USERS of St Boswells Village Hall are now finding themselves snug and warm, thanks to a new boiler and heating system paid for by fundraising efforts, writes Mark Entwistle.
It was back in October that TheSouthern reported fears in St Boswells that unless thousands of pounds could be somehow scraped together to replace the flood-damaged boiler, then the village hall would have to be closed for the winter, leaving dozens of local groups with nowhere to hold their events and activities.
Heavy rains at the end of the summer had caused the hall’s basement boiler room to flood, damaging the 25-year-old system beyond repair.
While the hall needs around £400,000 spent on it generally to bring it up to standard, the heating problem was the priority.
And thanks to £26,000 in grants from various bodies including the Royal Bank of Scotland Community Force scheme and Scottish Borders Council as well as donations from individuals and local groups, work to replace the boiler and install a new heating system was completed between Christmas and New Year.
Hall secretary Kate Warner this week told TheSouthern everyone is delighted the hall can now remain open over the winter months.
“It’s fantastic. Miller’s of Earlston did a tremendous job for us in installing the new heating system – very professional and friendly – and the hall’s in full use,” she told us this week.
Among the various local organisations and groups that regularly use the hall is the weekly soup club for senior citizens, badminton, short tennis, zumba and band rehearsals.
“And because the work was finished in time for New Year it meant the village’s annual New Year dance wasn’t affected,” added Mrs Warner.
“The boiler and heating work cost around £17,000, so the rest of the £26,000 will go on an upgrade of the fire alarm system and some decorating.
“The old boiler was situated in a frequently flooding cellar, it is now housed in the hall in an old store cupboard and we have made good the old cellar for now.
“The old pipe work was all taken out and new efficient pipes were laid, mainly under the floors. New radiators were put into the main hall and lesser hall, with the – still good – electric radiators from the lesser hall being installed in the upstairs band room, which is where the St Boswells Concert Band meet and practice, and this has made this room much warmer in winter too.
“There was no disruption to the users of the hall while the work was carried out and all groups managed to run their clubs as usual,” she explained.
And she added: “The Village Hall Management Committee would like to thank everyone involved in the raising of these funds, from donations and fundraising to grants from funding bodies such as Scottish Borders Council Community Grant Scheme, Peoples Postcode Trust, Borders Federation of Village Halls and the St Boswells Community Lunch Club, and also thank those who voted in the RBS Community Force awards for the St Boswells Village Hall project.”
Mrs Warner says an important spin-off from the fundraising campaign has also helped raise the general profile of the village hall. “It is now more widely known in the community that our hall is, in fact, a sustainable community asset – owned and managed by the community.
“We hope to encourage more groups, clubs and individuals to use the facilities. The fundraising will continue as there is a full refurbishment project to be undertaken including insulation, toilet and accessibility upgrades, stage and lighting improvements and much more, to a projected total of over £400,000.
“Focus will now turn to toilets and accessibility and the fundraising subcommittee would welcome any volunteers who could assist in raising funds or in working with the committee to volunteer time or materials.”