Last week was a bumper crop of support, activity and general excitement.  In fact it’s thrilling when we think back to our hesitant beginnings in March last year.  Now we suddenly find ourselves with events sprouting up in all shapes and sizes with people telling us how great it is that all this effort is going into saving this unsightly elephantine building.

What makes all this work so worthwhile is the community’s loyalty towards and affection for Westgate Hall.  This motivates us.

These strong feelings shouldn’t surprise us.  They have deep roots.  We now know when the St Peter’s Drill Hall, aka Westgate Hall, was built: 1912. Yes, 100 years ago! That’s when Canterbury’s residents came together to provide a drill hall for the local division of the Territorial Army. We have spoken to residents who remember using it as such up until the 1960s, who have pointed out where the small arms firing range was (across the Pound Lane car park in today’s Barrett’s workshop — the architecture is a scaled down version of the Hall).  For others, it’s where community life has happened for decades: blood donations, selling children’s clothes, annual dinners, dance classes, antiques fairs and more.

So, in fact, what the Trust has been up to for the last 15 months is in the spirit of the Hall’s tradition of pulling the community together and responding to the interests and concerns of the time we’re in. The multiple overhauls and adaptations of the building’s interior layout and exterior face…lift (?!) speak of this.

With that in mind, here’s the list of last week’s highlights:

Saturday and Sunday: Climate/Sustainability Fair. Thanks to all those who stopped by our stall to fill in questionnaires. Your answers have been entered into our database.

For those who took the time to chat I’d like to confirm: this is definitely a live project.  Why were we there? Conservation is a building block of sustainability. In the case of the Westgate Hall, we’ve been assured by several surveyors, architects and contractors: they don’t build them like this anymore, whether in terms of scale or structure, in short, we should work with what we’ve got.

As for the aesthetics, it isn’t about saving an architectural masterpiece. It’s about saving a building that embodies the values of our community’s history; it’s about respecting the concerns of our community today.

So what were the other key themes touched on this week?

Family, a perennial, as seen on Family Fun Day on Sunday: Again, heartfelt thanks to all who once again took the time to fill in questionnaires and share their thoughts! Children everywhere, laughter, and happy parents made the most of the National Childbirth Trust’s sale of clothing for the newly born.

Tuesday: Disability Needs Assessment Presentation by CantAbility (a forum let by disabled people to promote accessibility and share their skills, views and advice) and Canterbury City Council. We were there. Why? We want to understand how the Trust can support those in our community who need space to move, peace to gather their spirits, dimensions that answer their needs. That is a key part of our business plan: there is no changing area for disabled people in the centre of Canterbury. While there we made friends who will guide us in how to ‘get it right’ for the disabled if we succeed in taking responsibility for the Hall.

Finally, for those who love wine or just wanted to get some insight into why wine buffs insist on swirling wine and drooping their noses into their glasses, Thursday’s Wine Challenge with Clive Barlow, Mater of Wine at the Goods Shed, was an evening of fun and enjoyment. Of the four teams, Mums on the Run almost ran away with the prize of four delicious wines (no description can compete with Clive’s ) but were worn down in their last dash by the Staggerers who literally stumbled over the finish line to steal victory. Consolation was generous: Patrick Williams of the Goods Shed fed our souls and we all left in high spirits.

In fact, we were all so pleased with the evening we could well have a repeat in July.

However, in the midst of all this, we would be nothing without our volunteers and supporters! Huge thanks for vast amounts of good humour, hard work and enthusiasm. Do keep your spirits up as we head for our event of the year, our neighbourhood picnic, The Big Lunch, on Sunday 5th June, from 12.00 to 4.00 pm.

As for the rest of us, it’s back to the keyboards and Excel sheets as we work on pulling together our master plan for the future: our business plan to Save Westgate Hall. Please wish us luck and sleep!