All hands on deck

I looked guiltily at the wall, but the black streak I had accidentally left on the yellow paint of the Lions’ O’Connor Hall while helping to complete the HPA stage two years ago had vanished, along with all the other nicks and scars of the past.

The hall now looks airy and elegant in mellow mocha chocolate with white trim, a colour scheme chosen by poll. The large windows have been newly sanded and repainted in white; the fans, which once threatened to come down like whirling dervishes, are firmly fixed and functional; strings of modern LED lights can be dimmed and brightened to order; the piano has been tuned and the bathrooms refurbished.

You can’t be in Henley on Klip for long without ending up at the Lions’ O’Connor Hall at 2 Pretorius Street near the weir. The small community hall is the place for meetings and parties, ballroom dancing and bingo, work groups and book sales, sewing circles, blood drives, Henley Performing Arts theatre performances and other village events.

It all takes its toll on a venue that has served the community since the original O’Connor used the site to give riverside holidays to underprivileged children in the early days.

Two years ago, the hall was revamped to move the pub, now hung with Lions memorabilia, to the river side of the building and develop the back garden leading off from the hall. Recently the bottom half was fenced for more security.

It’s an ongoing task, admits Lion Grant Neve, the project manager, and it’s been hard work; first to raise the funds through donations, bingo and poker evenings and other functions, and then to get down to the actual scraping and painting. He put a call out to the community. Work commenced in December and on the day of the final push, in early January, the hall was bustling with helpers, old and young, skilled and unskilled.

The support wasn’t always as enthusiastic as Grant hoped, but he was philosophical. “People come and go; you can’t predict,” he said cheerfully. Some donated workmen to help and others provided sweet and lunch treats to keep the handymen going.

Now the interior is all but complete. The grey curtains have been relined and refurbished and will soon be hung again, but hopefully the hall will keep its spacious lines without the accumulated clutter of the past.

The exterior looks shabby with its peeling yellow paint and green trim, but that’s another story. Grant sighed. It will have to wait for the next round of fund-raising.

The important thing is that the work so far is done and done well – and won’t need to be done again for another ten years. The story continues.

– Jennifer de Klerk