Sun shines on UK community hall opening

April 4, 2006, 12:30 CEST

The sun shone brilliantly down upon the eldest inhabitant of the small English village of Easington, Marie Clubley, 94, on Saturday as she cut the red ribbon to officially open the town©s new community hall - sponsored and built by Hydro and the Langeled project partners.

“Oyez, oyez, oyez, distinguished and honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” shouted world champion town crier, Mike Wood, as he welcomed some 300 hundred residents mingling outdoors to come inside the new hall to hear accolades and enjoy refreshments.

Proud moment

“I'm happy and proud to be here,” a touched Anne Lycke, Hydro's Langeled asset manager, told the townspeople. She and deputy asset manager, Annema Wessel, have been Hydro's most visible representatives in the village. Wessel and Hydro's Langeled project chairman, Bjørn Sund, were also present. “It's a beautiful hall,” beamed Lycke. “The committee should really be proud of itself. It is a delicate balance between traditional and contemporary expression.”

Hydro offered to help build the new community center last year when the seaside hamlet’s 60-year old Church Hall failed to meet modern safety standards. The village was asked what they needed most and the decision was unanimous. Plans for the new hall started immediately. Hydro bought the old building and land from the Church of England and handed it over at the opening event (arranged by local public relations firm, Taylor Syms)  to the parish council, which has delegated the community hall committee (comprised of parish council members and villagers) to run the facility.

Well designed

The hall is designed and built, respectively, by regional firms Salt Architects and Hall Construction. Villagers were encouraged to provide input and many did. Maintaining the building's local integrity was prioritized. New bricks were made from indigenous materials and traditional leading techniques were use to secure the roof tiles. One aberration is the wooden Norwegian furniture, crafted by Risør, Norway, company, Hødnebø.

“I'm very proud to represent Hydro on this occasion,” Lycke commented later. “It shows how serious we are about the social aspect of our business.”

Graciously accepted

“This is the most wonderful building in the world at this moment,” community hall committee chairman and local parish pastor, Grenville Heale, proclaimed to villagers. “Thank you Hydro and Langeled for the gift of this hall.” Turning his gaze to Lycke, he said “Anne, sometimes maybe you’ve felt we were a little ungrateful, but this is England, we are a bit reserved. We are indeed grateful!”

David Grange, council chairman for the local county, East Riding of Yorkshire, peered down on the dozens of children gathered below the stage and asked them to “remember this when you look at pictures many years from now - you can say I was there that day. To hold a community together you need a place where people can gather.”

Local school principal, Larry Malkin, was more dramatic. “In June of 793, came whirlwinds, lightning, storms, and out of this evil darkness, Odin’s men… but now we give thanks to the new Norsemen, Hydro and Langeled, for this Valhalla, this new hall to tell your deeds.”

Later, in conversation, Heale revealed “a whole lot of people weren't happy to have Langeled so close to the village, but after the project got underway, people have excitedly followed the progress. Hydro and Langeled have been very good neighbors. It has been a genuine privilege to work with Anne and Hydro. If the world could operate the way Hydro has, it would be better off.”

Ahead of time

In typical Hydro style, the community hall project was finished on schedule. “We started two years ago with the Langeled project - and the hall had to be done in time for first gas (through the Langeled pipeline from Norway into the UK) on October 1, 2006,” explained Lycke from a small office inside the hall planned for weekly doctor's visits to the town. Lycke travels monthly to East Riding of Yorkshire, attending and following up meetings with authorities at the highest and most local levels to ensure the Langeled project is well received and understood.

“It normally would have taken longer to complete such a project as the gas receiving facilities,” she said. “Attending meetings has helped us to reduce potential objections that could have slowed the process. It's a good example of how important it is to communicate.”