Do or die for Kennington Hall

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The Kennington Public Hall has been a part of the rural community for more than 100 years. PHOTOS: LAURA SMITH

THE end is not nigh for the Kennington Public Hall as the community gets behind the effort to give it a new lease of life.

Rich in history, but not in money, a lot of work was needed to restore the community hall to its former glory; the roof, windows and walls all needed replacing.

About $40,000 was quoted just for the roof alone, with a further $16,000 to $18,000 for the windows and about $2000 for painting as well as $7300 for connecting to the sewerage system.

An expensive project, but there are those who would say it was well worth it.

Geoff Scott was one of those people – living in the area, he was a member of the committee dedicated to raising funds for doing up the century-old publicly-owned hall.

He said it was once known as Hain Hall and belonged to community shareholders, including butcher Alexander Hain, during the 1920s. However, it was donated back to the community about 1950.

“In the early days it was being used by Federated Farmers, Young Farmers, the Country Women’s Institute and the Women’s Division.”

Standing together: Kennington locals are restoring their community hall to its former glory.

While the time-weathered state of the building is obvious, there were hopes to increase the number of functions and events held at the hall.

These days, the hall hosted Zumba classes, reunions, social gatherings and – more frequently – weddings.

The mint-green Rimu Rd hall stood out in its rural setting; a five-minute drive from Invercargill, it was a close and seemingly desirable celebration location.

Mr Scott, a member of the Southland Bee Society, was also in the midst of a sweet plan to get the hall’s kitchen registered to be used as a site for teaching people how to extract honey. “All the small beekeepers can come out there and extract and bottle their honey to commercially sell it.

“We are trying to get new things, we’re trying to get more local gatherings.”

A shift in the community had seen the hall used less throughout the years; Mr Scott said older people who grew up using country halls were dying, while younger people in the area didn’t have the same experiences growing up.

However, that was hoped to change, particularly with the increasing number of social gatherings held at the hall.

“We get all these new people coming into the community who have never had a hall.”

Markets and dances have been held in an attempt to bring people to the hall, which committee member Frances Gibbs said had seen some success.

Not just that, a large number of bookings for hall hire had come from outside the area.

For those who lived in Kennington, the Kennington Public Hall was an important part of their community and its history.

Ms Gibbs said community events were a great way for the community to get together; her parents met at a Myross Bush/Kennington Friday night dance.

The next challenge would be finding volunteers who could help with the refurbishing of the hall major support, both monetary and with resources, had helped cover several aspects of the community’s aspirations for their local gathering point.

Ms Gibbs said they had always known about the hall’s issues, but what kicked off the movement to get it back to its former state was when they needed to connect it to a new sewerage system a few years ago.

“It is a do or die. It is at the point where if these issues are not addressed we won’t have a hall and it will have to be demolished. That would be an absolute crime.”

She said if they were to lose the hall, they might as well become a suburb of Invercargill, “because there will be nothing here that identifies us as Kennington”.

Help had come from a variety of sources including the Community Organisation Grants Scheme, nearby Niagara Sawmill, Mossburn Enterprises Ltd, Telfer Drainlaying Ltd and Classic Car Warehouse.

The committee considered the hall to be part of the community’s identity; Mr Scott said the benefit of a publicly owned hall meant, as long as there was local support, it could continue existing.

Its existence held more than simple sentimental value, with it being both Kennington’s designated Civil Defence point and election polling station.

Since the Kennington School closed in 1972, the hall became the gathering point for locals to meet and get to know their neighbours something the committee believed was important for small rural communities, and was less of an option when living in the city.

The committee promoted events on theĀ “Kennington Hall ‘Get’n Behind’ Events” Facebook page.

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