The future of a village hall will be debated later this week after mindless vandals caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and left the community without a place to meet.
Members of West Walton Village Hall committee were forced to cancel a week’s worth of community group meetings, and left contemplating whether to even carry on, after the hall was “trashed” while it was being rented out for a birthday party on Saturday night, October 1.
Now committee members are set to hold an emergency meeting this week to decide whether to put a ban on anyone outside the village being allowed to rent it out for events.
Deputy chairman Lenner Mockford said when she arrived at the hall on Sunday morning to clean up after the party, the whole site resembled a “war zone”.
Curtains pulled down from inside the hall had been strewn outside in the car park and bloodied, ripped shirts had been left on the floor where there appears to have been a fight.
Windows and heavy security doors had been smashed, strip lights pulled 20ft from the ceiling, and fixtures and fittings such as lights, sinks, mirrors and shelves were damaged.
There were also holes in walls and doors and damage caused to the disabled toilet cistern, while other toilets had been stuffed with cardboard and plastic. One pair of curtains from the stage area was also stolen.
Mrs Mockford said: “I have been involved with the village hall for 27 years and I have never seen devastation like it. I was near to tears and left me wondering whether to just jack everything in.
“I think it will cost around £2,000 to repair the damage at the very minimum, and that’s with the committee members and volunteers doing most of the repair work ourselves. Because of the blood we’ve had to get special cleaners in which will cost several hundred pounds alone.”
“It’s not just the financial impact though, it’s the impact this has caused the whole community,” she added. “It’s a kick in the face for everyone who uses the hall.
“We had to cancel five groups who use the hall this week, and for many of the people who attend some of those groups, it’s the only chance they get to come out and meet people.”
Mrs Mockford said it was now “all hands to the pump” to get the village hall ready for next week’s group meetings, as the hall cannot afford to be closed and lose booking fees.
She added: “We work so hard to keep the village hall going and people in the village are brilliant in supporting any fundraising that we do, which is why it’s such a shame when something like this happens.”
She said those who booked the party on Saturday night came from the Wisbech area, and the committee will now debate whether they allow the hall to be rented to anyone living outside West Walton again.
Police officers and a forensics team attended the scene on Sunday morning and a criminal damage investigation has been launched.
A spokesman said: “The incident happened while the hall was being hired out for a birthday party on Saturday night.
“Officers have spoken to a number of people in connection with the incident, including the person who booked the venue and enquiries are continuing.”