HUNDREDS of people spilled out on to the Lye in Saturday’s sunshine to celebrate the opening of the long-awaited St John’s Memorial Hall.
After a 30-year hold-up for the replacement facility, one of the most chipper people on the day was Chairman of the Trustees, Jon Jarrett.
He said: “It was fantastic seeing the faces of the all people who came along having fun. Children, families, local businesses – everybody got together and got stuck in. Our village has become a thriving community and now, finally, the new Memorial Hall is the icing on the cake.”
The vicar of St John’s Church, Rev Tony Cannon, formally re-dedicated the community hall as a memorial and the Rt Hon Baroness Anelay of St John’s performed the opening ceremony.
A procession by St John’s Brownies and Guides trouped across the Lye to the hall, there was children’s dancing, ‘Easy Cricket’, Zumba led by Krystle Anderson, wildlife walks, the inaugural Millennium Mile race along the canal path and community singing songs such as The Village Hall Preservation Society.
Everyone joined in with a rendition of the Village People’s YMCA, also led by Krystle. And there is significance to that particular song. When the Canadians were billeted to Inkerman Barracks during the Second World War, they constructed the building on the Lye, originally as the YMCA Hut. They used it as a recreation facility before handing it over to the community in 1948 when it became St John’s Memorial Hall.
Woking MP Jonathan Lord said: “When the YMCA played, it was great to see the whole village coming together to celebrate both the past and the future of the Memorial Hall.” Residents brought in scones throughout the day – amounting to a massive 600 in all – for the 1940’s afternoon tea dance in the hall, where the New Era Big Band played jazz.
At the same time guests visited a room dedicated to the history of the facility. The celebrations continued into the evening with a barn dance, when about 140 people turned up for a fish ’n’ chip supper do. Jon said: “It was a fantastic, fun night for all.”
Council Leader and one of two ward councillors for St Johns & Hook Heath, John Kingsbury, said: “I was personally delighted that on Saturday at around 2.30pm in brilliant sunshine, the dream of so many residents finally became a reality when the Rt Hon Baroness Anelay of St John’s DBE declared the Memorial Hall open and unveiled a plaque to commemorate the event.
For as long as I can remember, St John’s residents have wanted a new hall to replace the original building that had fallen into disrepair after years of use since its original dedication in 1948.
“I am very pleased that Woking Borough Council agreed to fund the building, largely from the sale of surplus council assets, and hope that as many residents as possible will visit the new hall to see the superb state-of-the-art facilities on offer. I’m looking forward to similar new and refurbished community buildings in other villages around the borough.”
Mr Lord added: “It was wonderful to see the whole of St John’s out in force to celebrate the opening. The previous building really had reached the end of its useful life and I was told by the architect that when they demolished it, the wooden panels were so flimsy, the old hall was nothing much more than a large garden shed in constant disrepair. It is now a vast improvement and is substantially built. The new hall will serve the village and groups for many years to come.”