AGM 2016 – Chairman’s report

The Victory Hall Trustees have had another busy year and I’m pleased to say that much progress has been made. Some of this has been quite visible whilst some of it has been behind the scenes and I’ll talk further about this shortly. Before doing that however, I’d like to reintroduce to you the Trustees that work so hard to maintain and improve the hall for the benefit of this community.

I’m Richard Pike and I have been a Trustee for 3 years and Chairman for two of those. There are 4 additional community Trustees who are; Caroline Aird, Marie Justice, James Brookes and Carole Smith. Carole can’t be with us tonight as she is recovering from a recent operation but she has contributed greatly to the work of the trust over the last year and we wish her well in her recovery. I’m delighted to say that all 5 Community Trustees have put themselves forward for re-election this evening and given that we have had no further nominations for Trustees I thank them for the sterling work they have done over the last year and for continuing to volunteer their time to fulfil this important role.

As well as the 5 Community Trustees, we also have 3 Trustees appointed from the body of the Exminster Parish Council. Not all of these places have been filled throughout the year but I am very pleased that Josie Walledge and Kevin Smith have been prepared to add to their already considerable duties for the Parish Council by being part of the Victory Hall Trust.

The Trustees have been keen to see the use of the hall expand, not just in hours booked but also by the diversity of activities so as to appeal to a wider audience and a greater cross section of our parish residents. To that end, we were delighted to welcome Phil Beer to the hall for a sell-out concert during the year and he will be returning again soon. We were also pleased to start a partnership with the Pop Up Chef Rob Dawe and there have been two very successful evenings so far with more planned for the future. Rob is a highly talented chef who has prepared a stunning 7 course meal to bring fine dining to Exminster!

Rob’s achievements in our kitchen highlight a real asset of the hall which has hitherto been underutilised. We have recently been given the seal of approval from the Environmental Health Department to market and use the kitchen for commercial activities which will hopefully pave the way for its much greater use. This might be activities from cookery demonstrations and masterclasses to entrepreneurs looking to start or expand their home cooking businesses.

We have plans later this year to run a wedding fayre to show case the potential of the hall as an affordable wedding reception venue and also hope to run a fashion show evening with the ability to buy high street clothes at significant discounts. Both of these will take place once the hall has been re decorated which we also hope will be done over the next few months, finance allowing.

Turning to the more physical improvements made and I’m sure that it won’t have escaped people’s attention that the main hall lighting has been completely replaced with low energy lighting which has improved the quality of the light in the hall considerably and will also reduce our ongoing energy costs. This work was long overdue and I’d like to thank the hall users for their great patience whilst we sought the necessary funding for the work to be undertaken. Whilst talking about the lighting, we’ve also had some wall lights fitted in order to provide softer lighting and make the hall a much more attractive space to hire, particularly for social events in the evenings and feedback so far has been very positive from hall hirers.

The hall has also had an up to date fire detection system fitted in order to help ensure the safety of everyone using the hall. This was funded by grant money applied for through the Parish Council and I will again return to this point later in my report.

In addition to these planned improvements, we have also had some additional repairs thrust upon us. Significant rotting of flooring and support beams was discovered under the stage during an intensive clean last summer and similar problems were discovered in the cleaner’s cupboard when the flooring was being replaced. In both cases, the Parish Council shouldered the cost burden enabling the work to be done quickly and with the minimum of disruption to hall users. Finally, a small portion of the kitchen ceiling collapsed due to decay caused by water ingression in the past. Degeneration of this type is inevitable given the age of the building and must be expected to continue in the future and in all probability, become even greater.

In the last few months therefore, the Trustees have been engaged in preliminary discussions with the Parish Council to find a way for the hall to be more financially sustainable going forward and better serving our community. The discussions will continue over the summer and I hope that by the time we reach the Autumn, the Trustees might be in a better position to tell the community more.

So in summary, much has been achieved in the last year but there is still so much to do in order to make the hall fit for purpose in the 21st Century. I hope you will see from what I’ve said that the Trustees remain passionate and committed to delivering this plan. To bring it to a successful conclusion however will require a commitment from other stakeholders and the wider community which I would urge all to make. As I’ve also said on many occasions, I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to help in any way whether that is becoming a Trustee, an occasional helper at events or anyone with specific skills they can offer to the Trust.

 

Richard Pike, Chairman

May 2016