A HISTORIC building which two years ago was under threat of closure is entering a new era.
Silsden Town Hall, whose future was thrown into doubt as part of Bradford Council cuts, is due to be formally handed over to trustees next week on a 125-year lease.
“It’s fantastic – this is a milestone for us and a really exciting time,” said Ray Colling, chairman of the trustees.
“It has been quite a journey and there have been difficult times, but I never felt we couldn’t get to this point.
“We put our heads down and got on.”
The premises, in Kirkgate, were among seven community halls across the district which faced the axe unless volunteers came forward to take over the running.
Mr Colling said the Silsden community had rallied round and much had already been achieved.
The building is “buzzing” and in use daily, he added.
But plans are in place to improve the hall further and expand its offering.
“How far we’ve come since Bradford Council first made its announcement has been incredible,” said Mr Colling.
“We’ve been helped in lots of ways. The support has been terrific.
“We have about 50 volunteers. They are the lifeblood which courses through the veins of the town hall and a special thanks goes to everyone who has helped in any way to make the community asset transfer process a success.
“Whilst it’s all positive, we are however – in many ways – just at the start of the journey. There is still a long way to go and much we want to do.”
Among the first items on the trustees’ ‘wishlist’ was for the hall to once again be home to Silsden Town Council – and it is back.
Councillors had relocated to a room at the local Co-op several years ago when the town hall – their traditional base – underwent a refurbishment.
“They’re now meeting here again and we’re delighted,” said Mr Colling.
The town hall is also home to the community library – situated in the former council chamber – and Silsden History Group, whose archives are now housed in the building, and is a centre for the town’s emergency planning.
More than a dozen groups use the building, which – in addition to the library – boasts a lower hall, meeting room, full ballroom, stage and bar.
Plans include the provision of a police contact point, and improvements to the fabric of the hall such as the installation of push-button doors to enable wheelchair and pushchair-user access, hearing loops and new storage areas.
And grant applications have been submitted for a new kitchen, film and theatre equipment and chairs.
A busy programme of events is planned, and there are ambitions to build on that.
As well as hosting community activities, it is hoped the building will gain a wider reputation as a venue.
A blues club is in the pipeline, which will launch on May 11 with a performance from the award-winning Kyla Brox Band. Its Silsden appearance is part of a schedule of gigs across the world.
“That is a huge coup for us and very exciting,” said Mr Colling.
“As part of our plans we’ve looked at how we can increase ‘casual’ events.
“Whilst we’ll always have local gigs here and cater for local people, at the same time we’re trying to get a name for Silsden.
“We are looking at giving the building a brand such as Silsden Live for events, which could help attract national and international performers and audiences.
“To move that forward we have linked-in to internet ticket sourcing, starting with Kyla Brox, but we will continue to also offer tickets through Twiggs newsagents in Silsden.”
Income from such events will be one avenue of funding to pay for the running and maintenance of the building.
User groups also contribute, the town council is providing support through its precept and trustees will pursue grant aid.
Events coming-up over the next few weeks include a modern jive night on Saturday, the Craven Poultry Keepers Club championship egg show on April 7 and the town’s first-ever jigsaw festival on April 12 and 13.
People will have a chance to see what is on offer at the town hall when an open day takes place on Saturday, April 27.
User groups will be promoting their activities and there will be performances from some.
Free teas and coffees will be provided at the event, which will run from 9am to 1pm.
For more details about activities and provision at the hall, visit silsdentownhall.org.uk.