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THIS WEEK Langney Shopping Centre £6.5 million extension takes shape

COMMUNITY The Haven Players, Stone Cross: Summer Panto! – The Pied Piper of Hamelin

JOBSBOARD Part time staff, Royal Oak and Castle Inn, Pevensey


The Big Story: Edition 26
Simon Montgomery
The Pevensey Bay Journal


The analogue world of Pevensey Bay has been encapsulated for many years by St, Wilfrid’s Church Hall in the heart of the Bay, the place that plays host to so many community events through the year.

Described by one wag in the Bay as “an old swan vesta box, powered by a pickled onion and a rubber band”, the hall is in desperate need of support.

Without question, there could not be a better case for community support with grant funding. Hazard signs with warning action tape have been seen stretched across the front foyer of the building on at least one occasion.

One comment that is often made to us by residents is the unwelcoming nature of the hall. People are greeted by a corridor. What kind of message does this send to both residents and visitors to shows, exhibition and meetings?

When you go to a cinema, theatre or art exhibition and there is a bright banner and welcome, in context and well done, your special day begins with that welcome.

What the St. Wilfrid’s hall corridor experience offers new people is confusion, “I am so sorry, have I come in the back entrance by mistake?” is a thought that might have occurred to a number of first time visitors. (including the editor of the Pevensey Bay Journal).

The first thing that should be done with the grant is to fix that dreadful dead hand corridor walk-in experience.

How about a permanent exhibition of those 50 fabulous years done by people that know what they are doing with the profiling of village halls?

There are people who do this kind of thing for a living. So if there is grant, why not employ them to big up a gateway welcome to the St. Wilfrid hall, with the history of the building shining bright like a star to guide visitors on their way?

Wilfrid c. 633 – c. 709 was an English bishop and saint. He studied at Lindisfarne, at Canterbury, in Gaul, and at Rome. In 664 Wilfrid acted as spokesman for the Roman position at the Synod of Whitby, and became famous for his speech advocating that the Roman method for calculating the date of Easter should be adopted.

There is a possible first interesting panel as you walk in the hall, a gateway moment, one of a sequence of bright and interesting panels with visual cues that then detail the fabulous fifty year history, perhaps with drawings and original documents.

If this is the path that successful village halls across the country have taken, why can we not follow the same path and start people with a welcome as they visit the hall?

St. Wifrid’s Hall is a key part of our recent history and heritage. An exciting exhibition as a gateway to the hall? Such a possibility might even attract a commercial sponsor.

The church hall has never had a website, which has proven over the years to be a major impediment to the promotion of events in the Digital Age.

The committee that runs the hall appears to have woken up to the fact that we are now in the 21st century.

Promotion in the digital world requires an understanding that the days of a laminated A4 poster in the building foyer about their activities, is likely to reach, at most, ten people a day, the ten people already utilising the hall.

A smart phone ready, state of the art web platform, would reach something like 1,000 people a day. Many of those people might well become first time users of the hall. and the activities, and then repeat offenders.

Most importantly, with a credible web platform,  the age profile in terms of usage of the hall, might radically change over time.

In fact the hall is packed full of interesting weekly and monthly meetings, special events and keynote occasions, just so sad that no-one knows.

For example, how would a visitor to an art exhibition know there was an exhibiton on display unless they walked past on the day?

How many people would come to the Bay for the day, to a special exhibition, if they knew that the special event was taking place?

So many opportunities have been lost to put on, promote and fill the hall, with special events days.

The ignorance with regard to the promotion of events at the hall, over many years, has been marked by many local people.

No one can doubt that the St. Wilfrid’s Hall Committee is to be applauded for their time and energy. As no doubt they would be the first to argue, they give their time freely.

But perhaps they would also be the first to acknowledge that whatever their fields of expertise that they bring to the committee table, knowing how to promote a village hall in the Digital Age is unlikely to have been the reason for their appointment.

The Pevensey Bay Journal did a series of interviews with young people aged 14-16, conducted at the bus stop outside St. Wilfrid’s Hall.

When the subject of St.Wilfrid’s Hall came up in the questions they were asked what went on in the hall.

After an articulate conversation about Brexit, the European Union and the desperate need for services and resources to include an element of support for young people here, one of them in response to the question about what went on in the hall, commented. “I have no idea, is the hall for old people or something?” Of the four young people interviewed. two of them lived in the Bay.

What does the interview tell us about the perception of St. Wilfrid’s Hall by young people in our community?

In fact the hall plays host to up to eight events a week, there is a smorgsboard of delights on offer, yet without proper promotion, so much of the weltanschauung is unknown

This is a sad state of affairs, but things may be about to change,

The absence of a credible profile for St. Wilfrid’s has held back the community hall for so long. Like St Wilfrid, the hall has been living in the Dark Ages.

The three year action plan being implemented by Pevensey Parish Council has the power to be transformative to this community.

Peter Lowton , the chair of the council, is a forward thinking pioneer. We are blessed with the calibre of some of the community minded councillors that have both an understanding of the local economic and social context, as well as having the localised business skills to make things happen.

Pevensey parish councillors like Shirley McKinnon and Jayne Howard are worth their weight in gold..

Peter Lowton in launching his questionnaire to the community about the three year priorities that saw 586 responses, made a critical point in the pages of the Pevensey Bay Journal.

He said, ““Pevensey Parish Council is under significant financial pressure because of reductions in Government Support & in some East Sussex County Council services.

“The Parish Council is therefore writing its first 3 Year Plan in order to take a longer term view of the financial challenges facing the council.

“We can then decide how best to manage the limited resources we have & focus not only on what a Parish Council must do but also on what’s important to you”.

He described the parish council in the interview as the ‘first tier of government’.

This is the critical point.

Services at the local level have collapsed.

East Sussex County Council is facing the possibility of bankruptcy within two years.

Services at the local level have to be re-built, and re-built without money.

In this process, Pevensey Parish council needs to become both a catalyst and a conduit, and this appears to be what is beginning to happen.

There is money. The money is there, routes just have to be found to access the money, resources , support and grants.

As well as local authorities, these kinds of support come from commercial partners, individual benefactors, organisations established to support coastal communities and niche organisations working in the fields of the arts, history, education as well as organisations working for action in isolated rural communities.

To survive, local authorities themselves are utilising these routes to access funding for a variety of projects.

There is a good argument to be put that we should cut out the middlemen (and they are mostly men) and access some of these funds directly ourselves as a community.

For this process to begin, what we could do is establish a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, independent, fully accountable, with representatives amongst the trustees from the Parish Council.

The new body could specifically be engineered to raise money for brand Pevensey Bay.

These kinds of initiative are happening in association with parish councils across the land.

These initiatives are happening, in these most uncertain local times, not in spite of the Age of Austerity, but because of the Age of Austerity.

Such an organisation established in this parish, at such a critical time, could possibly move small mountains over time.

Talking to the Pevensey Bay Journal this morning (7 February), parish councilor Shirley McKinnon commented “St Wilfrid’s Hall 2019 will be an exciting year for the Church and Hall.

“First of all on Saturday 23 March there will be an afternoon tea party to celebrate 50 years since the opening of the church and hall.

“Representatives from user groups and the local congregation are being invited. The new Hall and Church were eagerly awaited by the villagers in 1969 as they replaced old St Wilfrid’s building, which was an old two storey building with the Church accessed by an outside flight of stairs and the hall at ground level. This building stood where Pevensey Court now stands.

“The Committee are hoping to secure some funding to make improvements to the hall during 2019 and carry out general updating.

She explained, “a website is being developed and we hope that more groups and local residents will make use of the hall for meetings and events”.

All credit to Shirley McKinnon and Pevensey Parish Council.

Securing some funding to support St. Wilfrid’s Hall at this critical moment is both timely and in a small way significant, and a positive sign in the local times in which we live.

The three year action plan being implemented by Pevensey Parish Council is beginning to look like a cornerstone of some description.

In much the same way, there would have been a cornerstone that once stood with pride, as part of the old village hall, on this site.


The Big Story: Edition 26
The Pevensey Bay Journal
Simon Montgomery