From small beginnings, the Fritchley Community Association (FCA) has grown into a force to be reckoned with, as Dom Andrews discovered...
It all started about 15 years ago – with a Christmas tree. Three Fritchley couples were fed up with the lack of community festive cheer and decided to club together to get a tree put in place on the village green. It was a gamble for the couples involved – John and Sally Midgley, Celia and Michael Peat, and Wayne and Judy Baker – because they were stumping up their own cash. However, the initiative flourished (as did membership of the FCA), and the tree tradition continued not only to the next year, but every year after that.
The Fritchley Village Hall was another success story. Linked to the church next door, it had been the hub of the village – ‘the centre of its universe’. But as the church congregation slowly dwindled to only six parishioners, there was little incentive for the church funding body to keep either the church or the by now rather dilapidated hall going. In March 2018, the church and hall closed.
Could anything be done? Well, the same band of villagers who had got the Christmas tree idea up and running now took on this much bigger project. At one point they even
considered funding the acquisition and maintenance of the buildings themselves. It was, after all, a place that held many memories for all ages: several of the older generation
had eaten their school meals in the hall as children and worshipped in the church as adults.
After casting around ideas, the FCA decided that the best route to save the church and hall would be to encourage a new congregation, giving the church back its original purpose. So that’s what they did. The word spread (literally!) and gradually the congregation began to grow.
The reopening of the church and hall in May 2019 was a grand occasion. Crich Brass, Fritchley Community Choir and a platoon of First World War re-enactment uniformed soldiers were brought in for the occasion, packing the church out – all in all, there were a total of 125 people present. Fritchley Village Hall now hosts regular sessions including boxercise, community choir, craft group, Morris dancing and martial arts. It is also hired out as a venue for meetings, one-off events, performances, fundraisers and community activities.
Future events in the hall will see a string quartet and a 40-strong choir perform, and hosting further classes such as wreath-making. Hire of the hall can be free for the first few sessions while a new community group finds its feet. The search for new volunteers continues, as it’s always great to get new ideas to keep the project going.
What struck me most when talking to the people involved about their motivation, was their energy and good humour. Volunteering brings its own rewards. Motivation can be
varied – personal faith, altruism, a sense of self-worth and pride in the projects you’ve volunteered for... However, my overriding impression from our chat in the hall was
that volunteering is its own reward, because it can be good fun and it distracts from the humdrum and the mundane.
The fruits of the drive and energy of the original three couples, alongside newer volunteers including Ian Chinn and Steve Wood, is a restored village hall and church with enough events, group activities and private hire functions to keep it self-funding for a good while to come... and plenty of space for that Christmas tree.
If you’d like to find out more about the Fritchley Community Association, call Steve Wood on 07789 373241.