New COVID-19 guide for reopening community centres

Free illustrated reference guide aims to help community centres and village halls to reopen safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

A busy village hall.

A Christmas fair in Sutton Bonington village hall in Nottinghamshire in 2016. Village halls play a vital role in connecting people living in rural communities and finding ways to reopen and use these community assets is a hugely challenging task. (Photo: Wordshire via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Annette McGill

Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) has joined forces with architects and funders to publish a highly illustrated, practical guide to reopening community buildings.

The guide, entitled Covid–19 Safer Community Centres (PDF), uses extensive graphics to illustrate the core tasks for reopening buildings and offers examples to help explain how buildings can be arranged so that they are safe for everyone that uses them. 

It includes numerous diagrams to illustrate the spatial adaptations that will be needed to allow essential services.

The guide also looks at measures that need to be taken to enable hiring out to restart as safely as possible. Many community centres rely on the income generated from hiring spaces to members of the public. 

ACRE worked with architectural practice IF_DO to create a publication that was clear and easy-to-use. (ACRE) says the guide will be especially useful for the 10,000 voluntary committees who manage village halls around England. The 27-page guide has case studies of village halls of different sizes with photographs and diagrams that show the measures they have taken.

The Director of IF_CO, Thomas Bryans, said: “COVID–19 is above all a public health crisis, but it is also one of design. How we occupy and use space have become profound and urgent questions, and design has a vital role to play in helping to answer them. 

“With prolonged or intermittent social distancing likely to be required for the foreseeable future, it is essential that village halls and other public spaces can be adapted to enable their operation in a way that mitigates the risk of transmission.”

ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is the national body for 38 independent county-based organisations. Its members are charitable, local development agencies leading community initiatives, reaching an estimated 52,000 grassroots organisations. ACRE has published extensive work on coronavirus.

The architectural practice IF_DO has a particular focus on social infrastructure, and current projects include The Space, a new community centre in north London for the Methodist Church; Albion Street, a new-build meanwhile community workspace in Rotherhithe, south London; and the Observer Building, a 4,000 sqm mixed-use community development in Hastings, East Sussex.

The guide was published with the support of the Clarion Futures charitable foundation.