Inspire and win £2,500 for your village hall

Show notes (summary)

Has your village, church or community hall delivered or achieved something that could inspire others around the country? If so, you could receive £1,000, £1,500 or even £2,500 in this year’s Village Halls Inspiration Awards. Find out more…

Transcript: Season 3 / Episode 5

Johnny Thomson 00:01
Can your village, church or community hall inspire others around the country? If it can, you could receive £2,500. 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. So last year, thanks to our friends at Allied Westminster, five village halls across the country were rewarded with £1,000 each for contributing to their communities. And the good news is, we’re doing something similar again this year. However, we’ve made a few changes to keep things a little more simple and to offer bigger prizes. To help quickly explain what we’re going to be doing this year, and why we’re doing it, I’m joined by Gavin Mitchell, MD of our headline sponsors Allied Westminster. Hi, Gavin, always great to have you on the show.

Gavin Mitchell 01:05
Hi, Johnny, it’s great to speak to you again. How are you doing?

Johnny Thomson 01:08
I’m alright mate. How are you?

Gavin Mitchell 01:12
Very well thanks, very well.

Johnny Thomson 01:14
Been up to anything interesting recently?

Gavin Mitchell 01:16
I’ve been working hard, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the far northwest of Scotland, both work and pleasure, and quite remarkable. It’s been so dry. I don’t… in all the years I’ve been been travelling the northwest of Scotland, I have never ever seen it so dry. Incredible. All the rivers were empty, the lochs were low and amazingly I think although it’s been great in England, the weather, I understand that it’s been even drier on the northwest of Scotland, but your know the past few days has put paid to that Johnny. Normal weather is back.

Johnny Thomson 01:49
Yeah, it’s been an odd year. It was very cold for a long, long time and then all of a sudden it’s just gone back to being very very, very hot. Just shows you’ve got to be careful what you complain about, you know, there was a was time not so long ago we used to say what happened to all the seasons? Now certainly summer’s back with avengeance.

Gavin Mitchell 02:12
Indeed. I think the big concern in places like, well not just northwest Scotland, but particularly this year in northwest Scotland was, well across most of the highlands was the danger of wildfires, because the ground was tinder dry. And of course, I mean, that’s very dangerous for rural communities, let alone the environmental impact.

Johnny Thomson 02:33
Absolutely. And I guess a lot of the halls there are probably made from wood and timber construction, as well.

Gavin Mitchell 02:39
Well, pretty solid stone built halls, most of the highland halls and the northern Scottish halls, but it’s amazing how much damage a wildfire can do. And of course, invariably rural fire stations are going to be far away from where the fire engines are needed. Anyway, I think we’re past the danger at the moment for now.

Johnny Thomson 03:04
Good, good. Now, Gavin I mentioned we ran an awards programme last year, covering all kinds of categories such as young people, innovation, unsung heroes, and so on. But this year, we’ve decided to make things a little more easy, shall we say for everyone out there, right?

Gavin Mitchell 03:24
Yes, you’re absolutely right Johnny, it’s going to be a lot simpler. We’re offering three awards this year rather than five. And it’s all based on one very broad category for everyone to enter. This way, we can offer slightly better prizes and a level playing field for all.

Johnny Thomson 03:39
And what are we going to be calling this year’s awards Gavin?

Gavin Mitchell 03:44
Well, inspirationally Johnny, we’re going to call them The Village Halls Inspiration Awards.

Johnny Thomson 03:51
And where did the inspiration for that come from?

Gavin Mitchell 03:54
I think doing what it says on the tin, Johnny. Something we’ve learned a lot by working with village halls over the years and certainly over all the times you’ve been doing these podcasts. You can see where I’m coming from.

Johnny Thomson 04:08
Yeah, yeah. And before we get into it all, I just want to say thanks again, you know, for your generosity here. There will be, I understand, three amounts of funding up for grabs this time. Third place award winner is going to receive £1,000 second place receiving £1,500, and top award, £2,500, which is just absolutely fantastic. So thanks Allied Westminster for putting such a great price fund forward this year. But Gavin, yeah, explain some of the thinking behind this one category and this inspirational stuff this year. What exactly is it that the judges will be looking for?

Gavin Mitchell 04:55
Well, you know, the whole idea of inspirational… the inspiration awards approach is, I suppose by us trying not to be too prescriptive by, by basically having a clean sheet and just open ears, open eyes to what’s going out there. I mean, one of the things, again, that was spoken about this before. As you know, we have many thousands of village halls customers the length and breadth of the country. In fact, just the other day, somebody told me that by road from one of our most southern village halls to our most northern is over 900 miles, and that includes ferries of course, but by road it’s over 900 miles. But the thing is, leaving aside geographical diversity, of course, village halls are large and small, and you know, their mission for working with their local communities, and working on behalf of local communities and for the local communities. You know, there’s a lot of variety, there’s a lot of diversity. But that being said, there’s a huge amount of common ground in terms of everything from governance, to fundraising, and so on, and so forth. So we’re looking for anything any village, church or community hall is doing, or is involved in, that might inspire other halls to do something similar. So it could be a local project, or it could be an activity, or just a story they can tell that will, and this is crucial, that will help other halls do great work for their communities. Because sustainability, community engagement, and the importance of the village halls in the community and keeping that vibrant, alive, growing, sustainable. That’s crucial. So the inspiration award, that’s what it’s all about.

Johnny Thomson 06:40
Yeah, so basically, we’re looking for anyone connected with a hall in some way to tell us about anything that others could kind of either replicate, or others could learn from, or just, it’s all in there…

Gavin Mitchell 06:54
Inspired by.

Johnny Thomson 06:55
Yeah, Inspired by. And the other thing I like about this idea, Gavin, you know when I look back on what we’ve done with a podcast, it very much fits in with all of that. You know, I’ve spoken to so many people from village halls, and that whole diversity thing that you mentioned, you know, in terms of the different sizes of hall, different geographical location, but the one thing they have in common is they’re always full of ideas, are always full of activity. And it’s great when you pick up on an idea from from a guest that’s been on the show, and then you hear that other halls have listened in, and they’ve taken, you know, a part of, or an essence of that idea, like I don’t know, something like a photo exhibition, or a storytelling event, or, or anything. And, you know, for me, it’s always, it’s always great to hear about that. So, anything that we can discover and uncover as part of this awards that would help to inspire other halls, I think would be fantastic.

Gavin Mitchell 07:55
Absolutely. I mean, obviously, in the past, you know Johnny we did the photograph competitions, and they were great fun, and that was good and entertaining, and so forth. But I think certainly with, with all the podcasts that you’ve been doing, and we’ve been very, very happily sponsoring, so many good stories are coming out, so many good stories. And it’s for village halls, by village halls, to village halls, this is what it’s all about. I mean, it’s very nice doing a photo competition, and I’m sure that the prize money was well received by the village halls. But it’s more than just the money. It’s the information, it’s the ideas, the inspiration, hence the Inspiration Awards.

Johnny Thomson 08:35
Yeah, and we’re always blown away aren’t we by, by so many of the things we discover through this, it’s tremendous.

Gavin Mitchell 08:43
Weird and wonderful, yes. So Johnny, answer me this… what’s happening next, when are people going to hear about this?

Johnny Thomson 08:52
Okay. Well, our plan is to open up the entries from the 31st July and this gives us a little bit of time you know to get the website ready and so on. There’ll be more information on the website at the from the end of next month, and I’m saying that in June, if that doesn’t quite make its way out until the beginning of July. So just get the dates right there. By the end of July, you know there’ll definitely be stuff on our website where people can put in an online entry form and discover more about the Awards themselves and what we’re looking for. After that, you’ll then have until 17th November this year to get your entry in. This will allow, you know everybody enough time to consider and to think about their entries, but also will allow our judges just enough time to make three halls very happy for Christmas. And I can’t believe I’m mentioninmg Christmas in June, Gavin.

Gavin Mitchell 09:56
So what you basically said Johnny, having just passed the Longest Day, you’ve got until about the shortest day to get your entries in.

Johnny Thomson 10:05
Oh I like it. You’ve out-done me on the segway front. Well done mate, round of applause.

Gavin Mitchell 10:15
The time travels fast, so you know, think on it.

Johnny Thomson 10:22
Tremendous. No thanks very much Gavin. I mean, in essence that’s it, that is The Village Halls Inspiration Awards for 2023. It’s your chance out there to win either £2,500, £1,500 or £1,000 for your village church or community hall, thanks to our friends at Allied Westminster. Gavin, thanks once again frst of all for coming on. And thanks for your continued generosity around Britain’s fantastic network of village halls and the communities that they support, of course.

Gavin Mitchell 10:58
Thanks. Thanks very much, Johnny. It’s been, it’s been great and I look forward to watching the competition unfold with you.

Johnny Thomson 11:06
I’ll be back with an update for everybody in July, including about one or two people we’ll be involving in the judging process as well. So keep your ears peeled for that one. In the meantime, thanks again 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. Please visit to subscribe, sign up for updates, link through to our social media pages, and to find out more. And until the next time, goodbye for now.