Five chances to win £1,000 for your village hall

Show notes (summary)

So how would you like not one, not two, but FIVE opportunities to receive £1,000 for your village, church or community hall? Well, here’s your chance! Today we’ve launched an Awards programme for village halls and other rural community buildings, to recognise the incredible contribution you all make across a variety of categories. And for this episode we take you through the five categories of what we’re calling The Wonderful Villages Awards. Listen in to find out what we’re looking for and how to enter. This is a fantastic opportunity for your hall to gain recognition, share your achievements and stories and, of course, receive some funds to keep it all going. Good luck everyone!

Transcript: Season 2 / Episode 6

Johnny Thomson 00:01
So, how would you like not one, not two, but five opportunities to receive £1,000 for your village church or community hall? Well, here’s your chance. Hello everyone, I’m Johnny Thomson and welcome to The Village Halls Podcast sponsored by Allied Westminster, the UK’s largest specialist provider of village hall insurance, and the home of VillageGuard. Okay, so you may recall that in January, we told you how we wouldn’t be doing the photo competition again this year, but instead we’d be introducing an Awards programme for village halls and other rural community buildings to recognise the incredible contribution you all make, across a variety of different categories. Well, today to explain more and to add a little more detail to this announcement, I’m joined by two great friends of the show, Gavin Mitchell, MD of our headline sponsors Allied Westminster and Simon Bland, Chairman of Rauceby Village Hall in Lincolnshire and someone who is highly respected for his work in the social. community, voluntary and charitable sectors. Good day gentlemen and welcome back again to The Village Halls Podcast.

Gavin Mitchell 01:22
Hi, Johnny, good to speak to you again. Good to speak to you.

Simon Bland 01:25
Thanks Johnny, Gavin, good to be with you both.

Johnny Thomson 01:28
So what we’ll be doing today is taking you through the five categories of what we’re calling the Wonderful Villages Awards. But before that, let me offer Simon my condolences as because of his involvement in developing and ultimately judging these new awards, Rauceby Village Hall is now the one hall in the UK that won’t be able to enter. So sorry about that Simon.

Simon Bland 01:57
I’m sure we’ll be able to take some of the lessons and some of the stories that are uncovered and use those. So I think we’ll all be winners.

Johnny Thomson 02:06
Yeah, brilliant, great Simon, and Gavin, your company, Allied Westminster is once again being incredibly generous by putting up the prize money for the Awards. So what’s the amount you’re offering up as sponsors here,

Gavin Mitchell 02:19
So it’s a total of £5,000. There’ll be a prize of £1,000 being awarded to the relevant hall within each of the five categories that we’re going to discuss. So a total of £5,000 this year.

Johnny Thomson 02:32
Okay, well fantastic and thank you very much for that. And I imagine that’s whet the appetite of a few listeners already. So I guess we’d better crack on and explain each category and what it is that we’re looking for. So over to you, Gavin, if you don’t mean first, and please tell us about the Wonderful Villages Unsung Hero or Heroes Award.

Gavin Mitchell 02:56
Indeed, well this category recognises an individual or a group of individuals who have worked tirelessly to support their local communities through their involvement with their local village church or community hall. This could mean service to the community over a long period of time, or recent delivery of an impactful initiative. Quite simply, we’re looking for local heroes, singular or plural, who consistently go beyond the call of duty and who deserve recognition for their effort and dedication.

Johnny Thomson 03:25
Fantastic. So that’s that one person that you know, locally, who you admire, and you just think they never stop. They’re restless, they’re relentless in, in helping their community.

Gavin Mitchell 03:37
Or a group of people, Johnny.

Johnny Thomson 03:39
Yeah, of course. Because there is often teams of people like that. Wonderful, brilliant. Thanks for that. Now Simon, we also have the Wonderful Villages Innovation Award. So what’s that one about?

Simon Bland 03:55
Okay, thanks, Johnny. Well, whilst many halls and buildings started with a single purpose, a single focus, they might have been a Reading Room, a School Hall, a Sports Pavilion. The reality is that they’ve been constantly evolving, seeking to be relevant and responsive to the needs of the community. And so what we’d like to try to uncover with this award is that element of innovation. Now it could be from an educational project, an environmental project, a health project, food banks, community kitchens. You know, halls have played a part in community life in all of these ways. And I think we’ve seen over the last couple of years during the pandemic, them operate as hubs for medicine and food distribution. So we’ve got a constantly evolving story. And this category is about celebrating, doing something different, doing something novel. It might be a new use of the space, it might be a new way of serving the community. It really is about uncovering what is new and what’s exciting, and what may well be useful for halls across the country.

Johnny Thomson 05:11
Brilliant Simon, well thank you very much for that. And our third category is one that well I feel is incredibly important, so I’m going to take this one, if you don’t mind, and this is the the Wonderful Villages Young Persons Award. Now, for me, getting the younger generation involved in village, church and community halls is not only essential, it also represents a really big challenge. And I worry to be honest that there’s not enough continuity out there and that the fantastic contribution that halls make to their communities could be lost in the future, if we don’t all do more, to inspire young people to take up the reins and carry on with this great work. So this category is all about that word, involvement. And really, this could mean one of two things when it comes to someone winning this award. For example, it may recognise the participation, or contribution of a young person, or persons connected with your village hall. Or, it may highlight the efforts of your hall to attract and involve young people, as trustees, or providers of facilities or services to the local community. So if your hall involves or is actively doing something that seeks to involve young people, let’s say up to the age of 25 years old, this is the Award for you. Now, I’ve just mentioned 25 there, but I really don’t want us to get hung up on that. If you’ve got someone really inspirational who’s 26, 27 or 28, we’re not about to exclude them, okay. Look, I’m in my mid 50s, so young means, you know, in your 30s to me. So it’s the principle that counts here, we’re looking for really what I would call the next generation taking things on. So young doesn’t have to be any kind of strict definition as far as we’re concerned. So anyway, that’s that one. Next Gavin is the Wonderful Villages Project of the Year Award. Yes, indeed, the Project of the Year. And this is another broad category and applies to almost any project, your local village, church or community hall is delivering to support your community. This could range from rebuilding or upgrading your facilities, to an initiative to develop a community business or, for example, to tackle loneliness and isolation. And here, we are looking for evidence of hard work commitment and success or progress in achieving your project’s objectives. Now, I know that we’ve heard so many examples throughout the year through last year Johnny on The Village Halls Podcast> There was terrific examples in there. So in many ways, it is indeed a broad category, I think as time will tell, as the applications come in. I ‘m really looking forward to seeing what comes in for that one, to be honest with you Gavin, because there’ll be some great stuff. And the final category Simon, which is a little different to the others, isn’t it? Tell me about what we’re calling the Wonderful Villages Inspirational Story Award?

Simon Bland 08:39
Thanks, Johnny. Yes, I mean, this this one really, I guess, does do what it says on the tin. I think we all understand the power of an inspirational story. And I think because of this it’s quite difficult to be specific on this, because this may well be an event, it might be a person or a character. Or it might be the story of how the hall came into being. I think it really is that opportunity to move beyond the photograph and into the narrative of a community and the importance of a hall. So there is no time limit on this, there is no specified sense that it has to have occurred recently. This is about sparking that interest, giving us that inspiration, and allowing us to share and support stories across the country that really will, I hope, tug on our heartstrings, give us that sense that we can achieve something outstanding and just embrace the inspiration of rural living.

Johnny Thomson 09:57
Yeah, it’s interesting this one. You know I think if you’re still kind of a little bit uncertain about this and you’re looking for inspiration on what this Award is about, you could always go back and listen to some of our previous episodes. In season one, episode six, we talked the Jane Crofts, for example, about Wello Church School Room and how she and her sister kind of worked together despite the fact that she was remotely located in Germany, for example. And later on in the year, Steve Barnes talked to us about how there’d been an incredible community spirit that kept the villagers of Downe going during the worst times of the pandemic. And characters from Emery Down. Remember, you know, we were told about a snake catcher there and Bubbenhall, as well, with the old Major who had survived the Japanese prisoner of war camp. You know, there’s so much material out there connected to village halls that just make for fascinating stories. And that’s, these are the kind of stories and the personalities and so on that we’re wanting to hear about.

Simon Bland 11:09
Without a doubt and obviously unable to enter the story of the time the elephants came to Rauceby will have to wait for another opportunity. But adding that colour, that character, and as I say that inspiration.

Johnny Thomson 11:29
Brilliant Simon, you’ve got me fascinated with the elephants mind!

Gavin Mitchell 11:33
I thought the only elephant in the room was you not being able to enter?

Johnny Thomson 11:40
Yeah, we’re going to leave Simon out next year, just to give him a chance to enter this category and tell us all about the elephants. Brilliant, great Simon and Gavin. Thanks for that. And so I guess all that’s left to do now is just explain what to do next if you’re interested in entering these Awards. You’ll need to get your entry in by around the end of October, so plenty of time there. But at the same time don’t delay as we all know how quickly time can pass. Full details are on our website, at right now, along with some guidelines for entering and those all important entry forms, of course. One thing, we’re asking you to limit your entry to 600 words at the most initially, but we may well get back to you for more details. So please make sure you give us those all important contact details. And we may even ask you to come on the show and tell us more. If we do ask you to come on, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to win by the way. But it does mean you’re probably in with a good shout, that’s all I’m saying. Remember, one of the big reasons this podcast exists is so that we can share ideas and things that work, so that other halls can replicate all of the good stuff in their community. So I hope you’ll support us with this, whether you’re a winner, or not. So there you have it. That’s the Wonderful Villages Awards for 2022. I don’t know about you, but I’m really excited to start seeing all those entries

Gavin Mitchell 13:28
Very much, I think it’s going to be great. There’s going to be some really interesting stuff coming through, I’m sure it.

Simon Bland 13:33
I just can’t wait to see what people can share with us. And what we can share then to the wider hall community.

Gavin Mitchell 13:42
Indeed, indeed.

Johnny Thomson 13:44
Yeah, exactly. I’m really looking forward to hearing about them, and also being given the opportunity to tell everybody about them as well. Brilliant. Well, thanks Simon and Gavin for coming on again.

Gavin Mitchell 13:57
My pleasure.

Johnny Thomson 13:58
We’ll be bringing you updates on the Awards every now and then so keep listening. And we’ll be inviting a few more people to help us with the judging of the Awards too, so watch out for some further announcements. But yeah, thanks guys for coming on. And also thanks for your time., your commitment, you know.

Simon Bland 14:17
Thank you, Johnny. Thanks, Gavin.

Gavin Mitchell 14:19
Yes, thank you, Simon.

Johnny Thomson 14:20
And many thanks, of course to our headline sponsor and specialist insurance provider Allied Westminster for making our podcast possible, and whose services you can discover more about at And to online booking system provider Hallmaster who also sponsor our podcast and can be found at You’ve been listening to The Village Halls Podcast, a unique listening community for Britain’s village, church and community halls and anyone interested in the vital community services they provide. We’ll be back again soon with another episode, so if you haven’t already, please visit to subscribe, sign up for updates, link through to our social media pages and to find out more. But until the next time, good bye for now.