It’s was so important for our great grandmothers or grandmothers and our mums, who in the main collected the family ration book from there.
As a building, it played it’s part throughout WWII and now it’s up for sale as an asset of community value. It deserves to be saved.
Community halls “can make an enormous difference to the well-being of their communities”, according to The the Government.
One of Folkestone’s most popular, Dance Easy (previously called Priory Hall) on The Bayle, has faced continual threat of demolition since 2004, yet remained a popular venue for a whole variety of events until the tenant was evicted in 2017.
When application Y16/1391/SH was filed to demolish the building in 2016, over 200 comments were received objecting to the loss of this much-used community facility and permission was refused in February 2017. It was successfully registered as an Asset of Community Value in May 2017 by the Bayle Residents Association. The hall has sat empty ever since, apparently with a leaking roof. A resubmission filed in 2018, the tenth application to demolish since 2004, was drawn out until a decision came in December 2019. The fate of the hall was sealed – or was it? Perhaps St. Eanswythe performed another of her miracles and granted it yet another reprieve, as owner Christine Charlier of Charlier Construction decided to sell in March 2021, probably due to the impact of the pandemic. This triggered a moratorium and St. Eanswythe’s C of E Primary School expressed an interest in purchasing the building. They have formed Friends of Dance Easy to raise funds for the project.
Priory Hall as it was originally known opened in December 1935. It served as a place of entertainment during WWII hosting dances, whist drives, weddings, meetings and was the location where people collected their ration books. A maple sprung floor better suited to dancing was installed by Don and Joy Morrell by the Sixties, when local beat groups performed live music there. Eric Bass took over in 1974, renaming it Dance Easy. Deborah Nash was the last tenant, who hired out the hall for many uses alongside dance classes including yoga lessons, a beer festival, a comedy club, art talks, poetry recitals, knitting classes, discos and rock concerts featuring local and international acts. It was even a location on the Folkestone Living Advent Calendar.
The Friends want to preserve this much-loved venue as a community hall, hiring it out on evenings and weekends, offering vital space for local clubs, societies and individuals to put on events. There is already interest for fencing and Tai Chi lessons, music, art and history exhibitions. During the day, the school would have extra space to run breakfast clubs, after school activities, extra tuition for pupils affected by the pandemic and rehearsal space for a community choir, comprising children from seven local schools. Involving the local community is a key aim, so the children can meet neighbours, invite them to social coffee events and be part of the community themselves.
Of course, buildings come at considerable cost. The Friends hope to raise £250,000 to secure the building. It will need renovating, but a local property developer has agreed to renovate the property as his gift to the community. Time is against them, too – the second moratorium expires on 9 September. So, if you want to see this hall preserved for current and future generations to have a valuable community venue in the Town Centre, please put your hands in your pockets and make a donation on the GoFundMe page.
Perhaps Sir Roger de Haan, whose Charitable Trust “supports charities and community groups in and around the Folkestone area” including arts, culture, education, community and youth projects, might like to make a generous donation? We wish the Friends of Dance Easy the best of luck with their campaign and hope Mrs. Charlier accepts their offer.
The Shepway Vox Team
Not owned by hedgefunds or Barons