WITH big names such as Michael McIntyre and Alan Carr, the Thorner Comedy Festival has become a highlight of the village calendar.
The event, set up to raise funds for the Victory Hall refurbishment programme, is being held again this weekend, headlined by comedian Rob Rouse.
The repairs to the historic hall are now in their final phase.
And the events set up to raise funds for the Raise the Roof campaign, including the Comedy Festival, Firework Festival and Beer Festival, are due to become permanent fixtures – even when the work has finished.
“All of the events have become real talking points,” said John Calvert, of the Victory Hall management committee.
“We’ve worked closely with Festival Republic and they’ve helped us to secure some really good acts. In future years, we intend to stage the events to support the maintenance of the hall, as well as raise money for charities.
“We are starting that with the comedy festival, by giving £1 from every ticket sold to the Kenyan Orphanage Project, which is sponsored by Festival Republic. It’s our way of thanking them for their support.”
Victory Hall’s interior has now been transformed, with more and more groups making inquiries to committee secretary Ros Ramsey every week.
A popular zumba dance class attracted 25 people to its first session, while the hall is also used for badminton, pilates and karate.
At one stage, spectators sat with buckets on their knees during a production by the 1020 theatre company, while Mr Calvert recalled a wine tasting event where rain seaped through the roof.
He said: “Thankfully, people saw the funny side.
“I became involved with the hall six years ago when I came to see my grandson at playgroup, and he was sitting with a bucket next to him collecting water leaking through the roof.
“Since then, we’ve replaced the window lintels, put in a new boiler, retiled the roof, had new toilets created, new storage areas built, insulated the ceiling, rewired throughout and created special facilities for stage lighting and sound control.”
So far, £150,000 has been raised through donations and fundraising events, with the final phase of work involving the re-design of the entrance and improving car park facilities.
Mr Calvert believes the work put into the revamp of Victory Hall dispells two myths - firstly, that community halls don’t have a place in 21st century society, and secondly, that Thorner is a “millionaire’s village”.
He said: “There is a myth that village halls are no longer wanted by people, but they certainly are. The interest and bookings since most of the work has been completed has prove that.
“The millionaire’s village was based on a report by Barclays about 10 years ago and the label has stuck. What you actually have in Thorner is a mix of people who come together for a wide range of functions.”
“It’s been hard work, but a lot of fun too,” Mrs Ramsey said.
“Our aim was always to bring the hall into the 21st century and judging by the feedback, we’ve certainly achieved that.”