Re-inventing the Village Hall

Covid 19 has changed our lives and accelerated the need for Great Local Experiences. A community Hub for the Future.

There’s nothing like a disaster, war, or pandemic to shake things up and make us realise that some of our previous decisions may not have been for the best in the long term.

Over many decades, and through many small cuts, we have slowly whittled away the cohesion and spirit of local communities in our towns and villages. Watching as banks, post offices, pubs, libraries, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, small businesses and entrepreneurial enterprises disappear from our locales.

Choosing instead the long commute to city centres, out of town big box retail, overpriced gastropubs, Google, ATMs, ApplePay, Hermes, and Amazon online for everything.

Time has become such a commodity that none of us has much of it to spare, and for those that do have time, have nowhere to spend it.

We hanker after lost pasts with favourite TV echoing 1950’s WI ideals, with the likes of The Great British Bake-off, Sewing Bee and Throw Down. We campaign against library, bank and Post Office closures, attending meetings in decrepit and long-forgotten post-war village halls. For goodness sake, we travel to farmers markets in the middle of city financial districts.

And now we have COVID and its waves of lockdown, our lives have been turned upside down. We’re working from home (‘WFH’ in post covid socials parlance), we’re shopping local (‘LBS’, Local Bike Shop, who knew?), we are avoiding public transport and long commutes as we reconsider the structure of our lives.

We have an opportunity to redress the imbalance and kick start our local communities.

Now we’ve experienced it, we and our employers want to embrace WFH. But, as you will no doubt have experienced, it’s not great for everyone. The shared bedsit, the laptop on an ironing board, the end of the bed perch, the backache, the isolation, and of course the non-stop Zooms. Easy access to a communal workspace is needed.

Can we develop a Local solution?

The digitalisation of post and parcel, the Amazon and general online shopping boom. The generational divide and the fear of digital use for the elderly and vulnerable.

Can we develop a Local solution where everyone’s a winner?

Business Start-up opportunities, makers and growers, small industry, repair and recycling.

Can we develop a Local solution that boosts entrepreneurial spirit?

Theatre, cinema and live entertainment inaccessible for many and commercially challenging for operators.

Can we develop a Local solution to bring entertainment to all?

With the impact of COVID, we will need financial help and literacy to guide us through tough times. However, banks have reduced their physical branch networks by up to 70%, meaning access for many is limited to phone, internet or a long drive.

Can we develop a Local solution that puts back access to financial support for those that need it most, especially the vulnerable and aged?

Technology gives us 24/7, 360 access to information, organisation and amenities of all types. It has become second nature to give away our location and our thoughts and activities. We promote ourselves; we promote complete strangers; we critique movies or tv, we organise the diaries of our work and social groups. We call ourselves an online community!

But we rarely if ever meet, we rarely help those who need us most, we rarely work together to improve our situation.

Not until NOW! Now, with a global pandemic, the best of humanity has risen to the surface and we have realised the value of proper human contact and interactions. We cannot go back to the old days, but we can rethink and redesign our future communities to work better and smarter.

We can develop Local solutions that leverage the connection that digitalisation, social media and technology have brought to our lives, combine that with great physical environments that support our truly human behaviours, with better work-life balance, better education and growth opportunities, and bring us together as cohesive communities.

Change is just around the corner, with progressive Local Authorities and developers working together to deliver Great Experiences at the heart of their communities. We are already building strategies and designing multi-channel experiences to boost the regeneration of a small South of England town, putting a 2020 spin on multi-use community buildings with a supporting organisational programme and full multi-channel access.

– Fundamentally re-inventing the Village Hall.