“The Friends try to help the village hall become the best asset that it can possibly be for our growing community, especially for our younger and older people”

A County Durham community group is singing the praises of its village hall’s new sound system which was paid for by a four-figure grant from a North East renewable energy firm.

The Friends of Stillington Village Hall used a £3,000 grant from the fund linked to Banks Renewables’ nearby Lambs Hill wind farm to install a comprehensive, built-in public address and sound system in the community-run venue during the last covid lockdown.

Since the hall was able to reopen, the sound system has been used for a range of different events, activities and meetings, including youth clubs, playgroups and the village’s art club.

And after more than 20 members of the Stillington Youth Music Club, whose members range from age 7 to 12 years old, used the sound system for their first ever show in the hall, a production of the musical Annie, the Friends have thanked Banks for providing the funds required to buy it.

It’s the second time that the Friends of Stillington Village Hall has received funding from the Lambs Hill wind farm fund, with a £3,000 grant given in 2017 paying for a range of equipment and resources for the village’s Youth Club.

The group was set up in 2016 by a group of local volunteers to help promote and support local groups’ use of the hall and to encourage interactive social inclusion in a rural area with few community facilities, most especially for younger and older residents.

It is continuing to work on a number of other ideas which will further enhance what the village hall can offer to local people.

Judith Turner, secretary of the Friends of Stillington Village Hall, says: “The Friends try to help the village hall become the best asset that it can possibly be for our growing community, especially for our younger and older people, who don’t always have easy access to all the facilities they might like.

“The acoustics in what is a long thin room aren’t as clear as we might like and made bringing in a sound system a priority for us to ensure that all users could hear clearly what was happening around them.

“With lots of different parts of the hall needing investment, we simply wouldn’t have had the money required to purchase it without Banks’ generous support and we’re extremely grateful that they’ve come to our aid for a second time.

“Our young stage stars worked so hard on putting their production together, with the invaluable help of their vocal coach Hayley McKay, and having the sound system in place meant they had everything they needed for their many rehearsals as well as the performances themselves.

“It was wonderful to hear their voices so clearly and we’re already looking forward to seeing and hearing what they’re going to do next.”

The Lambs Hill Wind Farm community benefits fund provides around £10,000 of funding every year to local projects to ensure that tangible long-term local benefits result from the wind farm’s operations.

Eligibility for grants from the fund is normally restricted to community projects and activities within Stillington & Whitton, Bishopton, Foxton, Great Stainton, Little Stainton, Grindon, and Bishopton Crossings, but projects outside these areas may also be eligible if they can be shown to benefit people living within them.

A funding committee comprised of village residents and supported by a dedicated fund manager from the Banks Community Fund team meets every few months to determine applications for grants submitted by local community groups and agrees how the fund can best be allocated to meet local spending priorities.

The Lambs Hill wind farm generated almost 20,000 MWh of electricity during Banks’ last financial year, which is enough to meet the annual electricity needs of around 6,500 homes, and by doing so, it displaced around 4,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network.

Lewis Stokes, senior community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The Friends of Stillington Village Hall are tireless in their efforts to make as many facilities and opportunities available as they can for local people.

“The sound system is clearly having a very positive impact on the experience of many of the hall’s user groups and we’re very pleased to have once again been able to use revenues from the Lambs Hill wind farm to make a tangible positive impact on the local community.”

Anyone interested in applying for funding from the Lambs Hill Wind Farm Community Fund should first contact the fund manager via fundmanager@bankscommunityfund.org.uk or on 0191 378 6342 before applying for a grant to check if their group or project is eligible.