vice Chair, Linda May, treasurer, and Katherine Heighton, minutes Secretary. Other key roles were taken by Gill Brown, Enid Robinson and myself, as Press Officer and trustee.
Terry and I negotiated the terms and conditions of our lease from Braintree District Council and, with the help of Rob Smith of Smith Law Partnership, we took on the lease on 1 November 2011, with Sandra Crosby of Greenfields and Cllr David Mann assuming the role of Holding Trustees.
Starting with just £500 in our funds we reviewed the running costs of the hall and minimized our outgoings and running costs. We wanted to do this without raising our hire fees and we are proud to say that we are still charging the same fees as Braintree District Council did in 2010 (from just £12 per hour).
We have always been keen to improve facilities and used all opportunities to do so, including one of Greenfields’ contractors at the time, Higgins Construction, providing a new kitchen. We have always been very grateful for the help that Greenfields have given us over the years and their recognition for our hard work and success; and, of course, Braintree District Council, who have also been instrumental.
Another contractor of Greenfields and also the Council, Goundwork, created new landscaped paths and entrance way to replace a very dangerous slope, and also added steps from the car park. And we were very lucky that when our obsolete boiler packed up we had it replaced by a pair of fairly new ones removed from a Council building being pulled down in Halstead.
We are very successful, having built up a large and loyal hiring base while at the same time making many improvements to the building making it more practical and attractive. These include internal modifications to help with storage, LED lighting throughout and new exterior doors and shutters. We also now have a defibrillator outside the hall for community use, and many more plans for the future. These include an autonomous committee room, which could be run separately to main hall where preschool or other child groups could be, and roof insultation.
We have been blessed with very hard working and enthusiastic committee members over the years; helping us through the embryonic stages. Some of the original committee have moved on, and we thank them for the time they volunteered to help the hall. Laura Richardson now runs the very efficient booking system and Karen Compton Cook is our current secretary. Charley and Gale Cook do the opening and closing for parties and other associated duties.
To all of our past and present committee members and everyone else who has put a lot of work into making our hall so successful, we are very grateful.”
Tony Everard, Councillor Tony Everard, Bocking North Ward
Find out about the hall by visiting the website: Glebe Community Hall
Follow them on Facebook by clicking on this link: www.facebook.com/glebecommunityhallbraintree/