Vaccination Volunteers Leap into Action

Show notes (summary)

Several village halls have been playing a part in Britain’s unprecedented vaccination programme. For this episode, Teresa Killeen who heads up a fantastic group of volunteers connected to Ticehurst Hall in East Sussex, gives us a ‘behind the scenes’ on how 1,000 elderly and vulnerable people have been receiving their jab each week. She describes the challenges they’ve all faced and discusses how they’ve been coping with the attention, from visits by TV crews to mentions at the PM’s briefing. Please listen in to this uplifting story of true community spirit.

Transcript: Season 1 / Episode 3

Johnny Thomson 00:00
Hello and welcome to another episode of The Village Halls Podcast sponsored by Allied Westminster, the UK is largest specialist provider of village hall insurance, and the home of VillageGuard. Now, as we highlighted in our very first episode, village halls often leap into action at times of national crisis and the pandemic has been no exception. As we approach the end of February 2021, the UK’s vaccination programme has already led to around 20 million people receiving their job and early results are showing promise. Unsurprisingly, several village halls have been playing a part in all of this, and I’m delighted to be joined on a call today by Teresa Killeen, who is one of our fantastic group of people who have organised the vaccination of around 1000 people a week at a Ticehurst Hall in East Sussex. Welcome, Teresa.

Teresa Killeen 00:51
Thank you very much. Good morning.

Johnny Thomson 00:53
Good morning, Teresa, thank you very much for joining me at what I know is an incredibly busy time. Now before we get into what’s been happening here in Ticehurst, tell me a little bit about your connection with the community in the village hall.

Teresa Killeen 01:07
Well, I retired to Ticehurst about seven years ago, and became a member of a community called Ticehurst Community Friends. We are a good neighbour scheme. And from then I became the Chair of the group. And from that group, we have found all the volunteers that are actually helping in the vaccination programme.

Johnny Thomson 01:28
Fantastic. And you’re also part of the Parish Council there as well.

Teresa Killeen 01:32
Yes, I became a member of the Parish Council a couple of years ago. So between the two things, that’s been very helpful because the village hall itself is actually, it has an independent charitable trust that runs it. But the Parish Council remain the custodian trustee of the hall. Okay.

Johnny Thomson 01:52
Yeah. So you’re regularly connected with with with the hall?

Teresa Killeen 01:55
Yes, yes, we have our monthly parish council meetings there.

Johnny Thomson 01:58
Excellent. So the vaccinations, primarily of people over the age of 70 I imagine so far, how did this come about? And how did the village hall come to be involved?

Teresa Killeen 02:11
Well, it must have been about December when Hardik Desai, who is our fantastic young pharmacist in the village, started to think about whether… well he’d been contacted by NHS, and the Pharmacy Group, and they had asked if he would like to put forward a bid to vaccinate. He realised his shop, his pharmacy premises were too small and I happened to be in there one day, and he was saying, if, if I could get a contract to do this would community friends help me. So I said, yes, I’m sure I could get volunteers no problem. But then we then realised that actually, no matter how we thought about it, his shop was not going to work. We looked at the church, that wasn’t going to be suitable either. But then we have the perfect building, we’ve got an amazing village hall, with two very large rooms, a room that we can lock. And we can actually put a one way system through it. And that was very important for NHS England. So we could have an entrance, two rooms with vaccination, and then come through to another very large room where they could sit post vaccination and go out the back door, so there was no cross contamination and we could maintain social distancing throughout. So we had a look around, he thought it was a good idea, we contacted the guy who was the Chair of the Beatrice Drew Trust, so that’s the trust that runs a village hall. And Peter came along, also thought it was great idea because of course, at this moment in time, and for quite a long time, he hasn’t had any income into the hall because of Covid. So it sort of was a almost a no brainer and a win for everybody. Because it’s it meant that Peter could keep the hall up and running and he had people in their daily. Unfortunately, after I’d had a look around and NHS England came and gave a tick in a box and said yes, it was an absolutely suitable place for a vaccination centre, I then was there early one evening, and it started to get dark, then began to realise that actually the exit path was neither well lit or had a good surface. So, I had to do a quick risk assessment and realised we’re going to have to get some money together because we needed to put some substantial lighting in there and it’s certainly an area of it to be resurfaced between the the footprint of the hall and the village carpark, which is next to it.

Johnny Thomson 04:46
Yeah, I guess with with as with all initiatives, it there’s always one or two challenges isn’t that overcome

Teresa Killeen 04:52
That’s right and those were our first ones, but the community here is wonderful. So we got on to a couple of local contractors who said absolutely. The young guy who came to do the electrics was actually taking four days off work to move house. Instead, he spent them digging trenches and putting in electric cables for us, so that we could have our lighting. And a local company also came, a road building company, and they put some tarmac down temporarily for us. And we’re going to have to redo it properly in the future, but at least it was a temporary fix, for us to be able to go live if you like.

Johnny Thomson 05:30
What, what’s the electricians name?

Teresa Killeen 05:32
He’s called Daniel, Daniel Studholme.

Johnny Thomson 05:35
Great. I think it’s good to give people a shout out, you know, when they made such a contribution, and the company as well, that you mentioned,

Teresa Killeen 05:41
They were Coppard, so they were a very large road building company.

Johnny Thomson 05:47
Fantastic. And, and Hardik himself sounds like a very interesting character. He is hugely dedicated to the local community, isn’t he?

Teresa Killeen 05:57
He is he is, he’s very much a ‘c an do’ sort of fellow, which we’ve realised more and more from this. He’s only a young man, he’s got two small children, his wife helps now in the pharmacy, because obviously, once he decided to do this, it was an enormous commitment, because obviously, he needs to keep his business going at the same time. So she has come in to manage the pharmacy. And then he’s had to employ a pharmacist to actually do the background work obviously that he would normally be doing, signing off the prescriptions, etc. So he’s… Yes, it’s been phenomenal. And he has been working, we keep saying 24 seven, and he really has. He’s enthusiastic, and he’s a smiley chap, so he keeps everybody happy and cheery as well and nothing seems to be too much trouble for him. And I think that has been infectious for certainly all of the volunteers, and the people who come to actually be vaccinated comment on it all of the time.

Johnny Thomson 07:00
Yeah, because it’s, it’s not an easy situation as an elderly person to have to come in and queue and wait for their jab. So I guess you’ve got to keep that kind of positive spirit and everything going. Yeah?

Teresa Killeen 07:12
Yes. I mean, the amazing thing with the hall we have, because I’ve got so many volunteers, we have been able to run a system where we haven’t had really people haven’t had to queue very long. And if they have been queuing, they’ve been seated inside and all of our volunteers then clean chairs every time somebody moves. So I think they feel they’re in a safe environment, and one that they feel comfortable in. But I haven’t the first week, certainly when we had the more elderly, frail of our residents. They were and somebody use the expression, like rabbits in headlights, because some of them hadn’t been out of their houses for nearly a year. This was the first trip out. And some we smiled with because they said you know, they’d put their best coat on, because this was a trip out. And for some who travelled quite a distance. It was a day trip as well.

Johnny Thomson 08:16
So the first adventure for a long time for some people.

Teresa Killeen 08:19
Absolutely. Yeah.

Johnny Thomson 08:21
Marvellous. How many people overall are you expecting to receive the jab at Ticehurst? And when do you see this initiative ending?

Teresa Killeen 08:31
Now, that’s a bit of a difficult question at the moment. In that we are on average, doing 1,000 as you say, a week we do 1200 one week, 800 the next depending on the vaccine delivery. We are now or have been from the beginning booking the second appointments for people. So their second appointments are 12 weeks after the first. So in April, was the start of the second vaccines. So we’re now into May, second vaccines. So we know much as Hardik’s contract was initially until the first of March, that is soon to be passed, because we already have the second vaccinations booked in for April and May. We know from NHS England that they would now like us to continue with first vaccines as well. So at the moment, we work three days, one week, two days the next we will have to double that because we will carry on vaccinating the first cohorts of vaccinations for each of the cohorts. And then we will also be doing the second vaccinations for all the cohorts that have already done. So, so it could be August, September, more than likely when we when we finish. So yes, quite a few weeks worth of work.

Johnny Thomson 09:53
In for the long haul. Yeah. And how many weeks how many weeks so far have you been been running this for?

Teresa Killeen 09:59
We started on the 21st of January.

Johnny Thomson 10:03
So yeah, several thousand people already.

Teresa Killeen 10:07
Yes. Yes.

Johnny Thomson 10:09
And I guess as well as undoubetedly saving many, many lives, therefore, isn’t it just great to see so many parts of the community coming together for something like this, everyone playing a part and contributing, as you mentioned, the electricians and the companies and the local pharmacist and of course, your, your group of volunteers as well. And you know, doing whatever they can to, to support the community.

Teresa Killeen 10:33
Yes. Another element was was our poor guys standing, and girls, standing out in the car park directing traffic and or being the first point of contact for the patients that are coming, often asking them to stay until five minutes before so that they were staying in their warm cars rather than having to queue outside. And that’s what we’ve tried to make sure nobody queues outside, we realise that the poor guy in the car park was constantly wet and cold and a local company who build sheds, contacted them and they said yes, they would be happy to provide us with what they laughingly called a sentry box. So so you know, again, you know, that no costs just on loan to us, but you know, perfect for what we needed.

Johnny Thomson 11:18
And really just that that thing of people coming and wanting to do something, anything that they can, yeah?

Teresa Killeen 11:24
Yes. We’ve got a local lady who provides cakes, usually for cafes locally. Well, of course, she’s not doing that at the moment, because nobody’s going to cafes. So every week, she provides cakes for the vaccinators and the volunteers. So we have lots of cakes, we’ve got a local company who brings coffee in. So again, everybody who feels that they can do just their little bit depending on what their role usually is in life, seems to be stepping up and helping out.

Johnny Thomson 11:58

Teresa Killeen 11:59
It’s been brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Johnny Thomson 12:01
How’s all the attention being because there’s been quite a bit of attention hasn’t been coming your way around this?

Teresa Killeen 12:06
Well the attention has been unbelievable. I mean we were we were fortunate in the first place in that one of the young volunteers is actually an outside broadcaster for South East, BBC Suth East. So she said she thought perhaps her Director, Producer would like a five minute slot about the community spirit and the volunteer involvement. So we had BBC South East came and it snowballed from there. Hardik has been on, oh my goodness, BBC Radio, he’s been on Heart Radio. He’s been on Times radio. Then once the BBC had been and actually we ended up being the opening piece on the BBC South East news, we then had locally to actuallyi, Charles Moore lives, who was the editor of The Telegraph and the Spectator. He now writes a column in the Telegraph. So he came, rang Hardik, spoke to myself, we gave him a piece, and he did an article on us. The following day, The Times came and said, they’d like to come and talk to us. So we then got a piece in The Times. It was then closely followed by Sky News, who arrived with all of that. I mean, that was well, the the patients, and the vaccinators were just and volunteers totally bemused, because, you know, they all looked about seven foot tall with the biggest cameras in the world arrived inside our very small in the scheme of things village hall. And they were there all afternoon, they wrote a piece on us. And of course, they attached it to the piece that Boris Johnson did where he mentioned us in his briefing that day, so they used that as their starter for their piece. We had in fact the week before been mentioned by Matt Hancock because our local MP Hugh Merriman had asked a question about rural communities because they are so more problematic to create a vaccination centre in and he and Matt Hancock could answer that. And so we we were in Hansard for the start of our vaccination programme and on it seems to have gone. Ultimately, the last people were ITN news, who arrived last week.

Johnny Thomson 14:40
Yeah. That was one of the reasons I wanted to speak to you as well, because obviously, I would imagine some people have picked up on this already because of that widespread coverage, but it’s normally very short and people can’t get a full kind of behind the scenes as to what what what’s actually been happening there. So I really appreciate you coming on. For me, everyone involved in this deserves your moment of fame anyway. And I know you’re not the only Hall that’s running a vaccination programme like this as well. So now is probably a good team to highlight their contribution and to say, a big thank you to them as well.

Teresa Killeen 15:20
Yes. I mean, we we know, locally to us there are village halls, who have also stepped up as well, you know, I think it’s, and it’s perfect and perfect place for the residents in any small community too because it, they feel more comfortable going somewhere, locally, and somewhere they’re used to going for very pleasant activities. So…

Johnny Thomson 15:42
It’s fascinating as well, isn’t it? Because people people sometimes say that community spirit is dead? But that’s not what we’re seeing here at all, is it?

Teresa Killeen 15:51
No, no, quite the opposite. Quite the opposite. I mean, I have been amazed at the number of volunteers. Ticehurst Community Friends would on average, have had about 30 to 35 active volunteers, taking people to hospital appointments and dentists and the like before Covid. I now have 162 volunteers. And every time I say the number, the following day, I have to add a few more. I mean, it’s just absolutely phenomenal the response. And people keep constantly saying, are you sure you don’t want me to do something else? Can I can I do something else? You know and the fact we’re only doing it three days or two days, actually, I think the volunteers are quite frustrated, because they’d like to be doing more. But maybe in time, we will. If we’re doing first and second vaccinations at the same time, we will be very busy.

Johnny Thomson 16:45
Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you so much, Teresa, not only for talking to me today, but for being part of what is undoubtedly, an historic moment. And that I know that may sound a little over the top to some, but the fact is there’s never been a vaccination programme like this ever undertaken before. And so no doubt it will be something that will be talked about for many, many years to come.

Teresa Killeen 17:08
Yes, I think my grandchildren, it will be part of their history.

Johnny Thomson 17:11
Absolutely. So again, thank you. Thank you very much. And for me, the story of Ticehurst Hall is one of is one a great hope not only for a return to some kind of normality, and people coming together again, but for a real resurgence of community spirit. So I guess the message is let’s not lose this feeling of togetherness that you’ve you’ve just talked about. And this resurgence of volunteers and, and so on. Hopefully we can encourage more and more people to get involved as the halls and the communities open up once again.

Teresa Killeen 17:40
Yes, I mean, that that would be our hope. Certainly. Yes. And hope that some of them will stay working with us in the future as our sort of bit of succession planning for Ticehurst Committee Friends too.

Johnny Thomson 17:53
Fantastic. Okay. Well, thanks again, Theresa. It’s, it’s been great having you on today. Thank you. And, as always, I’ll be putting some links up to accompany this episode on The Village Halls Podcast website if you want to find out more about what we’ve been talking about today. And of course, many thanks to our sponsor and specialist insurance provider Allied Westminster for making our podcast possible, and whose services you can discover more about at You’ve been listening to The Village Halls Podcast, a new and 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 in two weeks time 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. Until the next time, goodbye for now.