52 Things - Number 15: Have a Good Life event

Overview and Background:

Another great way to show off your community and build more spirit is through a ‘Good Life’ event, which focuses on the kinds of skills that can be built on limited resources, as well as creating and building new friendships. Bread-making, growing your own vegetables, making your own food and much, much more would be included in the day.

The approach: 

In Husthwaite, North Yorkshire, such an event was also a chance to appeal to a wide audience and place emphasis on supporting people in communities to take action on a local scale. They became familiar with the idea of ‘Good Life’ from Rural Action Yorkshire – we undertook to help the village hall organise the event and spread the word. Andrew Coulthard, of Husthwaite Village Hall, describes RAY’s help as invaluable: “we got a great deal of value from RAY in the form of help from their staff” and it was also an opportunity to get to know how uniquely helpful we could be in other ventures in the future.

For Husthwaite, the ‘Good Life’ event was also an opportunity to demonstrate to the Lottery and other funders just how capable they were of making good use of resources in a small, rural community. They were seeking to revamp and replace the current hall at the time, and hosting the event would be clear evidence of the social return and value of village halls and the volunteers who give their time there.

The event was self-funding, with stallholders covering their own costs and making this back through the sale of goods where appropriate. Entry to the day was free of charge, and overall it was not a fundraising activity. Rather, the goal was to demonstrate what could be achieved with a little community spirit, as well as re-connecting residents in the village, and providing a space for interaction and learning.

Andrew says that they encountered remarkably few issues, as the day had enough variety and vitality to almost run itself. There was an array of publicity beforehand, through posters, social media and word-of-mouth, and in the end there were visitors from as far away as Scarborough and Leeds.

“The car park was filled with animals from pigs and piglets to chickens and alpacas. The children were thrilled as all of the animals were used to being handled and it was very hands-on, as was the whole event. We had demonstrations of bread-making, rag rug-making, spinning wool and lace, and even willow-working. We sold a record amount of our village juice and cider from the Orchards of Husthwaite stall. It was a tremendous success.”

The outcome: 

Andrew is keen to stress the importance of village halls and their function within communities. It is an area of hot debate and there is often a real need for new ideas like this one. Often people will be surprised at just how much a village hall can accommodate, and a community can achieve. 

“Good village halls are a real source of community enrichment and development, and make a substantial difference to the quality of life in their communities,” Andrew says, “they are much more than the sum of their programme listings and balance sheets.”

What next: 

The successful demonstration of a host of often-forgotten local skills, and the vast enthusiasm of their practitioners, means more events like this one are being planned for the future.

“I am excited about the 52 Things campaign because many communities have an enormous wealth of talent and hidden enthusiasms which people don’t often share. It is a delight to share in this passion with others and to celebrate local skills and sustainability.”