Pennar is an example of a Pembrokeshire hall with simple needs. Tony Wilcox who kindly met me explained that the hall is efficiently run by a committee of six.
“Any more would be unwieldy.”
They meet monthly and have just held their AGM at the end of June ( 2019). Tony says that the committee are a small and happy band of volunteers and they employ an excellent part time paid Caretaker who also deals with their bookings.
Built in 1923, the hall was part of the school across the road, and was used as extra classrooms, or for school lunches. It was utilised in the war when the oil storage tanks were bombed locally. There is still a bomb shelter below the stage.
In 1998 the church proposed knocking the building down. Public meetings were held and some small grants were awarded. Local businesses and local people took it on.
The hall committee have never felt that huge grants would benefit them but have had sums from South Hook and the power station which have helped over the years .
“We have very little in the way of expense, “Tony explains, “ and the hall is well used by local people all the year round. The hall has a licence for 200 and we have seated as many as 120 comfortably. The back meeting room is also well used by craft groups and ranger guides as well as providing premises for meetings.”
He explains that the hall is leased and while there are only six years left on that lease, the option to increase it is agreed. As part of their agreement, the community hall sees to the maintenance of the church grounds.
I ask if there is a newsletter?
“We have produced them from time to time”, Tony explains, “but they are very time consuming and we are very busy. We sent out our last Survey and letter box drop about 8 or 9 years ago. We might consider doing that again. People are very generous.”
I asked about the heating. Often in these old buildings heating is a problem. I am assured that there are no complaints here and that the gas central heating works well even in the coldest days of the winter.
The building is largely accessible, though parking is on the busy main road. Work is being undertaken to make the back room easier to access as at the moment there are a few steps. The cellar is being used as a studio and a study by Pauline, a local artist.
There is no hearing loop but in speaking with Tony, it is something they have given some thought to.
The kitchen is well equipped and could be used as a café for anyone interested in Pop ups or one off events and the Gallery comes in very handy as a storage area.
The Hall are committed to recycling and see to it that all waste is dealt with by themselves.
This is the largest ward in Pembrokeshire and not the most affluent. I ask Tony if they ever have any problems with vandalism?
“While most of the community value the hall and use it appropriately, We have had some issues with broken windows and the like. It’s not a massive problem but it does mean that our insurance is high and we are currently considering installing CCTV. We have had generous grants from a number of local organisations who recognise the good work that goes on here, so we could meet the cost of that if we decided to go ahead.”
Pennar like to keep their rents low to encourage use of the hall. There are at least 8 or 9 regular groups meeting weekly including a number of NHS groups, including a pain clinic.
“ We let the big hall for £10 per hour and the back room for £8. This revenue helps us to build up a bit of a fighting fund. Anyone wanting to book can do so with Sally.”
The centre has been used for craft fayres with varying degrees of success over the years and a host of other events. It is popular for parties and local bands.
The stage has good lighting and they hire a sound system when needed. For performances, bands and plays etc the back room is used as the Green Room. A drama group uses the facilities to rehearse on a Sunday and they have performed here.
The Fun day is a very popular annual event with bouncy castles and shows, and dancing . Tony tells me that everyone gets involved. This year ( 2019) it will take place in September
“We know it’s not the Ritz ,” Tony says with a laugh, “but its warm and dry.”
And I can see that he is being modest. St Patricks Community Hall in Pennar is not the poshest plushest community centre in Pembrokeshire but it is full of life. A cherished gem that the community know they are fortunate to have.
Facebook. St Patricks Community Hall, Treowen road.
For Booking and Prices please call Sally on 07595984144
Address: Treowen Road, Pennar, SA72 6NY, Pembroke Dock.