Imagine a most picturesque rural community hall filled with members from the local district who dress up and come together for a Ball, social dance or party. Set against a spectacular mountain backdrop, it oozes an authentic character befitting its era as it sits perched high on well maintained grounds. This was the Thora Community Hall – from its construction in 1938 through the decades that followed.
It now oozes the rustic charm of yesteryear but with all the modern conveniences providing for a variety of events, catering for up to 100 seated guests. This character-filled hall was built on land donated by Mr. & Mrs. W. Bros, the initial cost financed by a contribution of One Pound from each landholder from around Gordonville crossing to the top end of Darkwood.
Thora Hall is now over 80 years old, and as an ageing timber building the ongoing maintenance on her becomes par for the course. So we spoke with Rachel Browning – one of nine current committee members – about how they’ve managed to freshen things up a little and keep this hall relevant to the needs of its current users whilst retaining its rustic charm…
Firstly Rachel, when did you become involved with the Thora Hall Committee and why?
I’ve been on the committee for at least 5 years. Other members have been on the committee for a lot longer, some as long as 20 years or more. The Hall is perfect for all events. Just think of the years it has been there and the memories it has shared. It’s such a great location, easy parking, camping grounds across the road, Thora Store opposite… And the river behind the camping grounds just across the road is such a bonus.
What’s the best thing about living in the Thora Valley community for you?
The fact that we all live very different lives but are able to come together as a community when needed and leave our differences behind. I’ve lived in the Valley for 20 years and my husband and his family have been here for 50 years. Beautiful land, beautiful people and beautiful lifestyle – wouldn’t change it for anything.
Who else is on the committee?
The Committee currently comprises: (pictured left to right at top of page) Jenny Edman, Liz Robson, Lynda Warwick, Pauline Farrell, George Ellem, Rachel Browning, plus not pictured: Bob Murcott, Lyn McCormick, John Lean.
Tell us about your recent grant applications for the hall and the subsequent improvements you’ve been able to make.
We decided the best way to give the hall a much needed paint and to manage necessary repairs was to apply for a grant.
There were 2 grant applications: The first one was for $35,000 which would have covered repairs, interior and exterior painting. Community Building Partnership subsequently approved our application for a $25,000 grant. But we weren’t aware we had to match the grant amount. Which we couldn’t do. However we managed to raise $10,000 through a combination of $7,000 from hall events and bookings, and a $3,000 Bellingen Shire Council contribution. With the matched grant funding this gave us $20,000 to do the exterior repairs and the painting. Then Bellingen Shire Council organised another grant for $11,000 which enabled the painting of the hall’s interior.
So the exterior was painted in September 2018 and the interior in June 2019. Matthew Clarke did the painting and John Hope did the necessary building repairs, and both were thankfully very reasonable with their prices.
Are there any funds left in the kitty for other projects?
We have a little bit of grant monies left which will go to the exterior wall repairs so the painting can be finished. We’re in the process of raising more funds to get the beautiful old timber floor re-sanded. We’ll also need to buy more kitchen appliances like a fridge and microwave.
And what’s the next Thora Community Hall event?
Father’s Day Breakfast on the Verandah is being held from 8am this Sunday 1st September. Breakfast will include eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms hash browns tea, coffee, juice… Everyone is welcome and no-one will go hungry! Just bring dad and some money.
Thora Community Hall is available for event hire. It offers a large interior space which can accommodate up to 100 people, deep covered verandah for BBQs, fully equipped kitchen, bathroom facilities, and sits on spacious tree-filled grounds with extensive parking options.
To book, get in touch with Jenny Edman on 6655 8506.