Friday, 25 June 2021

Village celebrates hall makeover

HUNDREDS of people attended the re-opening of the new-look Shiplake Memorial Hall.

HUNDREDS of people attended the re-opening of the new-look Shiplake Memorial Hall.

The hall, which was built in 1925, has been refurbished at a cost of £460,000 and now has a catering kitchen, a meeting room and a new lobby.

The work was carried out in stages and was completed in September.

An open day was held at the hall in Memorial Avenue, Shiplake Cross, to show the improvements to the public.

The building was furnished with formal dinner tables and there was a children’s play area and a bouncy castle to show it could be hired as a party venue.

There were also free samples from local companies including Henley caterers Absolute Delights and Caversham cake designers Elegant Tiers.

Bob Noble, chairman of the Shiplake Memorial Hall fund-raising committee, said: “The object was to get as many people as possible to have a look at the facilities as if they don’t look they won’t book.

“We have two targets — children’s parties and adult parties like wedding receptions and anniversaries. The hall now has everything you need if you want to have a party.”

The money for the refurbishment was raised through a combination of fund- raising events, grants and donations. The committee itself provided £100,000 and the same amount came from South Oxfordshire District Council’s Community Investment Fund.

“It took us about two years to raise the money,” said Mr Noble. “We had a lot of local events and donations from companies and funds set up to donate to causes like this. It built up very quickly.”

The sale of an old set of Mole-Richardson theatre lights found under the stage raised £1,200 when they were bought by oil executive Fikret Yildiz, from Budapest.

Committee member Mark Manson said: “I listed them on eBay for £39.99 and after the first night they had already rocketed up to almost £300.

“In the meantime I was contacted by Mr Yildiz, who said he had visited the hall many years before and he’d like to add 10 per cent to the winning bid when, not if, he won. He bid £900 and added 10 per cent but offered to make it a round £1,200 as he didn’t like odd numbers.

“I was speechless and couldn’t thank him enough, so when I sent them off I popped in a few Easter eggs for his kids. I was a bit worried that he had paid too much for them but he said they are highly prized and sell for £3,000 upwards each.

“He told me he spends a month per light doing them up and then gives them away to friends and family. We discovered another light under the stage a few months later so we’re giving him first refusal.”

During the building work, a time capsule from 1926 was found buried in the ground containing a penny and a leaflet produced at the hall’s launch, so the committee held two competitions — one for children and one for adults — to suggest items for two new time capsules, which will be mounted high on a wall.

The winner of the children’s competition was six-year-old Bella Barlow, who chose to include a photo album, a Shiplake Primary school uniform, toys and a diary.

The winner of the adults’ competition was the Blanchard family, whose capsule will contain a selection of diaries, a video compilation of the hall and an aerial photograph of Shiplake.

The hall was officially re-opened by Lady Phillimore the day before the open day.

This was followed by a buffet dinner for 60 guests who had helped with the refurbishment, including the committee, builders and the charities and businesses that made donations.

The hall is used by a number of community groups, including the Royal British Legion and the Shiplake and Dunsden Dramatic Organisation theatre group.

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