Villagers' £140,000 fight to save community hub

Read and Simonstone villagers are standing together to raise £140,000 to save an indispensable community hub from demolition.

Tuesday, 15th August 2017, 2:47 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 1:25 pm
Geoff Hodbod, secretary of The Read and Simonstone Village Hall Team, with a 10,000 cheque to help purchase the Read United Reformed Church building. (s)

With sale signs going up on Read’s United Reformed Church, The Read and Simonstone Village Hall Team is urging people to back its bid to buy the East View building.

“Its communal facilities are vital for people’s well-being so the church only wants to sell the building to us and is prepared to wait as long as it takes. They don’t want to see a developer turn it into flats,” said the team’s Secretary Geoff Hodbod (42), of Simonstone.

While a question mark has loomed over the church ever since parish membership dropped to just 10 people, the Victorian venue remains a cornerstone of community life, having doubled up as a village hall.

Members of the Read and Simonstone Village Hall Team. (s)

It offers activities for various ages, from a nursery and a lunch club to dance classes, pantomimes and workout groups for senior citizens.

“It’s also a prime space for youth clubs and there’s money available for them,” Geoff added. “I was a scout at the church 30 years ago and would love for other generations to be able to enjoy it.”

And now the fire in these campaigners’ bellies blazes all the more thanks to an “amazing” £10,000 legacy donation made by former parishioner, Jean Burnett-Hirst.

“It brings a tear to the eye that someone loved the place so much they were prepared to give so generously to save it. We are truly grateful,” said Geoff.

United Reformed Church, East View, Read. (s)

Also backing the campaign are Read businessmen, Colin and Clifton Pollard, of Pollard Brothers, who have each donated £500 while Simonstone Parish Council has offered funds to help keep it afloat.

With hopes of gaining charity status, the trustees are planning fund-raisers like a coffee morning and a performance by Spot On Theatre Company.

They are also forming plans to adapt and expand the venue to better accommodate activities, extend the nursery’s opening hours and create more parking space. But, for now, their eyes are fixed on the first mountain in view - securing £140,000.

“We’re the only area in the Ribble Valley without a village hall,” Geoff added. “It just seems wrong that all these people could be without communal facilities when other places have them.”

Members of the Read and Simonstone Village Hall Team. (s)

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United Reformed Church, East View, Read. (s)