Geoff Swarbrick's Words on Grimsargh Village Hall

The following is an abridged version of the speech made by Geoff Swarbrick on the evening of 22nd October 1997, at a surprise party held to thank and congratulate Dr Douglas and Mrs Helen Watt on their retirement from the Grimsargh Village Community Association. The words provide a charming record of some of the activities involved in getting the Hall built and running:

"It is a story involving many people, embraces both success and failure, elation and despair, bruised egos, ruffled feathers and storms in teacups.

May I take you back in time to the 13th May 1971. The Parish Council called a public meeting to form a committee, the purpose of which was ... "To undertake the provision of a community centre in the village". Thirteen people offered their names and became founder members of what was known as GRAFT - Grimsargh Village Area Foundation Team. The die was cast. What had we let ourselves in for?

150 meetings were recorded in the minutes books between that inaugural meeting the one prior to opening in September of 1983. The first fund raising event, a coffee evening at the Tower House, raised £48. We were in business.

In 1972 there was an Old Peoples Welfare Committee who, amongst other things, ran the annual field day. They were very happy to hand over the reigns to GRAFT and we soon found out why. Barry Nevett joined our ranks and successfully masterminded our first attempt on the 10th June 1972. It was well received, we made a little profit and learned a lot.

On 30th March 1973, the first 200 club draw took place under the stewardship of Alf Hall. It was an instant success and survived through the years.

We held an "Its a Knock Out" competition at the Preston Greyhound Stadium. It was voted first class entertainment by the teams who entered and everyone had a wonderful day. The only problem was that no one came to watch, there were no spectators. We would have made a loss if the stadium manager had not waived his hire fee and also given us a donation. We still had much to learn.

I have burnt the midnight oil reading the minute books. The tremendous effort made by so many people in so many different ways is enshrined within this building. So many names are recorded, each and every one worthy of mention, but too many to be recalled tonight.

The Christmas Fair was, and still is, a popular event in the village. The talents of many people became known, as items for sale were produced to coax money from the purses and pockets of the punters.

For many years we had a waste paper collection. Being gluttons for punishment and obsessed by the vision of a village hall, we thought of nothing of handling large and heavy bundles. When, due to price fluctuations, it cost more for the petrol used, than the amount we received, we called it a day.

Mr and Mrs McNamara arranged many enjoyable sponsored walks. Fr Doyle allowed, free of charge, his hall for bingo. Lynn Pickup collected recipes which resulted in the printing of a recipe book. The first edition rapidly sold out and a re-print was required. By permission of Tony Parker, then landlord of the Plough, a Petticoat Market was held on a couple of occasions.

The 5th of November celebrations of Bonfire Night became very popular, the first one being held at Dixon's Farm before moving on to Ploughfield Works, now Langden Fold. The usual treacle toffee was supplied, together with baked potatoes, soup and fried sausages.

Mike Kirby started running discos and building a record collection to provide our own music. Junior member Colin Gornall took over and successfully ran discos at youth gatherings at a number of venues, earning fees for the building fund.

We had fashion shows, sponsored events, Halloween parties and an excellent barn dance at Goosnargh Village Hall. We were most grateful to their considerate committee, who waived their fee of £10 to help us towards our goal.

On the 16th April 1980, 7 years after Central Lancashire New Town Development Corporation (CLNT) had originally promised to find us a site, they offered us a plot on the former Fulwood Amateurs football ground for the sum of £4,220. At long last we knew where our caravan had come to rest.

We bought fencing poles and wire and in June 1982, and with great zeal, we hammered in those posts and strung the wire to secure the land which we now owned. A giant step for GRAFT, because owning a site strengthened our position in applying for grants.

It came as a great boost to our spirits when we received a grant of £5,000 from the Harold Bridges Trust towards our building fund.

In the June of 1982 we learned that CLNT were offering wooden floor blocks for sale from the floor of the then defunct Courtaulds canteen. On the 5th August, 5 of us lifted 19,000 of the blocks and bagged them.

Many hours were spent with Mr Joplin, the architect, discussing design and costs. Several builders were invited to tender for the work. We were taken aback when the tenders came in. Specifications were rehashed and finally a price was agreed with Dewhursts at £107,000, £30,000 more than our original budget figure.

Building began. Once the roof was up we brought the bags of wooden blocks and set about the task of scraping off hardened bitumen from the backs of the blocks in preparation for relaying. It was a slow and tedious job and the chairman of South Ribble magistrates suggested that the probation service be approached with a view to employing youths on community service. What a brilliant idea.

A gang of youths duly arrived and set about their punishment task. The cleaned blocks, in their bags, were stacked away in readiness for laying. What a relief.

A week before the flooring specialist was due, I decided to check that everything was in order. I tipped out a bag of blocks and found that most of them were still encrusted with old bitumen. Someone has missed this bag, I thought, and tipped out another, and another. The crafty blighters, I called them worse at the time, had cleaned a few blocks and put them on the top of each bag.

For the whole week, every evening until it was pitch black, the Parker family, the Martin family, Vic Moores, his son-in law and a few others worked until their hands ached and the task was completed.

On the 8th October 1983, Harold Bridges OBE K St J, our benefactor, opened our village hall and we all shared the pleasure on that day.

There were still many problems yet to present themselves. Sub-contractors not paid, unfinished jobs, writs and showdowns. However, these were eventually overcome and the business of managing a village hall took over.

Today, regular activities include Modern Sequence Dancing, Mother and Toddler group, Carpet Bowling, Gardening Club, Women's Institute, Badminton Club, Senior Citizen's afternoon tea group and the Parish Council monthly meeting.

Christmas fairs, plant fairs, parties discos, dances, lectures, 21sts, weddings and wakes. All can be accommodated."


Among Geoff's archive is also the original document of the guarantee that four persons made for the final £10,000 for the building fund: William Hargreaves, Geoff Swarbrick, Douglas Watt and Helen Watt. The guarantors were released from this commitment on the 12th June 1986 - in his words "Phew!"

Thanks again to Geoff Swarbrick for letting us have all this material.