MUSIC and mirth were the order of the evening when the Bann Valley Community Association launched its refurbished premises in Ballymoney.
The association received 50,000 under the Big Lottery Fund’s Improving Community Buildings programme to update its century-old building at Eden Orange Hall, just outside the town.
“These improvements will make a world of difference to local people who are already using the hall and to scores more who we hope will come along to the range of activities that go on here nearly every day of the week,” said Ivor Dunlop of the association.
“This is already a busy hall but in this day and age you can’t really expect people to come along to activities if the amenities aren’t up to scratch.”
The funding was used to upgrade the toilets and provide disabled facilities as well as install a kitchen, new floor and new roof.
“We certainly made the funding go a long way thanks to the good will of local people - we had folk lend us machinery and help out with any jobs they could. It’s been a real community effort and I can’t thank people enough,” he continued.
“A few years ago we paid to have the oil heating installed and new toilets built because there simply were no toilets before that but this funding means we have a facility here we can be proud of, “ explained James, bandmaster for the Eden Accordian Band, just one of the groups which uses the facilities.
He’s been playing the accordian for over 40 years and now leads the band which is proving popular with younger members too.
“We have about a dozen young ones wanting to join this year which is great as this is a good interest for them,” added Ivor.
“It’s a good family interest too. Our youngest member is only three - she plays the triangle and her parents are both members too.
“Two of our older members recently received awards for 50 years service to the band - it’s a great way to bring the generations together!
“These renovations just mean the band can practice in comfort now, but on a broader level it also means that even more local people will have a facility fit for purpose.”
The community association reckons that over 250 people will be using the hall every week now that the work is complete.
Ivor concluded: “A Saturday night youth club is due to get underway soon, as well as music lessons and an ICT course. We’re also finding that more and more parents are booking the hall for children’s birthday parties because we have this lovely kitchen.
“It’s great to see the lights on in the hall now as there’s probably something going on either during the day or in the evenings most days of the week. This money from the Big Lottery Fund has been great for our community. The facilities in our hall now are first class. It’s home from home.”
Breidge Gadd, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair said: “The Big Lottery Fund’s Improving Community Buildings programme has helped make vital improvements to buildings and increase the range of activities that can be provided for local people.
“Bann Valley Community Association’s refurbished Eden Orange Hall will allow the group to hold a range of services that will bring people together and encourage them to get more involved in their local community.”