A group set up to save a church hall is calling on the public to help raise £200,000.

St Luke’s Church Hall in Brighton has been a cherished part of the Prestonville community for 138 years – hosting everything from wedding receptions to Boys’ Brigade to Zumba classes.

But last year, St Luke’s Church announced that it would be selling the hall, which had been neglected and fallen into disrepair.

Paul Winter set up The Hall Get Involved (THGI) to keep the hall part of the community and to prevent property developers from buying the hall.

The group has already managed to collect 1,250 signatures on a petition indicating support for the hall, but it only has until the end of October to raise the £200,000 required to keep the hall under the community’s control.

THGI is set up as an Industrial and Provident Society, which means supporters can help by purchasing a share in the hall.

Mr Winter said: “'After 130 years of service, it’s fallen on our watch to ensure that this much loved Victorian community hall continues to serve the people of Brighton and Hove.

“Please don’t leave it up to someone else. Buy a share in this precious space in the city and make sure that the place where we all can enjoy youth club, Brownies, parties, quizzes, markets and zumba continues to be available for generations to come.”

Community investment

Interest in buying a share can be registered on the website, where an individual can invest between £50 and £20,000, with any share purchased allowing each shareholder one vote towards any future decisions made about the hall.

Martin Poole, priest of St Luke’s Church, would also like to see the hall remain part of the community and described THGI as “very energetic and exciting”.

Mr Poole said: “For many people it’s part of their history which is why people love it so much.”

Joyce Marchant, 86, grew up in Exeter Street, and recalls being taken to the Sunday school by her father in 1931 at five years old. In 1949, 18 years later, she used the hall for her wedding reception to husband Cyril.

Ms Marchant said: “There was no alcohol allowed in the hall, so we were toasted with fruit juice and because there was still rationing, the neighbours contributed food – trifles and cakes and so on.”

A unique aspect of this project is that the restoration project would be community-led.

The skills of neighbours would be put into use to repair and maintain the building, with a view to creating a sustainable, energy-efficient building mostly at the hands of local builders and tradesmen.

Peter Golton, the head of the group’s building team, said if the campaign is successful the plan would be to create ‘a modern, green space’ and that ideally the essential work would be done ‘without changing the building’s character’.

He also expressed his concern for the potential future of the hall site.

He said: “Once it’s lost there will be houses there in a few years and there will be no way to recreate that |space.”

THGI’s main message is that if people want to save a treasured church hall, which has hosted generations of memories, they need to take action.

How to buy a share

To register an interest in buying shares, visit www.exeterstreethall.org/buy-a-share . From September 14, the buying process will be open.

Shares range from £50 to £20,000, and the aim is to raise the £200,000 needed to buy the hall by October 31 to make sure it remains part of the Prestonville community.

Without the £200,000, the hall is likely to be sold to a private developer.

Donations can also be made on the website, and various fundraising events will take place through the duration of the share buying period.