Trowbridge Town Hall – Stronger Communities Fund
Selwood Housing's Stronger Communities Fund has been supporting the refurbishment of the Trowbridge Town Hall building. The Town Hall is an arts and community hub located in the centre of Trowbridge, that hosts various activities for local people.
We recently had a chat with Jess, the venue manager responsible for managing the day-to-day activity and maintenance of the Town Hall, to find out how the fund has helped them and a bit more about how the space is used.
What funding did you receive from Selwood Housing and what was it for?
"We received £5000 from Selwood Housing to improve different areas of the building. Our spaces are beautiful because of the stained glass. They have installed some heating which has made it a much more usable space. Beforehand, in the winter, you could not use it without about 5 heaters in there to keep it warm enough. They are making it more energy-efficient and much more welcoming.”
The funding application was submitted in December 2020, but with a wait to obtain permissions as well as COVID-19 restrictions, much of the planned work was delayed. Jess says that the work is set to be completed in the next few months, but their groups are already feeling the benefits from the refurbishment.
What 'in kind' support have you received from Selwood Housing?
“The repairs and maintenance team at Selwood Housing have been contracted to carry out some of the work. We have met different people from different departments carrying out the work and they've really been incredible and great to work with. They are so friendly and come in and do a really great job.”
What can you tell us about the history of Trowbridge Town Hall?
“There are many hidden parts of the Town Hall which you might not see so often. You have the court rooms, the cells, the caretaker's flat and it holds so much history for the people of the town. Back in the 60s or 70s we had the great hall upstairs which hosted bands like The Who and Cat Stevens. It's just such a special building which people hold close to them.”
The intention for the building is to get the townspeople involved in community-led activities while providing a variety of spaces for anyone who is looking to start a club. The Town Hall was opened in 1889 “for the benefit of the inhabitants of the town for ever” and has been run by a community of volunteers with support from the local council.
How many volunteers do you have?
“We have a list of about 50 volunteers. Some are more active than others and they can get involved in so many ways. They might steward the shop, so work with people day-to-day, taking the shop sales. We have got a small group of people who help us with some very small capital projects and general maintenance and decorating and things like that. And then the exciting ones are probably the events where they come and see the show, check tickets and just be generally welcoming of who comes in.”
What effect did the pandemic have on the Town Hall?
“Covid meant that many of our groups were unable to meet. We worked within the guidelines to make sure that those who were able to meet still had a safe place to do so. When other venues had closed, we were able to offer space for a number of support groups to meet. Most, if not all have now returned to the Town Hall and are meeting with their members once again.”
The grant from the Stronger Communities Fund has helped improve different areas of the building. The Selwood Room, which has been named after Selwood Housing, has already benefited many people and is currently in use every day.
How is the Selwood Room being used and can you name some of the groups that use it?
"We've got a glee club that are in there on a weekly basis. We have different fitness classes like yoga and Pilates. Some music teaching so we have the 'Rock Project' and the ukulele group. All sorts of workshops and classes and training courses as well. We have had the Princes Trust operate from that room for a long time and things like that. Any community activity we are open to hosting.”
If someone wanted to start a group, what is the process?
“You can either pop in for a cup of tea, or email or call. We can support someone in starting something new or if they've started it already and are looking for a new home to run that activity then we are open. We have a variety of spaces. It's the centre of the town. It’s the hub for the community. And we just want more and more people to get inside this beautiful building and use it.”