AYTON’S refurbished Community Hall was officially opened on Saturday by the Rev Donald Gaddes, who was minister at Ayton when the idea of transforming the old church hall into a modern community facility was first mooted.
The old Church Hall (or Mission Hall as it was known locally) was surplus to the requirements of Ayton Church and following a public meeting in 2005 Ayton Community Hall Association (ACHA) was formed with the aim of converting the old hall into a modern facility which could be used by the community and those in the surrounding area.
A village survey was carried out asking the local residents what they thought an upgraded hall should provide. The response was a modern facility with adequate heating, lighting, toilets and a smart practical kitchen that would be capable of accommodating a variety of local groups.
Various options of leasing and purchasing the hall were considered but eventually the hall was sold to ACHA by Ayton Church for a nominal sum in April 2008. The ACHA committee had not been idle during this prolonged period and were looking at various possibilities for funding the upgrade.
Following an unsuccessful bid for Lottery Funding in May 2007 it was back to the drawing board.
Lots of local fundraising was going on but it was obvious that some large grants would have to be secured if the project was to become reality.
Many potential funding bodies were approached and some were supportive while others regretted that they could not help.
The big breakthrough came when, after a lot of hard work in preparing the application, ACHA was awarded 50 per cent of the project costs from the Scottish Rural Development Programme. This started the ball rolling and other sources were then more inclined to come on board and support the project. By May 2010 all funding was in place.
Various plans were considered for the new hall and work finally got under way in the summer of 2010.
The winter weather disrupted external work in December but happily the project is now complete and a huge asset to the village for everyone’s use.
Speaking at the opening, ACHA chairman Bill Black said: “We are absolutely delighted that after six years of hard work we finally have a modern, warm centrally located facility for Ayton residents.
“We believe that before this we were the only village in the Scottish Borders Council area without a public hall. Although small, the hall will be a valuable addition to the facilities in Ayton for many years to come.
“Many thanks to all the organisations who gave their support to the upgrading. Their contribution has been greatly appreciated.”