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“We’ve only just begun!”  Friends of Assembly Hall begin work to support hall’s future 

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THE new group set up to support Melksham’s Assembly Hall has begun its work to help secure a ‘vibrant future’ for the hall. 

The ‘Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall’ met for the first time this month and discussed setting up a charity or a Community Interest Company (CIC) to support the running of the hall. The group has said that it wants to help the hall have a “vibrant and sustainable future”; and work in partnership with and support the town council.

“We’ve only just begun,” said Graham Ellis, who is also a town councillor, about the new friends group, making a nod to ‘The Carpenters Experience’ one of the many tribute acts to have performed at the Assembly Hall over the years.

But before the group can move forward, it resolved that it should first approach the town council to discuss the group’s ideas and establish what the working relationship between the two will be.

“We need to know what the town council wants to do,” said local resident Adrienne Westbrook. “Otherwise it is like we are talking in a vacuum.”

There was encouragement from deputy mayor, cllr Colin Goodhind, who suggested the group focus on the future of the hall and presenting new ideas to the town council that are not already on the table for consideration. “There is very strong support at the town council for the right solution,’ said cllr Goodhind, “there is no hidden agenda to close it.”

Other ideas for how to ensure the hall’s future have come in from other parts of the community.

Local resident, Paul Carter, who was previously a Melksham Without Parish councillor, has suggested that residents living outside the town council catchment area also contributes to the running costs of the hall via their council tax.

“I see the Assembly Hall as a community good and as such, we should keep it and maintain it at public expense. I live in Melksham Without, but would gladly pay £20+ per annum to Melksham Within to secure the future of the Assembly Hall,” he said.

“Costs are everything in local government but the council tax is the most efficient method of collecting and spending money in the community with each household bearing the spending. Easy peasy!”

At the inaugural meeting of the ‘Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall’, questions arose again about the town council’s motives.

“They seem to have got rid of people before making any decisions about the hall,” said local resident Chris Holden about the recent decision to make the facilities manager – who managed the hall – redundant. “Which suggests to me that if we hadn’t all kicked off, they would have shut it down without question.”

And there was also confusion at the meeting about who is now managing the hall – however Graham Ellis explained that he believed the town council’s head of amenities has now absorbed the redundant role, and would be overseeing the remaining staff at the Assembly Hall.

The Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall – which now has over 200 members online – was set up in response to the public outcry when the town council proposed a number of options for the future use of the Assembly Hall, including ‘mothballing’ it – an option they took off the table at a meeting last month.

Town councillors were due to meet this month to discuss other options still on the table for the hall, however, the meeting may now be held in October.

Options that remain for the hall include using it more like a ‘village hall’, available to hire for community groups; or operating the hall as a ‘hosting venue’, taking bookings from outside promoters, private hirers and community organisations, rather than the town council organising events itself.

The Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall will be meeting again this Thursday, 16th September, at 7pm. For details, join the Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall group, on Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/fomah; or email: info@fomah.org.uk

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